It was as if Reverend Jim’s sermon was meant just for him, at least, that’s what Brian was thinking.
“Your faith shall be tested.” That was the theme. Brian tried to remember more of the sermon. He remembered the color of the flowers on either side of the podium, white and pink. He remembered the color of the blouse Mrs. Carsten wore a turquoise blue with dark blue circles in a random pattern. He also remembered how it seemed to cling too suggestively to the curves of her body. It was something he remembered, not because of the way she looked, but because he realized he was being distracted, tempted by the devil, leading him astray, leading him away from the important message Pastor Jim was passing on to his flock, a message Brian now thought, might have been intended primarily for him.
Brian was a not a new Christian. He’d fallen away more than forty years before when he was sixteen and Mary Jean Roloff had things to show him that the church just wasn’t able to compete with and rather than feel guilty about it on Sundays, or any other day of the week, he decided he would rather learn whatever it was Mary Jean was able to teach him, which was high on the list of things a sixteen year old boy was interested in learning.
Now, Brian was back. It was just a feeling that led him back to church, the feeling that maybe he needed to get right with the Lord, just in case. After all, he didn’t want to wake up one morning only to discover that something had happened to him during the night and now there was a man with a red tail, horns and a pitchfork smiling at him.
So, he decided to swallow his pride or was it his embarrassment and start spending his Sundays at the nearest church, which happened to be the Second Baptist Church of Christ on east 18th street. Reverend Jim had welcomed Brian warmly, listened to his story understandingly, and convinced him to join a Wednesday night bible study group and a Christian Spirituality group that met every Sunday evening. The bible study group talked about the Bible, currently the Letter of Paul to the Corinthians. The Spirituality group usually spent its two hours together talking about baseball or football, as well as Pastor Jim’s sermon, while eating brownies and chocolate chip cookies.
As Brian drove down the road, he was especially upset that he missed Sunday night’s Spirituality meeting. It would probably have helped him remember Reverend Jim’s sermon, something he needed now, even more than he thought he would need it when the Pastor was delivering it and Brian was thinking, “Mrs. Carsten, you don’t know this, and I’m probably never going to tell you this, but the fact is I am greatly enjoying the way you are testing my faith this morning.” That’s about all he could remember of the sermon. There had to be more, though.
Brian concentrated on the moment when he forced himself to stop staring at Mrs. Carsten’s blouse, when he looked back at the Minister and again heard the words echoing through the church.
“Unshakable faith comes from having our faith shaken. What does that mean? That means God is going to test us. The devil is going to try to slip into our lives and pull us away. It means no matter when our burdens, trials or temptations may be, it is not evidence God does not care about us or doesn’t like us. It is evidence that God wants to make us better, more pure, closer to perfect Christians. It is unlikely we will ever be perfect, but even if we were, our faith would still be tested.”
The image of Mrs. Carsten’s blouse moving with every breath she took returned and Brian finally relaxed. So the speed limit was 55. So what? So the ‘no passing zone’ on this particular stretch of the highway was more than five miles long. So what? Brian stopped cursing at the old man in front of him driving at 25 miles per hour. God was testing his faith. Brian forgave the old man, and sighed deeply. The best part of this, though, was being able to enjoy the memory of the way dark blue circles moved on a very sinuous turquoise blouse.