Kelly found the pastor’s mail slot and slid in the envelope that contained her set of church keys. Had it really come to this? Yes. She was leaving.
She walked away, her footsteps echoing in the cavernous hall. Before leaving, she’d take one last look at the sanctuary.
She stopped at the choir’s closet. Robe thirty-four was hers. She fingered the silky, white collar. Tiny, dark spots dotted it where tears had fallen over the years—tears of joy and of sorrow, and recently, tears of shame and guilt. She replaced the robe, smoothed it straight on the hanger, and shut the closet.
Kelly’s throat constricted as she entered the sanctuary and plopped in her choir loft seat. Hymnals and bulletins from yesterday’s service littered the pews. She hummed the chorus to “How Great Thou Art.” The old building offered accompaniment, its radiators hissing and antique windows rattling with the breeze.
From here, she could envision the congregation members, knew each of their seats by heart. The chair directly behind her belonged to Jeff.
“Oh Lord, I never thought it would go this far.”
She recalled the first few moments of flirtation, the justifications. She’d ignored the Holy Spirit’s promptings. How quickly the “innocent” friendship had evolved into an emotional affair.
“Thank You Lord, for rescuing me. I’ve done so much damage. Please heal Peter’s heart. And heal mine. We need You.”
The image of her husband’s anguished face filled her mind. It had been the first time she’d seen him cry.
Memories of her ten years at First Baptist flooded her head—Christmas programs, potluck dinners, Vacation Bible School… “Father, I can’t believe that I’ll never come back. It has been my church home—my family—for so long. How can I get through this without them?”
But she had to leave. How could she get over Jeff and rebuild her marriage unless they left? Her sin had consequences.
She got up and stumbled down the steps, then dropped to her knees before the altar and sobbed. “Lord, I’ll go. Just please go with me.”
Sunday morning, Kelly walked into Calvary Chapel, clasping Peter’s hand. She looked around and blushed. She was the only woman in sight wearing pantyhose and heels. Peter grinned beside her; he’d love a church where jeans and t-shirts were acceptable.
A smiling man greeted them warmly at the door. “Mornin’ folks!” His long black hair dangled in a ponytail behind him and a silver cross earring adorned one ear—a far cry from the ushers at First Baptist who refused to remove suit jackets, even in the hottest days of summer.
Kelly’s heart sank as she looked at the sanctuary. Folding chairs. No hymnals. She could only imagine what they’d sing. Instead of an organ and grand piano, this stage had a keyboard, guitars and drums. It was all so… different.
A man wearing a tropical print shirt opened in prayer and led worship. Kelly was overwhelmed by the words to the songs. “All who are weak, come to the fountain, dip your heart in the stream of life. Let the pain and the sorrow be washed away…”
Kelly dashed from her aisle seat and made for the bathroom, head down to hide her tears. Inside, she started mopping her cheeks.
The door creaked open. “Honey, are you okay?”
A red-haired woman approached, her eyes full of compassion. Kelly blubbered uncontrollably. The woman placed her hands on Kelly’s shoulders, praying aloud, crying out to God on Kelly’s behalf. Soon, a new voice prayed. Kelly felt more hands on her back and looked up. Two other women had joined the bathroom prayer meeting. Nothing like this had ever happened at First Baptist!
The ladies amen-ed and returned to the service. Kelly felt embarrassed, but peaceful. Loved. The pastor, another man without a tie, took the mike. No pulpit. A new pastor. Not my pastor.
His first words caught her attention. “You know, it doesn’t matter where you worship. God isn’t in buildings. There is only one church, one family, and God dwells with them…”
Kelly’s mouth hung open. These songs, the women, this sermon… God was here in this new church. But it wasn’t a new church. It was her church, her family. Just family she didn’t know very well yet. She was home.
Glancing sideways, she caught Peter watching her and smiling. He put his arm around her and she sank into his shoulder. Let the healing begin.
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