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The F Word. (Short Story).

January 11, 2019

cropped-12301412301.jpgHe had always liked Pastor Elberg; he wished it wasn’t about to change but it was.

“Why don’t you come to church anymore, Aaron?” The voice was its usual soft tone of a man who was what he claimed to be. “It’s been a while since we’ve seen you around?”

Aaron Sisler smiled as he studied the man who hadn’t changed all that much since he last saw him. What he did remember for the most part was the little over seven years he worked at the church and Pastor Bob Elberg wasn’t a bad guy and had appreciated all that he had done for Aaron.

“It’s been about two years almost three I guess since I have been here, Pastor Elberg.” The office looked freshly painted he noted as he took stock of the bookshelves and all the man’s books; certainly liked his books.

“You seemed to have simply left without telling anyone, Aaron…” The man seemed honestly hurt by his sudden disappearance from the church. “One minute you seemed there for a long time and then people noticed you had not shown up at all…”

Actually he thought it was a little more gradual than that but remained silent on that point. It had taken a few months of coming and going and then coming even less and then just not going, but that too he kept to himself for the moment.

“…Why did you leave like you did, Aaron?” The man seemed to have a genuine concern for the answer he was going to give, “I mean you were liked by so many, we liked your job you did here, Aaron…”

Aaron had a slightly different opinion on all this but he had decided to be diplomatic about it, “Well, Pastor Elberg, the job itself was just fine and it was. I didn’t mind my job…” He knew he was being slightly repetitive, “The job wasn’t so bad.” For a janitorial job it wasn’t too bad.

The older man smiled a bit at that news, “We’re sorry we lost you as an employee, Aaron. It was quite a surprise when you quit when you did.”

Aaron wondered about that statement.

He was still talking, “It seemed rather sudden that you walked into my office and announced you were to stop working for us. It was rather unpleasant and sudden that you announced to me you no longer wanted to work for us, Aaron. Excuse my repeating myself, but it was sudden and I am still not sure I understand the reasons….” The jovial mood slipped a bit, “I excepted your reasons because at the time I felt it wasn’t worth pressing the issue too much. You had your reasons as you said then and I respected them, but I didn’t expect you to also suddenly and simply leave the church all together, Aaron.”

Aaron had run into the man while wasting time at the bookstore a week or so ago. It was a friendly meeting as they chatted a bit at the cafe’s upper level. They eventually agreed to have this present meeting in the man’s office. He had been in the used book section of the large bookstore when he heard a voice say hello and found himself in small talk with his ex-pastor from Grace Evangelical Church in Maplewood. He could tell the man was surprised and pleased to have run into their ex-janitor but refrained from asking too many pointed questions. They sat about thirty minutes at one of the tables talking, not actually asking what one wanted to ask, and Aaron wondering when Pastor Elberg was going to ask questions he didn’t want to answer. The older man seemed to want to respect the silence of those years he stopped going to his church but did eventually ask for a nice chat at his office the following week; Aaron agreed to come. No reason to be rude about it Aaron thought, no reason at all to not at least talk to the man. Well, he hoped so he thought as he continued to look about the used books once the man had left. He returned to his table and started reading his book wondering if it had been a good idea after all. He did wonder what the man would have thought if he had seen the book title he found to read, ‘The Book Of Enoch.” Well, it was mentioned in the Book of Jude he would have told the man. Did it matter? He sipped his hot chocolate in relative peace and quiet as he read his book.

Pastor Elberg was still commenting, “It’s been a few years since our last real talk, so please, Aaron, tell me the real reason you stopped working for us and why you left?” The lightly trimmed bearded face was still friendly, but the eyes seemed to speak a different tone of thought, “You said it was just time to move on. To find a new job you said. Hope you found one?”

“I did. I work at the bookstore.”

He smiled, “Good, good, but I really want a truthful answer to why you really left? Why you quit? You seemed to simply stop coming to church over-night…”

Aaron of course remembered it differently; very differently. “I told you, Pastor Elberg, it was time to move on and find something else to do with my life. I needed a change….”

The hand waved dismissively, “No, Aaron, I think there was more to it than that.” He leaned back in the high back chair, “I want the real story, Aaron.”

He took notice of the tone, “Pastor Elberg, I did tell you the main reason I left the custodial job here at church. Isn’t that enough?” Sure there was more too it thought Aaron as there generally is when you simply quit a job. But was this really the right time to discuss it? Well, it wasn’t like he didn’t know it was going to be brought up when he agreed to meet up with the man.

