The Fellowship Hall was packed for the Saturday evening Missions Weekend Dinner. Global evangelism was the theme, and this was reflected in the decorations around Fellowship Hall. Flags, native art, and world crafts lit up the otherwise dull room.
The Singles Group had their table. I referred to them as our “Professional Singles” Group. Kate thought that was mean, but she hadn’t been to a church Singles Group in a long time. Velma, one of our perennial singles, spotted me and brought me over to join them. I’d have rather been with Kate, but she was already seated at a full table.
“To those of you who don’t know her, this is Natalie…” Velma introduces me and the women are doing what nice Christian women do—sizing me up to see whether or not I’m a threat to them.
“Natalie, here, sit next to me!” She moves someone in the chair next to hers. The “someone” glares at me as she moves over. I’ve already made an enemy. This is going to be a stellar evening.
“You’re sooooo lucky to work with Pastor Tavish,” confidentially whispers another woman at the table.
Another of Tavish’s ardent admirers, I see.
I pretend not to understood what she means. “Yes, thanks. He’s a good boss.”
“No. I mean…he’s so hot!” She’s not giving up. “I’ve told all my friends how [insert a lot of giggles] gorgeous he is. Some of them are even coming to church to see him.”
“If you like the type,” I smile. The men at the table laugh extra loudly, confirming their obvious envy of Tavish.
“Hi Natalie, I hope you won’t mind my sitting next to you.” It’s Walt, and he’s whispering in my ear, and is there anything worse? “I asked Velma if it was okay to switch with her.”
“Walt, it’s good to see you.”
“You look so beautiful. But you always look so beautiful.”
Walt is my Missions’ dinner date.
The tapping of the church mic and random “hellos” and “can you hear mes” mark the beginning of the evening’s festivities.
I can’t wait to see our Mission guests. Here they are, up on the stage, before the mic—Bonnie and Clyde, his shocking white hair and her bleached blond glistening in the spotlights beating down on their heads.
“Brothers and sisters,” he begins, arms and face uplifted—this is going to be highly entertaining, to my sick humor self. “We are deeply honored to be with you this weekend. We travel the world asking people,” huge pause and sigh, “‘Do you know Jesus?’”
Bonnie responds, “Praise Jesus!”
“We have gone miles to visit those in Africa, China, Venezuela, India, Nepal, asking them the same question, ‘Do you know Jesus?’ But do you know what?” Clyde places his arms on the podium and leans forward, looking intently from one end of the room to the other. “Do you know what? I know I don’t have to ask that question here. You know why…”
Dramatic, long pause.
Now hushed tones, “Do you know why? Because I know you know Jesus. I can feel Jesus in this room, in this very room. I’m going to ask my sister who is standing next to me to lead us in prayer. Sister Claudette…”
Sister? Sister Claudette, my foot.
“Dear Jesus, Lord, we lift your name on high, you are exalted, the King is exalted. Lord Jesus, we give you ourselves. We recognize there is a sweet, sweet Spirit in this place. Holy Spirit, living Spirit, I know it is the Spirit of the Lord. Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow, every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Praise Jesuuuus!”
Okay, folks! And there you have it. Every cliché in the spiritual Christian’s prayer stockpile.
And that was just the opening?! We were in for a long, boring night. The Missions Committee is going to have to do a lot of reevaluating over this one.
I’m straining to check every table. No Tavish.
“Are you searching for anyone?” Walt is asking me. “I know everyone who’s here.”
“Just wondering where Kate is.” Of course I’m going to lie. I’m not going to say, I want to know where Tavish is. “There she is. I’m just going to say hi to her.”
“What a good idea! Let’s go together.”
What a bad idea.
“Oh, we’re going to have to wait. Don’t want Faith to think we’re being rude.” Faith is flouncing her hair and bouncing up the steps to the stage. This is going to be fun.
“Jesus, Jeeesus, Jeeeeesuuuuus…” Faith has now joined the duo up on the stage, and is on her way to the seventh heaven. After another twenty-one long minutes later, the doxology was sung and we were able to go fill our plates.
The highlight of my entire evening. Even mayo covered jello would be welcome.
As soon as the dessert plates are cleared, Bonnie and Clyde start their presentation. Brian, on my right, introduces himself to me. Generally, it takes men in Christian singles groups that long to introduce themselves to you. I don’t know if it’s because they have to complete the “Ideal Christian Wife” checklist first. But compared to what was happening in the front, Brian was a rock star and a welcome diversion from Walt!
The program has droned on. It was supposed to have ended at 8:00 p.m. sharp. No wonder people aren’t interested in missions, I’m thinking, watching Bonnie and Clyde. These two are the biggest con artists I’ve seen in a long time. I’m sure God uses con artists too, but it’s depressing to see naïve members pull out their checkbooks and pour their hard earned monies into the pockets of Bonnie and Clyde. Actually, I would rather be held up in a bank and hand over my money to the real Bonnie and Clyde, than give it to these two. At least they’re telling you to your face that it’s a heist.
Thank God, it’s over!
“It’s a promise!” Brian smiles as I wave bye to the group and thank Velma for including me.
“Absolutely!” I respond to Brian. I don’t have a clue what I have promised. I’d figure that out later.
Walt has disappeared! I hope he wasn’t hurt because I was talking to Brian.
A quick bye to Kate, as I can’t wait to get out of the hot and cloying atmosphere of Fellowship Hall.
“You’re not waiting for a personal introduction to Bonnie and Clyde?”
“Nope. They’ve made a lasting impression—I think I’ve had enough of them for the rest of my lifetime.”
“I’m going to make sure they don’t ever come here again.”
