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Days After. (Short Story).

March 2, 2019

cropped-12301412301.jpgThe church building had the look and feel of the desperate or defeated.

The church wasn’t empty, but was he really that surprised by the number of people inside; a few outside debating whether to go back in. But they all had that shaken and ashen look of disbelief that what they believed wasn’t enough. Well, he thought feeling defeated himself, it apparently wasn’t enough. He wasn’t even sure how many had simply and finally decided to camp inside or outside the church. But he was sure it numbered over fifty people either people alone or parts of families and even a few whole families seemed to have decided to stay together. And all had that shell-shocked look in their eyes and asking the same questions of themselves and each other.

It all started last Thursday.

“Hey Jeff, how’s it going?” So he had greeted the youth pastor of the last five years.

“Good, good.” The younger man had replied as he poured the coffee into his Iowa State coffee cup, “Just getting ready for the trip up to Camp Shamineau. The kids are very excited…”

“Yes, they do seem to like going there. Always fun.”

Youth Pastor Jeff Dexter smiled his usual good nature smile, “Though I hope to avoid the broken leg of one of the kids I had last time…”

One of the secretaries walked into the break room and got her coffee.

Hey Katie.” Both men greeted the older woman.

“Hello, hello.”

Pastor Williams walked in and replied in his usual pleasant tone, “Morning gentlemen.”

All was normal that last Thursday morning.

The day changed around one thirty that afternoon when from his music directors office he noticed the silence; it was too silent? It was the odd too much silence that didn’t seem normal to him and came to his attention. The usual background sounds seemed to have vanished as well as he sat in his office taking notice of the silence of nothing in a building always busy with people and sounds of activity.

How could a silence feel so wrong and it was very wrong. The panic set in when it became apparent that the building was completely empty. Everyone was gone. They were simply all gone. Gone! Over and over he kept repeating as he searched the building in a panic, “People just don’t vanish like this…” He found no one in the building and he looked everywhere.

The building was empty; horribly empty. Then the phones started to ring and they didn’t stop ringing. Panic, crying, screaming, sobbing, and the voices of those who had decided to curse him for whatever caused their lives to have been so terribly disrupted. He sat a while in in his office trying to not feel the absolute truth of the day; he lost that battle as well as he thought out loud and cursed himself, “He actually came back….” He felt the emptiness even more as he said it and realized it was all too true and he simply never really believed it as a fact.

Of course he wasn’t the only one left behind from the church.

“But it’s suppose to be the Second Coming, not the, um, Rapture, what happened?” The frantic older man repeated as he sat in the front pew staring at his hands, “I’ve read my Bible, Zach, I’ve read it my whole life. Why wasn’t I taken if this was the Rapture of the Church…” The older man looked up at Zach with a look of incredible loss and then at the pulpit area and then stared at the wooden cross in the corner, “I shouldn’t be here…” Looking at Zach again with a look, “Where’s my wife?”

What was he going to say, she was Raptured? “I’m sorry, Mr. Carlson, but I am in the same boat you are in right now. A lot of us are still here. Jesus came back and took His Church home…”

The look he gave Zach said it all as the man got up and walked away. Zach watched the man walk out the church building. He heard later that day the man had killed himself out of a deep sense of grief.

He was straightening up the sanctuary as there wasn’t much to do at the moment but stay busy when Kyle Peterson found him and started talking. At the moment it also gave him time to think and pray best he could to what was to be done next.

“I’m part of this church, Zach. Why am I still here!” Kyle simply launched when he found the music director, “I can understand why a few were left behind, but not me!”

Zach stood his ground as he shoved the hymnal into the pocket below the pew seat, he studied the man who looked as if he hadn’t slept in a few days, “Kyle, were all here now and we can’t change that. It’s what we do now that counts…” It sounded so cliched he felt stupid saying it. “We are here, we now need to figure out what to do next…”

“I’ve spent my entire life in this church, Zach. I grew up in this building…”

“Wasn’t enough, Kyle.”

“Wasn’t enough!” He was offended of course, “My grandfather helped plant this church. He was a deacon here, Zach for a long time.”

Zach stood his ground and felt that letting the man vent was better than another argument on why they should be where they were.

The anger was rising in the younger face, “He should have taken me with Him if it was the Rapture. I shouldn’t be here!”

He didn’t hide his puzzlement, “Jesus should have taken you, like He owes you something? Are you listening to yourself, Kyle?” As for himself he had already vented his anger at his own feelings that it was unfair; but of course it was fair. Shelia was even gone and he was very certain she was a true believer even before she vanished while driving her car to see him that Thursday afternoon; they had a lunch date. After his first reactions to the empty building he tried to get a hold of the girl; she was gone. His anger at that was even more foolish but he was reacting like any other person would when being confronted by the facts of his religious life but certainly not a Christian one. He continued, “Jesus owes us nothing, Kyle…”

Shouting, “Yes, He owes me. He should have taken me like He took the others. What was so special about them?”

“They believed Jesus was coming back. And how does Jesus owe you anything, Kyle?” He was convinced he was watching a man having a mental breakdown, “Somewhere along the way we who are still here stopped believing in His return or maybe never really believed in it in the first place…”

Kyle glared, “I have spent my whole life in this place, my family has spent their lives doing His work, Zach. My uncle is, um, was a missionary in Japan…”

From somewhere outside a siren was heard going by; that sound was becoming very regular lately. The world was a mess and about to get worse thought Zach.

Interrupting and trying to be patient, “Look, Kyle, we did something or simply ignored something profoundly important. Maybe some of us simply really didn’t believe He was coming back…”

Jesus owes me!” He slammed a palm into the door frame he was standing between, “I’ve worked hard in this building most of my life….”