Pastor Elberg was still talking with the same tone, “To be blunt and honest with you, Aaron, I always got the impression you were protecting someone here at church. Am I correct?”

He was briefly taken back but regained himself, “Who? Whom would I be protecting?”

“That’s what I am asking of you, why did you really leave so suddenly?” The voice seemed to ignore the jovial look he was giving Aaron, “I’m not expecting you to confess some sin if there be any but I do and some others as well have wondered if maybe you left to protect someone. It’s a fair question, Aaron.” He tapped his pen he was holding on the book that lay open next to his well-read Bible. He seemed to also notice that his tone was not helping the moment, “I am simply trying to understand something that I am not the only one who didn’t understand when it happened. You say you left because it was time to find another job. Okay, Aaron, I believe that is part of the story, but one must remember that people talk and you know what that generally creates.”

“Yes, I am aware.” but adding again, “But I did tell you the main reason I quit, Pastor Elberg, I really did. I needed a break, I needed a change of job…” It was too obvious the pastor was still having his doubts but Aaron continued, “I’ve told you all there is to know, Pastor Elberg, I left because it was time to move on. It was simply time to go do something else…” He was of course repeating himself as it seemed he had too with the way the fifty-seven year old pastor was looking at him. The man was fishing for an answer that didn’t exist as far as Aaron was concerned. Well, he was looking for an answer to the wrong question? Yes, that may be more accurate thought Aaron as he continued, Pastor Elberg was asking the wrong question. “I simply felt it was time to move on and find a different job…”

Pastor Elberg leaned back a bit in his high back chair with a gentle patient smile, he softly tapped the open Bible on his desk with the pen he was still holding, “Let me be blunt then and please except this question as a pastor concerned for someone who was once a member of good standing in this church…”

Aaron nodded.

“….Does any of your reasons for leaving this church have anything to do with Grace Larsen…” The look changed a bit, “Not even her mother?”

He forced himself to not react just because laughing might have been taken wrong, “Is that the gossip that’s still going around?”  He wanted to laugh he really did and he wanted to make a joke of it but the man across from him was being serious. He was about to continue when he could see the man about to continue his own questions?

The features remained patient, “You leaving and the Larsen’s leaving about the same time, Aaron, gave a few a moment of questioning if there was a like to you two. You can’t really blame people thinking they were linked somehow as it is common knowledge you and Grace’s mother…”

“Lydia.” He said it because he felt the man didn’t want to say it.

Pastor Elberg was still talking, “…Yes, Lydia Larsen and her daughter left about the same time you left. It just seems that much can or could be made of that by some in this church…”

“Gossip, Pastor Elberg, is unhealthy for a church.”

The hand went up, the smile remained, “I am not saying I listened to the gossip. This is why I am asking the questions one on one, Aaron. I am simply trying to find the truth of the matter of even the gossip that did go about the church. But you must admit you and her were rather close friends with them and her daughter…”

“Grace Marie Larsen, yes” He said the whole name for a reason.

“Yes, the young girl was how old?”

He wanted to ask the obvious but he figured it would come up eventually, “I guess we did leave about the same time, I really never thought too much about that, Pastor Elberg…” That was mostly true Aaron told himself but true enough for the moment, “I told you my major reasons for leaving and that has not changed all that much.”

The pen had been tapping the Bible for a while and finally stopped, “I think there is a lot more to it than what you are telling me, Aaron…” The look never changed, “Aaron, I have not ceased being your friend. You have done nothing that I am aware of to make me question your Christian faith or integrity…”

Grace Marie had just turned fourteen last month; he had been invited to the party at Grace’s request to her mom. He wasn’t going to say no to the pretty blonde girl who had on Wednesday’s helped him clean up the building while she waited for her older sister, Sophie, to be done with her junior youth group. But somewhere early on he and the future ballerina prima donna became friends. Her tagging along while he busied himself cleaning the building and letting her help when the mood struck her to be helpful and not be a typical nine or ten year old girl wanting to have fun more often than not. But the friendship developed that when they did leave the church he felt the vacuum of her obscence. So of course he noticed when the Larsen’s left. One gets use to certain routines and people being part of those routines; certainly on Wednesday. He got very use to  all that blonde hair, light blues eyes, and smile of a cheerful kid having a good time somehow while mopping a floor in the wrong direction; mop in front while she walked forward? Or spraying so much window cleaner it became apparent it was more fun to spray the windows than clean them or write one’s name on the glass doors with the cleaner; not a lot of cleaning was really accomplished but she had fun. Maybe that was the point of why he didn’t mind her constant presence. Grace was never dull and she simply wanted to create memories as she once said as he pushed her speeding down the hallway downstairs while she sat in the empty trash can laughing as they went. Yes, he missed her, the job had lost a chunk of why it was worth doing let alone putting up with. He knew for the most part he had been ignoring the man sitting across from him still talking about the rumors he had heard and Aaron had eventually heard about from others. Oh, he heard some of the rumors even before he left; he hoped the man sitting across from him didn’t believe in them.