“Praise Jesus, from who all blessings flow, name above all names…” I’m pretending to be Claudette.
“You’re a nut.” Kate’s laughing as I leave.
I’m in the hallway, trying to call Gwen to come and pick me up.
“You leaving already?”
“Tavish McGregor! Where were you? I didn’t see you.”
“You were searching for me?”
“No. But the women in the Singles group think you’re so drrreeeeamy.”
“And I’m sure you agreed with them.”
“I was thinking another ‘dr’ word—dreary!”
“Oh yeah, I’m sure you were.”
“Okay, I’ll admit…I agreed with them.”
“Really?” Tavish is surprised.
“I have to make my boss sound good. I don’t want them to think that I’d work for a loser.”
“I knew it was too good to be true. That really breaks my heart.”
“Yeah, right, and I’m Mother Teresa. But, seriously, why weren’t you there?”
“I’ve heard Bonnie and Clyde before.” He’s smiling down at me again. Don’t do that.
“Bonnie and Clyde?” I’m pretending, and praying Kate didn’t…
“Kate told me what you called them.” One wasted prayer.
“Very appropriate. I don’t care for them either. The reason for my absence.”
“Being a PK helps you pick up on these things.” I glance down at my cell.
“You waiting for a special call?”
“No. I just need to make a call.” Gwen had told me to try and get away early. I’m already an hour late and I don’t want to delay her any longer.
“Anyone special?” Why couldn’t he leave it alone?
Why? Why was he being such pain?
“She told me to call her when I was done so she could give me a ride home. Dead battery.” Because I forgot to turn off the light while I was searching for my Foo Fighters CD. I still prefer CDs. Call me ancient but I like the actual, physical discs. And my car is 12 years old.
“Don’t bother her. I’ll give you a ride home. Just let me lock up my office and grab my jacket.”
9:58 p.m. —to be exact…
So Tavish is going to give me a ride home. I watch him until he turns the corner of the hallway. Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware that someone else has been watching us…until she spoke up.
“Hi Natalie!” I whirl around with a start, dropping my purse, and my cell phone that I was clutching in my right hand. It’s amazing what a huge clattering sound a dropped cell phone can make.
“Oh gosh! I hope it’s not broken…” but happy for the distraction.
Faith’s not helping me, but continues to watch as I crawl on my knees on the floor picking up all the items from my purse.
“What are you doing?” she asks, after I’m upright again—checking me up and down to express displeasure at what I had worn for the evening festivities. It was a blood red skirt from Spain with a matching scarf, and I had my favorite black T-shirt, boots, and leather jacket with it. My contribution to the global dinner.
I wanted to say, “Minding my own business,” but thought better of it. “I’m waiting for my ride.”
“Who is it?”
“My sister.” I’m not sure why I said that. I guess I just didn’t want any unpleasantness. She seemed possessive about Tavish, and I wasn’t sure about their connection. Anyway, it wasn’t my business—not really. And I just was saving Gwen from having to come out all the way to the church and give me a ride home. At least, that’s how I reasoned it to myself, not willing to admit the adrenaline rush at the thought of Tavish giving me a ride home.
“Why do you want to know?” I turned my attention to the text I had just received. Gwen wanted to know if I needed a ride.
“Oh, I just thought that I could give you a ride, if you needed one.” That would be another Faith lie. She’d arrived with a car-full of her BFFs, I didn’t know where she planned of having me sit. In the trunk? Or maybe she would like to run me over.
“Hmmm…no worries. Thanks.”
“Tavish said I sounded wonderful this evening.”
Okay, Missy. Enough of the lies. This one I know because he had just told me had been in hiding.
“Really? He did? I didn’t see him in the room.”
“Well, Natalie, he wouldn’t be sitting next to you.”
“Of course not, Faith, he’s too high for that. But where was he sitting?”
“Natalie, you just can’t leave things alone, can you?” was Faith’s departing shot.
Score one for Natalie, but I’m definitely going to pay for it later.
Even in the crowded hall, I feel a little uneasy. I don’t like conflicts, and Faith always seems like she’s ready for a fight.
“I don’t like how Faith treats you.”
“Walt, I was wondering where you went.” Had he been watching us? Why is everyone watching?
“I didn’t think you’d miss me. That Brian was controlling the conversation.”
“Sorry about that.”
“I’ll see you soon. I promise.”
“Okay. Good night!”
I turn with a hurried pace towards my office—my sanctuary. It’s amazing how lonely you can feel in a crowd.
“Couldn’t wait to ride out with me?”
“Yes, absolutely! How lucky can a woman get?”
“Ok, lassie,” he responds as he steers me through the packed hall of departing people.
“Bye Pastor Tavish!” Several of the older ladies are looking at both of us, knowing smiles on their faces.
“We’re going to be the talk of the church. Hope you don’t mind.” Tavish increases his pace to his car.
“I know what that’s like. My parents were the talk of their church, too, when they were single. People like to know what their pastor is doing.” I can imagine the phone calls this week in the office. “They’re mostly curious.”
“Well, as long as you don’t mind having your name linked to mine,” Tavish says as he holds the car door open for me.
“As long it doesn’t spoil your chances with all the women in the church. I have to look out for my boss’s best interests.”
“I don’t think you need to worry about that. I’ve got it all under control.”
I couldn’t remember the last time I had felt so alive and happy—walking step-in-step with Tavish, getting into his car. It’s one of those moments that you want to lock away in the deepest recesses of your heart, mind, and soul—you don’t want to question it, just feel it. It’s living in the moment because you’re afraid that this moment will pass and you’ll never experience it again.