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Out doing the Lord’s work, Part IV by Vegard
I had a great Saturday night. Still in my boxers I ate the whole pizza while watching TV and drinking pop. And my Sunday was just as good.
Again I sat in the sun with my coffee reading the Bible for a few hours, before showering and putting on my shirt, tie and black trousers. Wetting my hair again, I combed it forward, and a little to the side, but it was still a brush, just a wetter, slightly flatter one. And as it dried it stuck up just as much as before.
I picked up my sunscreen, but deceided to just put it in my leather case for now, with my Bible, a bottle of water and an apple.
Not knowing exactly where I was going I ended up in a park, a few blocks away, and sat down on a bench to read some more. It seemed people didn’t really want God "pushed" on them, and I had a vague idea I might reach someone by letting them come to me instead of me approaching them.
A man, talking on his cellphone came and sat down. As he listened to whoever was at the other end, he glanced over at me, and almost gave a bit of a start. As he finished his call, he studied me and I smiled and nodded and kept reading.
"Are you a Mormon or something?" he asked.
"No, I am not," I looked up from the Gospel according to Matthew, "I’m with the Church of Our Lord".
"Oh," he said, and excusing himself he got up and left.
Apart from him I spoke to a woman who had lost her dog, and asked me if I had seen it. I assured her I had not, and had an impulse to ask her if she was looking for the Lord as well, but I didn’t. She would not be responsive. People care for their dogs, and cats, all too much in the Church’s opinion. And I agree.
I also spoke with a little boy about how hot it was, and he asked me why I had so much clothes on if I thought it was hot. Then his mother pulled him away, as if I was someone to be cautious of.
All in all I could not say I had reached anyone that day, but I had tried, and felt good about that. After four hours in the park I went back home, heated another pizza, showered and spent the rest of the day in my boxers. I wondered to myself whether this life was ok to the Lord or not, and decided it was. After all, why shouldn’t it be.
My second Sunday in the park I was approached by a black man, who sat down next to me looking at me with polite interest.
"Good book isn’t it!" he said.
Smiling back I agreed.
His name was Thomas, and we ended up talking for more than two hours that day. He was old, almost 60, and lived with his wife and two Grandchildren. His daughter had gotten in to drugs, and a bad life, and Thomas’ and his wife had needed the help of our Lord to keep their strength through troubled times. He prayed every day that his daughter and his grandchildren would be ok. And I offered to do the same, which he gracefully accepted.
Before we parted he asked if I would like to come to service with him next Sunday, since I didn’t have a congregation in Springfield, and I politely declined.
"Afraid you might like it?" he asked with a wink.
Laughing a bit I had to admit I was. But I also felt I wouldn’t fit in. Not there either.
And that was how my summer passed. Working Monday to Friday, or Saturday afternoon, depending on when Matthew and Ben wanted to head home, and following what I found to be a comfortable routine during the weekend, with reading, trying to reach people, and relaxing and eating in tront of the TV.
I guess I was too used to not having much contact with people my own age to try and contact any.
I didn’t meet Thomas every Sunday, but often enough for us to develop a friendship.
Every second to third week I would go to Trish’s for a "clean up", letting her shave my back and sides to the skin, except the last time. The last time I let her taper it from 1/16th of an inch at the shortest, so that it wouldn’t look too radical for mother and the reverend when I came home.
I could tell mother did not approve of my new haircut from the small frown she had as we sat and ate. I couldn’t see why, but I really didn’t want to discuss it, and we ate in silence.
The thought struck me; maybe I looked like my dad? But I think his hair was longer. If I’d looked just like him, I’m sure she would have mentioned it.
The reverend asked me to come for one of our regular talks after service on Sunday, and I sat down before his desk.
"How are you Michael?" he asked.
"I’m fine. It’s been a good summer" I said and continued, "I spent my Saturday afternoons, and Sundays trying to spread His word in a park near where we lived."
"Did you reach anyone?"
"I think I might have reached one reverend." I smiled, thinking of Thomas and the long talks we had had. But maybe he had reached me more?
"Good! Very good!" the reverend smiled his approving smile at me, but then he became grave, "Your mother is worried Michael"
"Is she reverend?"