Pastor Elberg was almost finished, “…Aaron, I am just stating what has been going around since you left and I am giving you the opportunity to set the record straight. I am being fair I believe to all involved…”

“I appreciate that.” Which he did even if it was based on nothing. He studied the man’s expression of friendship because it was obvious he was trying to be just that, fair to Aaron. The man had always been fair thought Aaron.

“…So I will ask again, does any of your leaving have to do with the larsen’s at all?”

“Again, Pastor Elberg, it has nothing to do with them. It really doesn’t…”

Aaron excepted the fact that the man was stuck on the question, “Her daughter…”

“Grace.”

He smiled politely, “It was seen quit often that she was hanging around with you…”

“She liked to help me on Wednesdays. It gave her something to do while waiting for her older sister to be done with her youth group….”

“Where was her mother?”

He wanted to laugh, he really did, “Generally, Lydia was sitting near the gym. It has chairs so she sat there reading mostly…” One or more of the parent’s sat there as well. “It’s where the youth rooms are located so she sat there reading her Bible…”

“And her daughter? How old was she?”

“Not sure, about ten I think, maybe nine. You’d have ask her as she claims it was eight but I am not even sure I was here yet, but, Grace remembers it that way.” He continued to be polite, “She was generally with me or if one of her friends were about with them…” He could see the interruption coming in those eyes staring back at him, “It was usually Melissa…” The interruption came as predicted.

“Melissa, my niece Melissa?”

The tone seemed to change a bit thought Aaron and not pleasantly, “That would be her as they were the same age and in the same class if I remember correctly. They always seemed to be together so they hung around each other. I actually had both of them at times doing something with helping me…” Two very different personalities if he remembered correctly. “….One wanting to mop more than the other, mostly Grace enjoyed the mopping, I think she enjoyed making a mess so she could clean up the mess with the mop she just made…” He really wanted to smile at the pleasant memory but the look the man was slowly giving him was too bothersome, “But they enjoyed themselves and that was all that mattered to me. I didn’t mind having to go back over the same floor again once they left and did something else. Which they usually did after a few minutes of helping…” He took notice of the photo’s on his desk; one of a smiling about ten year old Melissa. “They seemed to get along quit well.”

“But why wasn’t she with her mother?”

“Her mom didn’t mind her hanging around me and I kept her out of trouble by letting her help. Grace liked to help in her own way….”

The fishing continued, “I’m simply trying to get all the facts…”

“What facts? Nothing happened to search out. Grace simply liked hanging around me while I worked, she liked to help out, and her mom didn’t mind. She wasn’t concerned and told me as much…”

“People just seemed to notice the relationship between you and her mother and her daughter, it troubled people, Aaron. That is what I am trying to get across with this meeting….”

Aaron was trying to remain polite, was there a reason not to be? He wasn’t clueless of what the man was implying; he had of course heard it before. Kids for the most part always seemed to gravitate being around him he had noticed from the last church he worked at some odd twenty years ago; he never understood why. Well, he partly didn’t understand why. He could feel the man’s eyes trying to read his thoughts. “I understand full well, Pastor Elberg, was you’re implying, but you and those who spread those rumors are wrong and should be ashamed of themselves for thinking it. I get along with kids because I simply chose to get along with them and in due course I get along with their parents. Which is how it’s suppose to work in a church environment last time I checked my Bible.” He wanted to so badly to get up but not to leave but to vent, “I’m sure some parent’s went to Lydia and asked about it. She told me so. She also told me that she trusted me far more than some of the people in this church and I have never let her down in that trust. Grace was not a kid who hide her emotions well, if she was happy she was happy and didn’t hide it. Same thing with being unhappy, she would have made a terrible poker player…” He could again see the interruption coming, “I told you why I left the first time we had this conversation. To be blunt, I heard the rumors as well that were being spread and I simply went about my job and life at this church. I didn’t change toward anyone…” He noted that the man was tapping lightly his Bible with his pen, “I liked the Larsen’s. They were my friends from day one of showing up here. They went out of their way to befriend me…”

“Well, we are the Church family….”

