Sorry 'bout the delay! Was rather busy lately, but I'm good now. Enjoy!
Read the first part here.
“I’m not the same anymore.” I wanted to warn him he was getting in over his head.
“Neither am I.”
I stared at him. “Of course not, you idiot, but you still have God, you still have this.” My hand motioned to the church.
“Well, no. Duh. I’ve messed up to much. I can never come back.” It sounded sappy and unconvincing.
“Do you want to?”
I didn’t see that coming. I just stared at him. He rose one eyebrow and shared a questioning look.
“Would you like to at least look inside?” Kindly, he asked. “To see how it’s changed since you’ve been here?”
I can do this. I nodded.
We both got out and met at the front of my slug bug where I stood frozen on the sidewalk. Staring, I remembered all of the life changing moments I had here. The times at youth retreats where I worshiped God. The moments where I had made friends, and laughed. At least there weren’t any people walking out that I remembered. He placed his hand on the small of my back and nudged me to move. We walked up the stairs and to the beautiful entryway.
Wow, this has changed a lot.
The crimson red that used to paint the walls was replaced with a deep, majestic purple. There was a small coffee bar on the right, and a little courtyard with chairs and tables in front of it.
He led me into the auditorium that I had seen every Sunday, until recently, since I was little. The soft, blue chairs all in rows from the front to the back lined the large room. Then, of course, there was the same pulpit that there was when I was younger standing at the front and center of the stage, with guitars, a keyboard, and a drum set in the background. Movement at the front of the stage caught my eye.
“Pastor George…” The whisper unexpectedly came out of my mouth.
Mac heard me and followed my gaze. “Hey Pastor George, want me to lock up today?”
“Yeah, sure! That’ll be gre- “Pastor George stared at us for a second, then tilted his head and squinted.
“Elle?” He questioned. “Is that you?” Excitement over flew the question.
I nodded, silently, feeling guilty for not keeping in contact with the guy for so long.
The aged preacher practically sprinted down the center isle and enveloped me in a bear hug.
“It’s so great to see you Elle! I’ve been praying for you for so long, I knew God was going to bring you by here sooner or later!”
Mac was practically choking while trying to hold in his laugh after seeing my surprised face.
“Here Elle,” He handed me his contact card, “lets catch up sometime soon.” With that he winked at me, murmured something to Mac and walked out of the door.
“Still, years later and he still gives me that gigantic hug. You would have thought that I might have outgrown it.” I told him.
“Never.” He walked forward up the isle, leaving me to observe.
“I’m enjoying your sympathy.” I told him as he picked up an acoustic guitar and sat on the stairs leading to the stage. He looked at me and patted the spot next to him.
“Please don’t make me do this.” I told him.
“I’m not going to make you do anything. I just would like you to sit by me.” He showed that easy-going smile.
I shook my head, denying his request.
He started strumming on the guitar and quietly singing while I was looking around.
Everything looked about the same. The color, chairs, pulpit, and cross.
I stared at the icon standing at the front of the church. I hated that stupid thing. I felt so much shame, so much guilt. I wanted to feel free like I did when I was a teen. Feel loved from the people who went here. I wasn’t even sure I could be loved again. Genuinely loved, that is. I looked up at Mac. He had his eyes closed, still playing the instrument, but looking like he was at peace. I couldn’t make out his words, but wanted to hear what was keeping him so focused.
“Will you sing louder?” I could see that he was slightly embarrassed when he noticed that I was looking at him.
“Nope, you have to come sit up here, I guess.” Reasoning was always his strength. He continued playing, completely enveloped in his worship.
I wandered up there, but stopped at the bottom of the stage.
“Mac, I’m not, I- I shouldn’t be here. It’s not where I belong.” It forcefully came out.
“Why?” He stopped everything and turned his attention to me.
“I’ve messed up so much. I’ve done things I shouldn’t. I used to know right and wrong, but I always did the thing I hated the most. I regret so many of my actions. I-” I had made my way up the stairs and felt the lit-up cross mounted on the wall. Silently, I cried. I had never felt so taken advantage of in my life. So many people told me that they loved me, but none of them met it. None of them lasted. The place that had loved genuinely had lasted. Why had I been so stupid to leave?
“Haven’t we all?” I could hear him quietly walking up behind me.
“I-” Swallow. Mac will only help you. “ I can’t change this though. I’m trapped in a world I don’t want. People have hurt me. Someone has hurt me. He is hurting me.”
“What’s happened Elle?” His voice was stern, defensive.
“I was stupid.”
“Elle, what has this guy done to you?” He placed his hand on my shoulder, causing me to look at him. Tears streamed down my face. I had done so well at keeping everything a secret. I took my sleeves and pulled them up one at a time, revealing bruises of all sizes and colors.
“He hurts me. If I don’t do what I’m supposed to. I was stupid, and left a I had written to you letter out.”
“What did it say?“ His face was as hard as stone.
“I was trying to write you, to tell you that I was going to escape from him. It, it explained everything. He found it…” My voice trailed off as muffled sobs came out.
“No, no…you’re safe.” Mac wrapped his arms around me.
“Mac…” I tried to push, away. I can’t let him end up hurting himself. “I’m pregnant.”
“I will protect you.” He told me, adamant. He wouldn’t let me go. I could feel his tears on the back of my neck. I let myself feel loved for the first time in a long time. I finally wasn’t alone.
Two years had passed since that day. I could remember it like no other day in our lives. Mac and I were married standing in that same spot a little over a year later. The sweet spot of redemption had held a special place for us. We now have a beautiful son named Nathan, meaning gift of God. Our small family shared love like no other. Though, we had our problems when Nathan’s dad had tried to enter the picture again, Mac kept his promise. God kept His promise. The sweet redemption of Christ saved our beautiful dreams.