Nineteen years later
I jumped in the Mercedes and hit the ignition. Squealing off, I ignored mama who waved frantically from the sidewalk. Mama, I thought, I need to be alone for a while. I hope you can understand that.
I headed north. Then, I motored up Clarksville Pike across the Cumberland River to Cliff Drive. There I drove northeast along the river to a little recreational area where I turned in and parked the car.
When I opened the door, I reached above the dash for my aviator sunglasses. I put them on and slammed the door shut. The morning sun was already hot, the humidity nearly ninety per cent. Sweat drops formed on my forehead. I pulled the blue shirt outside my pants and walked to the river.
A few fishermen sat on the river’s bank hoping to catch catfish. Their bobbers floated along with the current. They probably watched my antics, but I did not care. Out of habit, I bent over and scooped up a handful of loose rocks and strolled along the river. The waves slapped against my black leather loafers and darkened my slacks with wetness. I was oblivious to everything. Every so often, I tossed a rock into the river. A few skipped two or three times before sinking into the murky depths, but even this was just a physical release of my pent-up anger.
At a bend in the river, I sat down on concrete retaining wall. There I stared upward. My eyes glazed with frustration from the day’s events.
“Lord,” I spit out, “I’m angry at You. What a mess You’ve made of my life. Why didn’t You help me out with Jamie? I love her.”
A long silence followed my outburst as I reflected upon the words I just uttered.
What if God smote me with a lightning bolt, I thought. Oh well, I don’t care. Hit me with Your best shot, Lord. It looks like I’m in Your gun sights anyway. Might as well finish me off and put me out of my misery, right here and now.
I folded my arms across my chest.
“Lord, I feel so hurt and alone. I can hardly stand it. I want to quit!”
An inner voice softly whispered, “Luke, I felt hurt and alone on the cross.”
“That’s not fair, Lord. You’re God. And I’m a piece of smelly human flesh, just a man who has lost the woman he loves.”
The put-put sound of an outboard motor came near. I looked up to see a couple of people towing a skier behind their sleek red boat. The boat turned a sharp one hundred and eighty degree turn, causing the skier to swing wide. The nylon towing rope snapped and the skier headed straight for me, water spraying behind her in a thick rooster tail. Twenty feet from shore, the girl sat down.
“Hi,” said the teen aged girl. A toothy smile outlined her round face.
“Hi,” I said with the enthusiasm of a man strapped into an electric chair.
“What’s your problem?”
I studied her for a beat or two.
“I’m mad at God!” I exclaimed.
“Yeah, I am.”
“So, how’s that working out for you?”
“Don’t know yet.”
“Well, it looks like you have two options.”
“Just two options, huh?”
“Yeah, just two. You can stay mad. Or you can realize there’s no benefit in being angry at God. He won’t change His mind because He’s always right. Always knows what best for us, even guys like you.”
The put-put sound of the boat came near again. A man with a white straw hat threw a new towing rope to the girl.
“See ya,” she said as the boat pulled the slack out of the rope and then took off, heading upstream.
I sat there with my mouth open, drool running down my chin, amazed at what just took place. What’s this, I thought, did she just play the part of Elihu in my Trials of Job opera. What’s next?
I staggered back to the car and picked up my cell phone from the passenger seat. I punched in a number.
“Yes sweetie,” answered mama.
“What’s for lunch? Your little boy is sad and starved.”
“Sorry sweetheart. I know you’re hurting,” she said in a manner only mothers can possibly utter. “Stop by. Cornbread’s in the oven and pinto beans are almost done.”
That’s my mama! I thought. She loves to pamper her little boy on a bad days. Hope she has some apple pie or chocolate cake sitting around. Sweets sound comforting right now.
The next day I preached my last sermon at Rock on the River Fellowship. It was a sad moment for the congregation and me. Most attended the church because they liked me, but now I had let them down. All outwardly wished me well, but I knew as soon as the service ended, the gossip grapevine would begin churning out rumors about why I resigned from the Rock. Few would ever know the whole story and somehow, I had to be satisfied with that, trusting God’s grace would cover all of the loose ends in the matter.
After leaving the church, I went to my apartment. There I wandered from room to room, making mental notes about what to do with all of my stuff. An old picture of me playing quarterback in high school caught my eye. It reminded me of our high school coach’s words after our loss by one point in overtime of the district championship game. “Men, it is what it is, it’s not what it should have been, not what it could have been, it is what it is.”
So, that became my attitude in the days after my resignation: “It is what it is.”
I spent the rest of my time in Nashville, wrapping up everything. I sold all of the household goods, the Mercedes, and the diamond ring. The proceeds helped pay off the cash advance to the publisher for my unfinished book. I canceled every scheduled meeting in the Franklin Covey Planner.
When the dust settled, every ministry bridge had been blown up. No longer did Rev. Luke Stoner, the New York Times best selling author and well-known preacher exist. He died and his ashes floated downstream on the Cumberland River.
(The above is the fifth part of Chapter 2 for a new novel I’m writing, The Day LA Died, © Larry Nevenhoven, 2012.)
(Continued in Part 9)