He smiled softly in frustration he didn’t hide well, “Would you like to know why the Larsen’s left, Pastor Elberg?”

The facial expression tightened a bit at that comment, the pen stopped tapping the open Bible, he pushed the dark rimmed glasses up his nose, “Continue, please.”

Well, thought Aaron, let’s enter the circus maximus, “You said the Church was family?”

The smile came, “Well, it’s true, the Church of Christ is family…”

“No, it’s not really.”

He responded as Aaron knew he would, “What do you mean no it’s not?” He was defensive of course, “The Church of Jesus Christ is family. It’s not just another family for believers, it’s the only real family that all believers belong to, Aaron…”

His tone wasn’t going to change, “That is not what what Mrs. Larsen felt or saw…” He had to say it, if it had to said Aaron and it might as well be now, “And neither did I, Pastor Elberg, neither did I after a while.” He wasn’t sure if the man was shocked and offended, “I after a while took notice that the idea that we are a family that simply that acted more like distant relatives that met once or twice a week and that was about it…”

The hand went up, “Explain that statement please, Aaron.”

The tone was there he thought as he knew it would be once the real conversation began, “Pastor Elberg, not to offend you or this church in general, but the Church of Jesus Christ is not a family…”

Again the hand went up, “Hold on, Aaron, I strongly disagree with you. Since I have been in this church the membership rolls have gone up quit well. We’ve increased in programs…”

“That’s not family, Pastor Elberg, that’s the signs of a business. The church is and has become a business…” Adding as he noted the look in the mans face, “It’s a word that means nothing when you say that the church is family. It’s not.”

The friendly look was completely gone, “Aaron, did you ever really give this church a chance, did you?”

He knew it was coming at some point, “I gave this church seven years of my life, Pastor Elberg, seven years of my life I involved myself in this church. I worked here for seven years… I was part of ministries…”

“I repeat, did you give this church a real chance, Aaron? It sounds like to me that you didn’t really give it a chance to prove just how much we are a family in Christ…”

He wanted to respond with some diplomacy, “I gave it seven years.” Sounded very Biblical to Aaron. Didn’t Jacob work seven years for something but at least he got what he wanted; the second time anyway. He could see the man was getting somewhat frustrated, “I suppose and to simply state it, I simply stopped believing that we were family. What we are is a bunch of people agreeing to get along for a couple of hours on one or two days out of the week and not much else….”

“I don’t understand.”

He probably didn’t thought Aaron, “Once we leave this building we seem to act as if what happens outside this building is not any business of the Church family and know one has any business asking or even coming over unless invited and even then they better not even think about being part of life outside this building.” Looking at the man with all seriousness, “That is what I started realizing and encountering more and more…”

The hand went up again, the other hand tapped the open Bible, “I think you are being very harsh and a little judgmental of the Church family here, Aaron. Very judgmental.” The look never stopped looking at him as if he simply wanted Aaron to agree with him, “Don’t you think you are being a little harsh on us…”

“Am I?”

Still defensive, “Yes, we did give you a job when you needed one, Aaron, did we not?”

Nodding slightly, “Very true and I have always been grateful.” Which he was grateful as it got him out of being stuck at Bethel House for over 645 days of homelessness and frustration. They gave him a job and he didn’t mind the job though he had once sworn rather unpleasantly and to be honest rather blasphemously that he would never work for a church again or even attend one. Well, a lot happened between that church and where he was sitting at the moment.

“….This church has been nothing but friendly and welcoming to you, Aaron. We gave you a job…”

He said it several times thought Aaron, “Yes, you gave me a job that got me out of Bethel House, and I was and am still grateful. But, Pastor Elberg, it still doesn’t change the fact that the Church of Christ has become a business and not much else…” The interruption was coming again, the pen was tapping the Bible, “I left as I said for the reason I gave, I needed to move on because the job was getting, well, getting old….as I said, I needed something else to do.” Which was true.

“I still think you are leaving a lot out, Aaron.”

He wanted to smile, “I am but it’s for the best I think.” He wanted to stand up, he felt cramped in the chair, another headache was beginning, “Pastor Elberg, I left for my reasons and I told you the important one. And the Larsen’s have nothing to do with it.”

