I prayed and read the Bible enough; I was very content with the hour I spent with God everyday. I must admit that there were times when I was tempted to stay longer, but the busy day calls rather quickly. Even though I did not spend the quantity of time that every self-respecting pastor’s kid should with God, I was consistent with the quality of those times. Often most of the prayer times were spent apologizing for all of my many sins; you know sins every young man has: pride, self-reliance, and the big one, lusting after my girlfriend and many other chicks as well. Yeah, it is degrading and yeah I needed to keep my mind pure, but I was a growing man and I figured it was a phase I would grow out of when I got married.
I was reading about one of the parties I was forbidden to go to the other night, when my phone rang.
“Eno, are you ok? What is going on? Your dad canceled church!”
It was Lindsey Sinclair who was the daughter of my dad’s nemesis, head deacon George Sinclair. Lindsey’s dad had been adamantly against the church calling my dad and I kind of resented him for that; he made life hard for my dad. In fact, he openly accused my dad of being a “Joel Osteen-style” huckster and questioned his commitment to the Gospel. It was a really jerky thing to do and we have had to live with that shadow ever since. My brother Eli often prayed for him and was constantly offering him forgiveness. I felt bad for El because Sunday after Sunday he tried to go up to George and start conversations with him. George would always dis him and find a way to make fun of him; there were many times I almost punched him in church. Eli may be able to just let it go, but as far as I was concerned; he could drop dead.
His youngest daughter, Lindsey however, was something else all together. She was a smokin’ red head graced with both intelligence and godliness. I never hung out with her in church, but we went to school together and that is how I got to know her. After a few months of talking I asked her out, knowing full well that we would have to keep it a secret from our parents. She told me what she thought about it, how she was not sure if God wanted her to do that. But with some clever words, I am good for those, I convinced her that if we went to our parents that they would never allow it. I also made sure to let her know just how interested I was in her. Eventually I won her over and we started dating. I had not regretted it once, though I wished we could have been more open with our relationship,
“Yeah I know. Mom called not too long ago a told us to stay home. She made it sound like it was a bomb threat or something.” It honestly did not worry me that much at that point.
“Eno, my dad is really ticked; he says this is what he needs to finally get rid of your dad! He left here not too long ago because Mr. Strom, who lives near the church, said that he saw Liz and Pastor Kurt drive up around sixish; what could they being doing there so early? ” I could tell that even though she was worried, she was also excited at the same time.
“Lins, babe, I don’t know. None of this makes sense to me either,” my curiosity was growing by the second, “but I am sure there is good explanation. Oh, and don’t worry about all of that stuff your dad is bellowing about; he is going to need more than a prank bomb threat to remove dad.”
“Eno, can you please try to speak nicely about my dad? The day will come when you will not be able to hide our relationship anymore and you will have to speak to him,” What are you getting at? I wondered, “besides how can you follow Christ and hate my dad; how can you want to be with me and hate my family?”
This was not the first or the last time we would have this argument. “Look Lins, I am not going to argue with you about this. All I am saying is that your dad is bent on getting my dad canned and he will say anything and everything he can to make that happen. You cannot argue with me on that.”
Lins sighed, “Yeah, I know. I just wish that you would try to get to know my dad. He is not as bad as you think he is. he is just wrong about some things. Your brother is always doing his best to show him compassion and I respect him for that. Just try to have a civil conversation, please babe?”
A pang of jealousy went through me upon hearing of Lins “respect” for my brother Eli. I let it pass though, because Eli was a good guy through and through. He is a bit naive, but he is such a good guy. “I am not my brother, Lins…I would like to see some willingness on his part before I stick my neck out like that. If he does that, then I will consider it.” I felt like that a satisfactory answer.
There was silence on the other end.
“Let go of your pride, Enoch,” I shuddered at her use of my overly biblical first name, “or else you will be forced to eat it.”
I was about to respond when I heard someone yelling in the background; it sounded like raving lunatic tearing down the house. I knew exactly who it was: George had returned.
“Uh oh, Eno, I have to go. Dad is back and fuming about something. I will call you back once I figure out what is going on; think about what I said, babe, I love you.”
I froze. You, you what? I did not know what to say and she stayed on the line expecting a response; quickly I hung up.
Ok, so I panicked. Lins had never told me that she loved me; we were an intimate couple, don’t get me wrong, but we had never broached the “l-word.” Lins and I had managed to keep our relationship secret for two and a half years; yes, I am that good. We had some close calls and Eli found out about us by accident. He told me that I needed to tell our parents, something I refused to do. I expected him to rat me out, but instead he promised not to tell on one condition: that I kept accountability with him about my relationship with Lins. I figured I had got out easy, all I had to do is meet once a week, away from the house, with Eli and tell him that I was not having sex with Lins. Of course, his definition of “too far” and mine were leagues apart, but it was easy to downplay Lins and I’s PDA, so to win my brother’s approval. Again, my brother was a good guy, butvery naive. When Lins and I went on dates, we always went out of town, way out of town and we made sure no one saw us. We have good friends who always supplied iron clad cover stories just in case our parents asked questions. We stayed in public for the most part or we made out in well lit areas; Lins would often object but I always knew just what to say. I figured that was the best way to keep from having sex, embarrassing my dad, and getting in big trouble with God.