To Zach the guy seemed to not want to enter the sanctuary. Afraid of something?

“…Why was I left behind anyway. Shannon wasn’t. She’s gone. Simply gone….” The anger was rising as he clenched his fists, “It’s not fair, Zach, it’s simply not fair that I am here…”

“Not fair? In what way is it not fair? I’m also here, I was left behind, I missed the Rapture…”

“I was involved in this church, Zach, my whole life. How long have you been here, a couple of years? I grew up, I met my wife Shannon here, raised my kids here…” He simply refused to step any further into the room noted Zach but he was still venting, “Shannon wasn’t even involved in anything at church. She just showed up every Sunday and took care of the kids in the nursery. I at least did something while here!”

“Shannon did nothing?”

“In think she was planning on joining one of those woman’s Bible studies. Does that count?”

“Your kids?”

Puzzled for a moment, “Leah, Naomi, there were just entering junior high church, so not much they could be doing in the church to warrant them more than me!”

“You think you earned the right for Jesus to take you?” He leaned a bit on the pew, “You think you’ve done enough to earn your salvation enough to be taken? Because it’s obvious that we could never have done enough.”

“I shouldn’t be here, Zach!”

“Yes, you keep saying that but the sad fact is that we are here. We missed it…”

Kyle simply folded his arms across his chest, “Look, I simply do not understand how after everything I did for this church and for Jesus I would be taken at the Second Coming, um, I mean Rapture I guess it is…”

He wanted to laugh at the stupidity of it all not only the conversation he was having quit often lately, “Well, we are here, there is a lot of us still here, Kyle. The question is now what are we going to do about it?”

Kyle stood his ground, “What are we going to do about it? I shouldn’t be here!”

Still trying to be patient, “Kyle, you can repeat that all you want. I don’t like being here anymore than you do. But we are and there is nothing to do about it except figure out what to do next. We can either figure out what to do next for Christ if we can or simply reject it and walk away cursing His name for not taking us because we think we have earned or deserved it.”

Kyle’s features didn’t change much but he didn’t like what he was being told.

“Kyle, we missed His coming because He knew we really didn’t believe it or simply and really didn’t believe in Him in the first place. It’s that simple.” He waved away Kyle’s attempt to interrupt, Well, Kyle, we are still here. Let’s figure out what we are to do about it. Lamenting our great error isn’t going to fix it. We’re here now, Kyle, let’s go from there.”

He was still angry of course, “Like what, Zach, like what do you have in mind?”

Picking up the Bible on the pew, “We still have the Gospel to preach, Kyle, if we are here, we still have that to do and reach the lost and we only have seven years to do it in.”

“I’m not lost, Zach!” The fists clenched.

He wanted to laugh again at the man’s expression and refusal to admit the obvious truth but there was no reason to be unkind at the man’s broken look. They were all broken people. Left behind for one reason or another. All of them grappling with their hearts on the subject that Jesus Christ came and took His Bride to heaven without them. He was strangely encouraged that so many had actually made the building their home as if they had no real other place to go or be.

He finally spoke up as he opened the Bible, “We’re all lost, Kyle, until we finally realize we simply have to except Jesus Christ and Him alone as our salvation…”

“I’ve heard all this before, Zach, I don’t need to be preached at.” He shoved his hands into his pockets, “I’ve spent my life listening to sermons….”

“But did you believe them? Act upon them?”

Kyle said nothing with a look before responding, “I’ve been going to church my whole life, Zach, my whole life has been the church!”

“What about Christ? Because so far that’s all you’ve said you’ve followed.”

Kyle glanced about the sanctuary before responding to Zach, “Listen, Zach, I don’t know why I am still here, I think your wrong, Jesus simply made a mistake…”

“Jesus made a mistake? Who was Jesus to you?” It was a question of late he had been asking himself a lot and those who came to him with their own unhappy fears and thoughts on what happened.

Kyle didn’t like the question.

Looking at the Bible as if understanding something for the first time, “We simply didn’t believe it and simply lied to ourselves about what we believed, Kyle…we simply were very religious and not much more than that and Jesus looked into our hearts and knew who was His and who wasn’t His….” Looking at the man who stared back with a hard cold look, “We simply were going through the religious motions and we fooled only ourselves, Kyle.”

Angry of course, “I am not lost!”

A little annoyed with the guy, “Then why are you still here, Kyle? It’s that simple. Either Jesus made a horrible mistake or we have been playing the game of being religious and not once being His followers? That’s the only two answers, Kyle…”

The interruption came from the foyer as the nineteen girl came into the sanctuary out of breath and puzzled. She looked afraid as well thought Zach.

“Mr. Greenberg!” The young brunette spoke loudly, “It’s on the radio…”

A little concerned, “Yes, Erica, what?” Her parent’s had vanished as well.

“Russia has just invaded Israel! It’s on the radio!”

Kyle under his breath, “Damn Jews again…”

Zach ignored the guy with a look and followed Erica to where a radio blared out the news in the foyer; others were standing or sitting and listening to the news report.

“The Russians and other countries have invaded Israel…” The pause was strangely silent and when it was continued the speaker seemed baffled, “Their being destroyed by some power….it’s impossible! But Israel is surviving the attack…Russia and her allies are bring destroyed….”

Zach stood next to Erica and heard her voice quoting from the Book of Ezekiel as if it was quit normal to do so, “And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him. And say, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal…”

They all listened to the girl quote from Ezekiel; they all believed.

 

 

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2 Comments
  1. Russ Sharrock permalink

    I truly enjoyed this. It was from an interesting perspective.

    • glad u liked it…..very basic story; I didn’t want to complicate the issue in this story.

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