“I simply am not understanding any of this, Aaron. You blame the church for what? Not measuring up to some standard you think it owes you?”

He knew the defensiveness was going to come, human nature was predictable Aaron thought as he rubbed his growing aching head; another migraine on the way. “I started realizing I was trying awfully hard to simply be part of people’s life. It was becoming a chore, a simple chore not worth attempting after a while to simply be part of people’s lives when not in this building, Pastor Elberg. One shouldn’t have to work that hard to simply be part of a family, should it?”

Slowly responding with a nod, “True, Aaron.”

“That’s one reason why the Larsen’s left. One reason I finally left. The church has become a business or worse yet a community center where no one actually knows anyone except within it’s walls because it’s the only place we allow anyone into our lives…” He could see the protest coming, “We are no more family than any other family of non-believers, Pastor Elberg, we are just a collection of people agreeing to meet up every couple of days and then move on with our separate lives. We have all these programs, I know because I was part of some of them, but it never really meant a connection except in this building but outside it? We might as well be strangers to each other…”

“I think you’re being unfair, Aaron.” He didn’t even sound like he agreed with his own statement, “We the Church of Jesus Christ are a family. We are here for each other, we are to love and support and pray for one another. We are brothers and sisters in Christ as a family….”

“It’s the F word that means nothing, Pastor Elberg, it means nothing at all.”

“I disagree with that statement, Aaron. This church is doing very well and growing. Our ministries are growing and doing well. I have seen no sign of what you are describing.”

He forced a slight smile, “Pastor Elberg, it may be growing but is anyone really getting to know anyone outside this building?”

The man frowned a bit, “I think we are doing just fine, Aaron. I think you are being unfair to this church.”

“You asked me why I left, I gave you the other answer.” The pounding was getting worse, “You asked me for another answer to your question, I gave it to you. It wasn’t what you wanted to hear….”

“I just think there is more to it than what you are telling me.”

“I left for a new start, I left because I got tired of having to try and connect to people in the Church of Christ who keep telling me that we are a family. We’re not a family, we are better described as distant relatives who agree to get along when visiting each other…”

The pen snapped at the Bible, “Aaron, I think you expected too much of the church, you were disappointed, you blame the church that tried to help you, and simply are venting at God for something you didn’t find here…”

He stood up with a pounding head, he forced a tired smile, “Pastor Elberg, do you know what I have been doing since I left?”

“No, of course I don’t know.”

“No, you wouldn’t because since I left not one person has sough me out to see what became of me. Not one. I didn’t realize or maybe I did that I would be so easily forgotten and simply people would move on with their all important church lives…” He felt a bit dizzy for a second, but it passed, “Pastor Elberg, was it that easy?”

Uneasy, not liking his tone, “I am busy, Aaron, I have a church to run….”

“Yes, a church to run. That’s my point, its been my whole point. The Church of Jesus Christ has become a business model for the Christian life. Work stays at work and the rest of our lives are our own without other Christians getting involved behind our closed doors…”

“You’re being unfair to me and this body of the church that opened it’s doors to you, Aaron. We gave you a job…”

“And as I said, I am and was grateful. But that doesn’t change my view that I seemed to have to work awfully hard to be part of people’s lives outside this building. I noticed that I really knew a lot of people in this church, Pastor Elberg, but I wasn’t really part of their lives outside  of it at all….” He was leaning heavily on the chair, he knew he didn’t look well as his headed pounded, “I began to realize that in fact I really didn’t know anyone outside this place and those I did know the interaction was far and in-between where no real connection seemed to have been made at all really…” He could see the man trying to remain polite, trying to understand but failing, “I am simply stating why I left, one reason I left anyway…”

The voice was calm as he took notice of the pained look in the man’s face, “You don’t look well, Aaron, sit back down, please…”

“I’ll be fine, Pastor Elberg, it’s just a minor headache, been getting them a lot lately. I should go to the doctor I know, I’m a lousy patient and just haven’t found the time to go…”

“Then at least sit back down, please, can I get you something?”

He forced a smile, “My faith back.” He sat back down but of course felt no better, “Can you give me back my faith in the Church of Christ, Pastor Elberg?”

He was taken back a bit, “You’re faith should be in Christ, Aaron, not people in the church…”

He studied the man as his head pounded away, “Yes, of course, which absolves the church of it’s duty and responsibility to each other? Is that how it works? Because I am beginning to believe that the Church of Christ is a failed and lost cause…” Maybe it was the pounding in his damn head that was now talking but he felt it was better to say it now than later; there may not be a later? He was also not going to let the man interrupt him again, “Pastor Elberg, let me finish, please, let me finish what I have to said. You can either agree or disagree all you want, but I am trying to tell you the problem as I have seen it..”