It was fun and I enjoyed ever minute of it, until she slipped that one word on me. I just sat there with a blank look on my face
“What’s up with you?”
Eli entered the room drying off his long, curly hair with a towel. Eli was skiny, but not unhealthy kid who many of the girls at school thought was cute. I had tried to hook him up (not in a sexual way) on several occasions with some of Lins’ friends but he had declined all of them. It’s a shame, because they all expressed heavy interest in him. His excuse for rejecting some rather hot looking females was that they were not “spiritual enough,” that they did not, “take God seriously.” He also expressed his concerns that they did not share his Puritanical standards on dating. I tried to explain to him that girls are not interested in approaching relationships like they did before the Civil War and that he needed loosen up. His response was always with a verse and always with a higher commitment to God. I admired him for his devotion, but deep inside I knew that if continued to be so cautious dating, that he would never find a girl and would have to settle for some cold, prude who hen-pecked him til the day he died.
I on the other hand, was the ladies man; Lins was the envy of the entire school. Now, I have to admit that I was a bit of player before I started dating Lins; I have always enjoyed the company of many ladies.
Plus, I figured if a girl is not what I want and I know it; then I should just dump her and move on. Now, most guys would get in trouble for this, but I was that blessed. So, when Lins finally came along and I saw that I wanted her; I was determined to get her. Lins was different than the other girls though, because she did not swoon over me and she let me know what she thought about me. I immediately went from just being physically attracted to being drawn to this girl, no, this woman who was telling me what she wanted from a man. So, naturally, I changed my behavior and I abandoned my old pursuits, all for this girl. I had not regretted it once and was more than happy with our relationship.
That is, until she told me she loved me. I looked at Eli, still with this blank look on my face.
“Have you heard anything new from Mom?”
Oh, uh, Mom yeah right.
“Uh, no I have not heard anything new,” I was trying to calm myself down because I noticed my hands were trembling. “but, uh Lins just called and said that George went off to the church because Mr. Strom said he saw Liz and Kurt, and as we were talking, George…”
“Mr. Sinclair.” Eli corrected.
“Mr. Sinclair,” showing the man any respect made me burn,”came back ranting and Lins had to hang up; she said she would call back though.”
Eli raised an eyebrow, “If something has been threatened against the church, then why are Ms. Liz and
Pastor Kurt there…something bigger than a bomb threat is happening.” Eli sat down still toweling off his curly, frizzy hair before slipping on an American Eagle t-shirt.
I nodded, “Yeah, something is up Eli; something is fishy about all of this. Makes we want to go down to church.”
Eli frowned, “No way man, Mom asked us to stay home and that is what we should do. Whatever is going on, Dad has it handled, no need to put ourselves at risk.”
Eli was also not very adventurous; he was a good conversationalist, but not much else. I figured that even he did manage to start dating a chick, she would lose interest quickly because he was so boring. I was all about the adrenaline rush and adventure; and he was all about reading about it in books. It did not surprise me then, that Eli wanted to be boring and do exactly what our parents wanted him to do. I did not want to stay safe; I wanted to find out what was going on, risk or no risk.
I kind of half way shrugged and my phone rang; I glanced at the time it was 7:21; Lins was calling me back.
“Hello? Lins? Whoa slow down…”
Lins began to relay to meet what her father had been ranting about. Apparently Liz and Kurt were in the process of shredding documents and gutting our computers, when George walked in and tried to stop them. They refused and then Julio, our worship pastor, and Chris, our youth pastor, arrived and sided with them. George then stormed out of the church, came home long enough to call the deacons and the police, and then stormed out of the house back towards the church.
I really did not know what to say, I mouthed some of what Lins was saying to Eli and he just shook his head as if he did not understand. If all of this were true, then there was something of major importance about to take place…and I was not going to miss it.
“Lins, babe, I don’t know what is going on, but listen: meet me down at the gas station across from the church around 7:45; we will park there and sneak into the woods by the the main sanctuary so we can get a good view.” At hearing this Eli was shaking his head repeatedly and making exaggerated disapproving motions with his hands. I just rolled eyes and continued, “Don’t worry about what is happening; I am sure it will work itself out.”
“Ok, Eno…I will try not to think to much about it. But are sure we should get anywhere near the church?”
“Babe, do you really want to be kept in the dark about what is going on? It will be exciting; we won’t get close enough to church to ever be in danger; I promise you that.” Eli was turning red and glaring at me; I ignored him.
