In the shadows of the sanctuary, as she had been for the last three weeks, Kelly sat passively watching, hearing and observing as though the passage of time was a sleeping aid. Since my last musical performance she had gradually allowed less and less light to be around her, cloaking what kind of girl-spirit was working in her, even as our meetings became “Revivalistic” ones, overflowing with prayers and worship offered up with extreme reverence.
While she dozed through the three meetings since “If I Had My Way” was performed, something was revving up through our meeting’s hymns and prayers; it was as though the Spirit of the Living God was begging action from our puny band of Kingdom villagers.
Pastor Harold, nearly complete with his Master’s Degree in theology, was a relentless bull dog chewing on the scriptural text for each evening’s gathering.
That night, Harold nibbled at the bottom line of his talk for nearly fifteen minutes until at last he savagely bit into the meat contained in Jesus’ own words in Luke 12:3-5:
“Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.”
“And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.”
“But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.”
Harold nodded to me as he closed, “If God is watching your every word and loves you enough to give you this warning about what you say, how much more will he be watching your every action? Fear God! Fear God! Fear God! Not just tonight listening to me, but fear Him in every part of your life. He will judge every one in the end, and those who are lawless will not have a place in the Kingdom of God.”
On cue I stepped up to the podium and ripped into the song I had been practicing for a month. It was a sweet little cover of Bobby Fuller’s “I Fought the Law.”
Voice, fingers, strings, and rhythms strummed out torrid beats of another realm. In the vacuum of my performance there was a convergence of all my hates, loves, sorrows, joys and hungers. For two minutes I was out of my body and head and drew from the shadows of the sanctuary the one girl who I would have least expected to be moved. Kelly. As the last moments of concussive chords charged from my guitar, the air was resplendent with God’s holy truth. And as if drawn out of a spooky fog by my plaintiff crooning she rose from her chair and moved towards the front.
Kelly stopped at the steps to the platform staring up across the pulpit at me with eyes set to storm from the edges of a deep purple sullen sea. Her eyes did not close during Harold’s benediction and neither did mine. I listened to Harold’s prayer hoping that Kelly’s actions meant she had come forward to pray, worship and give her life to Christ. But it was something else in her soul that was seeking to connect with mine and I could not stop looking into the purple seas that beckoned me to wade in. At the final “Amen” she started up the steps.
“I never knew,” she said as she joined me on the platform. The meeting was closed and the other kids were leaving and laughing and shouting out the last lines of the song. “The Law Won!”
Her hand touched mine for a moment as her tormented face, young and pretty seemed to peer through her own place of darkness directly at me. “I didn’t know you could do that.”
“It was nothing,” I said pulling my hand away from her as though my skin had been burned. I searched her face. In an instant I recognized what I had done. It was something I had been working on for over a year. I wanted to produce out of nothing a devoted fan. Here she was.
It wasn’t stardom or a craving for the spotlight, I just wanted to know if I had it in me to conjure up a “following.” But I could feel in my soul that this was something just a bit beyond me if not for a dark, evil promise. It could be a promise of fame and fortune. I could have if I wanted it. It would only cost me a little bit of my soul. “A small price,” a voice or something eerily near to my ear seemed to infer. “Such a small price.”
I had, it seemed, drawn Kelly out of the shadows. She had been unaffected by everything in this world until tonight. And then… All the chords, notes, lyrics, torment, pretending, acting, and choreography brought her youth, adoration and vulnerability into my sphere of influence. For good or bad, she was opening her life to me. Something in the darkness whispered, “its all yours.”
I felt physically ill all of a sudden. I never despised myself more than I did at that moment. I’m not sure what I said to her after that but the result was I never performed again as I had done that night.
Twelve miles away, though very much out of touch with what was at work in my life, my mother sensed some disturbance in my universe. This was the 60s. No one could have posted a video to Youtube. Telephones were not available for personal use from the church, and who would have cared about what was happening with Kelly and me at that moment anyway.
Perhaps she knew that I had been shut away from my family for too long and perceived the wickedness developing in a way that can happen to Secret Agents with Secret Vaults. Its hard to analyze actually, but she knew there was trouble rising up out of the pool of girls she imagined were awaiting my amorous commands. However her intuition worked, she probably was close to being right.
She called to me from the front porch to come in the house before going to do my chores. Instead of the pajamas and robe she wore to watch Sunday night TV, she was dressed in a simple cotton dress with her face all made up, as if she were on her way to church. She even wore the dangling ear rings dad had given her two wedding anniversaries ago.
“I don’t think you should be a part of that youth group anymore,” she said. I wasn’t surprised by her suggestion, but was curious about the calmness in her communication. No accusations or sermons on the evils of sex. I added a dab of depression to my already forlorn appearance.
“Alright,” I said and walked out the back door to the barn to feed Carla, our prized Guernsey. “What’s the use,” I said to her and scratched a spot behind her ear. She pushed back against my fingers in appreciation. “You know I’ve been thinking about running away. I can’t quite figure it out though. What would I do?” Carla snorted and it tickled me to think she might be laughing at my dilemma.
“Your right of course,” I said, rehearsing a Johnny Rivers song in my head. “I’m a Secret Agent, right? I just have to get better at it. There’s only one problem Carla – I’ve run out of ideas of how to do that.” I took Carla’s long low “Moooo,” to be her dearest expression of sympathy for my lamentations, but then the violent shake of her head against my hands probably meant: “Less talking and more scratching!”
It would be years before I truly understood what happened that night, but now I know. That night, after my performance, and for the first time, the Holy Spirit of God had come to give me direct guidance. He used my feelings of sickness and revulsion to show me graphically something repugnant to my Father God. Suddenly I had a fear of the one and only Holy God. The One who held my life next to His tender, merciful but uncompromising heart.
I believe God had shown something to my mother as well. All of the fullness of who the world could say was me was now crammed into my Secret Vault. But mom knew there would be girls. She was determined there would be no girls. To that end, every avenue that could offer an interaction with the opposite sex, outside of school, had been cut off except “Youth Group.” That now too was closed.
Maybe it was time to get a job.