"Yes," he shook his head sadly, "She is afraid we are loosing you, and of you going astray."
"Because of my hair?" Privately I could hardly believe this conversation was for real. But I was prepared.
"Yes, but not because of the hair in itself you understand. But the act of breaking with our customs."
"And how do you feel about it reverend?" I asked. Thinking I would not have deared ask that question before I left for the summer.
"I fear she has a point," he said, "But I would like to hear you explain it to me"
I felt like pointing out that Matthew had it short, but thought to myself that he wasn’t really one to model myself after.
"Before I went to Springfield for my summer job, we worked on a construction site with school," I began, "And you saw for yourself how my hair looked after a day working with a hard-hat on."
"A lot of my time, and my thoughts, were focused on my appearance when I had the regulation cut, and my hair was disrupted the entire work day. With this haircut I can think about work, and of the Lord without unnessesary distraction."
Was that a small smile I saw?
"For my chosen path I feel this haircut is more modest and unassuming reverend".
"Yes reverend". I was resolved, and even ready to openly disobey if he were to push this. I could also have told him I had come to hate the old cut, but didn’t. Although I actually did. There was simply no way I would go back to it.
It seemed the reverend noticed I felt strongly about this.
"I will talk to your mother," he said, and went on to the next topic. My apprenticeship.
"There may be a problem with you being apprenticed in Haverbrook. It seems the school think it’s too far away."
Having been left so much to myself over the summer, I really wasn’t that keen on going there anymore anyway.
"How did you like working with Matthew?"
"It was all right, but I am fine staying here!" Feeling I had been a bit too eager I added, "But I will accept apprenticeship with him if you think it is right. And if it’s ok with the school."
"What is your impression of Matthew"?" the reverend asked.
As I looked uncomfortably at the desk, he answered for me, "He’s not quite following our ways any more, is he?"
I continued to look down, and the reverend nodded, seeing my silence as confirmation his suspicions were right.
Mother waited for me as I came home. Feeling resentful at her for going to the reverend about my appearance, I gave a curt nod, and turned to go upstairs to my bedroom.
She looked like she was about to say something, but thought better of it.
The next few days we didn’t say much to each other, but I was sure we would both get over this. At least she wasn’t laying the guilt-trip on me that she had used to do before.
I was almost looking forward to going back to school, to get out of the house a bit.
Heads turned as I walked down the corridor to my homeroom the first day of school.
"Is that that religious kid?" someone said to her friend.
"Yeah, I think it is. What the hell happened to him?"
The talk made me really self-conscious, and I was glad to get into our classroom where we were going to start the week with Math. I liked Math, and actually felt good about being good at it, even though I was taking shop. I know I shouldn’t feel pride, and I don’t think that was what I felt. It was more of a feeling of satisfaction, since it was not something that was expected. And it feels useful to be good at Math and, well, practical things in general.
"Hey Mike!" someone called out, as I sat down, and I didn’t connect at first, and it was repeated.
Looking up I looked at Fred grinning at me. A bit unsure of the situation, I smiled back, and to my surprise Fred came over asking, "How was your summer?"
"Great!" I answered, still wondering what exactly was going on, "How was yours?"
"Not too bad," Fred stood next to my desk, "I worked for my uncle down at his shop."
"I worked over in Springfield," I told him, and we talked about our jobs, like old friends.
I have to admit it felt really good. Not quite daring to hope it would last, but it did.
We walked over to shop together after Math, laughing and sharing stories from work.
Coming in with Fred like that, the other guys seemed to see me different as well, and I was so grateful for it. Still a bit unsure, but it seemed genuine, and I chose to accept their kindness towards me.
And, maybe the reverend and mother would disagree, but talking about God to people, who do not ask for it, is not really very gracious. I’ve decided I will take it a bit easier spreading His word, and let people ask me about it in stead of "pushing" it on others.
In two weeks I will start my apprenticeship with the construction company we worked with last year, rather than with Matthew. And Fred and two others are doing theirs for the same firm. I can’t wait to get started!
I have also found a reasonably priced barber shop, who will keep my hair short enough for hard-hat work, and for my own comfort.