He nodded in agreement.

“I am simply telling you that I have lost my faith in the church.” He forced himself to be kind in the remark because he really wanted to scream it through his headache. But that would accomplish nothing and he wanted to accomplish what he came to do. “Pastor Elberg, I simply left as I told you because it was time to move on to another job. That was true…” At least he wasn’t throwing up yet he forced a bad joke on himself; last time he threw up at work when the migraine attack occurred, “I lost faith in the church when it seemed to me that I had to work very hard to simply be part of people’s lives outside this building…”

“Did not church members invite you to their homes at all?”

“I admit people did but it was so infrequent it might as well been not at all to my thinking. If we claim to be family, we should be fellowshipping more than just on Christmas and Easter. Shouldn’t we?” He didn’t wait for an answer, “I am not trying to sound like I am attacking anyone let alone the entire church, but I simply got tired of trying so hard to simply be part of people’s lives who in the same breath sing that we are all one in Christ and we are a family.”

“I simply think you are being a little harsh with people here. People do have lives outside this church and do have families to take care of…”

He ran a hand through his hair, rubbed his hurting eyes, “Is that also how we absolve each other from what Christ commanded us to do toward one another. Sorry, we are all busy so get as much out of knowing me while at church but don’t interject yourself into my non-church life? Is that how it works? Because that’s why the Larsen’s left. That’s why I left….” He could see the expression in the features changing to impatience again, “I simply got tired of trying, Pastor Elberg, and realized that it this building is a business or at worse a community center and not much more….” The pounding was simply being a steady thump in his head, he really needed to go lie down, he could see the man was uncomfortable with everything he was saying, “I know this church gave me a job, gave me a new start on life after I lost everything and ended up in Bethel House. And I do appreciate it, I really do. I spent 645 days in that place and working here got me out of that place. I appreciate that. But it doesn’t change the fact I simply lost faith that the church is anything but a business model for the Christian life. I simply got tired of trying…”

The interruption came with a blunt tone, “Maybe you expected too much of the church, Aaron. What did you expect from the church? Sounds like you had too many expectations of the church and what the church can and will do for you…”

He rubbed his eyes, he needed to lie down, but he was determined to get through this conversation, “I simply expected the church to be the church that Christ commanded to love, pray, be there for one another…”

“You sound like you wanted the church to take care of you, Aaron. You wanted us to cuddle you?”

He sensed the change of tone,  he got up again, studied the man who looked back unmoved, “I simply wanted to feel part of the Church of Christ as the Bible states…I simply wanted the church to be the people they claim to be…What I expected from the church was that the church when it preaches, teaches, and proclaims that we are family didn’t act as if the request was sinful if it involved anything outside the life of this building…” He noted the pen tapping the open Bible again, “I simply wanted the church to be and act what He, Jesus Christ, taught…”

“I preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Aaron, and I think you simply had too high of expectations of the church. People have lives and families and jobs outside this church, what did you expect people to do? Simply shut down their lives so you can what?”

He rubbed his eyes again more out of habit than pain that was a steady pain behind his eyes, he looked about the room full of shelves with books on them, pictures of kids and grand kids, a few diplomas dotted the wall behind the man staring back, it was the office of a busy man with a busy church.

“I think you simply had too high of expectations of people at church, Aaron. People have lives outside this building as you call it. Do you really expect people to put their lives on hold just for you? We have Christ-loving people in this church, Aaron, and you seem to be judging them and condemning them and I feel that is unfair of you.”

Softly, knowing he really needed to go and lie down, “I simply wanted to feel that we were family as you like to preach, Pastor Elberg, not an afterthought as it seems to be the philosophy of the church…” He leaned again against the chair, “I simply wanted the church to be the church that it claimed to be…”

“We are, Aaron.”

He forced a awkward smile in painful defeat, “Okay, I had too high of expectations, Pastor Elberg…” He headed toward the door, opened it and stood there a bit looking at the man fighting the headache and the urge to say anything more and the man stared back with a look that deeply troubled Aaron, “I promise to never have them again…” He wanted to add something kind or at least not leave in such a state of unpleasantness but he felt he might say something else he might regret or not regret. He left the room as he noted the conflict in the man as well.

He walked away and never went back.

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