“Ok I believe you; hey uh, Eno?”
“You didn’t respond earlier…”
“Didn’t respond to what Lins?”
She inhaled loudly and I knew I was in trouble; “You know what Eno; what I said to you, you just hung up!”
I was trapped; I still did not have an answer.
“Hey I gotta go, Elijah is calling about something; cya soon babe!” Eli looked at me confused as I hung up the phone.
Why can’t you just tell her that it scared you a little? You know that most guys have commitment issues!
“We are not going to church, Eno.” Eli’s tone was firm and left no room for wiggling; that is when got on my nerve the most, when he as my younger brother tried to put his foot down and be dad…otherwise we got a long fine most of the time. “We are definitely not going to put Lindsey in danger! We don’t know what is going on!” His concern for Lins was admirable and yet odd all at the same time.
“Eli, I am not going to argue with you. You can stay here is you want, but I have to figure out what is happening to our church. According to Lins, they are shredding rolls and taking hard drives out of the computers…something is just not right about all of this. Think of it like one of those adventures you read about in books, but you are actually a part.”
Eli raised his eyes, “Yeah I know, that is why we need to listen to Mom and stay at home. If you go down to the church or even near the church, you could be putting yourself and Lindsey in danger. Do you want it on your conscience that you let her get hurt?”
“Eli, she told me she loved me.”
I did not know why I just blurted it out. It took a minute for it hit Eli full force; his initial reaction was as if I had hit him with one of my tennis rackets, but it changed into an expression of shock. It was a strange reaction from him to say the least.
“Wow man, what did you say?”
“Well, that’s just it. I didn’t. I did not know what to say; I was paralyzed. So, I hung up on her twice.”
Eli looked at me in disbelief, “You hung up on her? She tells you that she loves you and you hang up on her?” He seemed about ready to let me have it but instead backed off, “Do you love her?” Eli’s question caught me off guard. Did I love Lins? I still did not have an answered that satisfied me much less anyone else. I mean I could have loved Lins; I mean why wouldn’t I love her? Yet the words, the conviction just could not come out of my mouth/
“Eli man, I don’t really…”
“Because if you don’t,” Eli took a pause, “then you need to let her go, Eno. You and I both know it is the right thing to do. God does not want you dating someone you never intend to marry; whom you never intend to love.”
His answer was so cold and matter of fact that it caught me of guard; who did he think he was anyway? Didn’t he have compassion on me, his brother, who was caught between chaos and crazy? I mean how many girls had told him that they loved him?
“I was to scared and confused to answer right then, I am not sure what I should say about all of that. I need time to think.” And pray, I thought to myself.
“Well, why didn’t you tell her that? Don’t leave her hanging, Eno, she has put a lot on line to date you. If her dad ever finds out before the right time, he will end your relationship. So, you owe it to her to step up or back out.” Eli looked at me concerned but firm in his conviction; he was not budging.
“Dude, just let me pray on it and think about it some more and maybe I will have something. Right now, I am confused and it is not exactly the best of time.”
Eli nodded, “Ok, but don’t take too long. You need to come up with more than just “something.””
I made a face and then moved to get up.
“You aren’t still going to church, are you?” there was an accusation to his tone as if he would rat me out if I did.
“Yeah, I am still going to church. Like I said, you stay home if you want, but I am going.”I gave him a stubborn look that voiced by impulsiveness.
He shook his head disapprovingly, “I am coming; the reason I am coming is to make sure you don’t do anything beyond just watching the church. I will not let Lindsey get harmed by your recklessness.” The way he said that put me in unease; it conveyed too much feeling for just protecting an innocent bystander.
My brother is not telling me something.
“Ok, sure but hurry up; it’s 7:40 and I have five minutes to get to the gas station before I make Lins even angrier.” Eli nodded and ran of to get his shoes.
I should have been more concerned about the events at church, but instead Lins’ words hovered over me and made my headache. She loved me; Lindsey Sinclair loved me, and all I could do was hang up the phone. I felt bad that I could not just echo her words, but I was afraid and I was unsure…I was in crisis. I had always considered myself a lucky (or blessed) guy for having Lins, because she is what every red-blooded male wants in a girl; but I had overlooked the fact that one day she would confront me with those words and I would have to make a decision, a commitment.
And I was not ready to make a commitment.
“Ok, I am ready. Let’s go and make sure we pray on the way.” Eli sounded stressed and worried all of a sudden; I could also tell he was avoiding my eyes.
“So, we are going to ask God to bless the disobeying of our parents and possibly getting Lins in danger?” It was an honest quesiton, because it did not seem right to pray for God’s help when you were probably not doing what he would want you to do.
“Yeah, I am praying anyway…maybe he will have mercy on our stupid selves.”
I nodded and backed out onto the driveway, onto whatever awaited us that morning.
We should have stayed home.