The Starbucks on Temecula Parkway was busy as usual. Five people stood in line ahead of me, waiting to place their orders. I looked around and saw the young pastor sitting at a table in the back of the room. He waved and I nodded at him.
I eventually received my coffee and walked toward the pastor. His thick, dark hair framed his long, thin face. He resembled an ordinary businessman in his crisply pressed khakis and blue button-down shirt, open at the collar. He stood and we shook hands.
“Dylan, thanks for coming,” he said.
“It’s my pleasure Pastor Rick.”
We sat down and I sipped coffee. He folded his hands in front of him on the table and looked as uncomfortable as I felt at that moment.
“An insider on the selection committee told me that you were the most influential person when it came to choosing me as the church’s new pastor. So −”
I interrupted his prepared speech.
“So, why did I walk out of your first sermon, right?”
He nodded and grinned. His eyes revealed relief that the elephant was out of the closet.
“Pastor Rick, it had nothing to do with you or your sermon. It was probably something I should have done years ago.”
“I don’t understand.”
I repeated the same story I told Jane about feeling the Lord wanted me to do something and how I’d ignored it for forty years until yesterday. The young pastor nodded from time to time as though he understood my dilemma, but I felt he struggled with my answer.
“Is there anything I can do to help you?” he asked, almost as a reflex when I finished.
“I don’t know. This is new territory for me.”
The young pastor sipped his coffee and remained quiet for a minute. I did the same, not wanting to interrupt his thoughts. The chatter from the nearby tables shielded our conversation.
“My dad and grandpa were pastors. Both taught that pastors don’t own the members of churches because they belong to the Good Shepherd. Their obedience must first of all be to Him, and not to any pastor. I agree with their teaching, but I am concerned about you,” he said.
“Oh really, why?”
“As an ordained pastor, my main job is to feed the sheep. So, where will you be fed and nourished each week?”
“I don’t know.”
“I assume Jane will be leaving with you, right? Where will she be fed and nourished?”
I shrugged my shoulders.
“Who will you fellowship with?”
I shrugged again and looked away from his piercing eyes.
“So, you walked out of church without a plan or a pastor in mind for you to be accountable to, right?”
“Do you really believe God would ask you to do something like this in the twilight years of your life?”
I set my cup down a little too hard. The coffee splashed out of it onto the table.
He cleared his throat and sipped coffee while I wiped the spilt liquid up with a napkin.
“Shouldn’t you just enjoy your children and family for the remaining years of your life? After all, you’ve pretty much run your race. What can you really accomplish this late in the game?”
I stood up, put my hands on the table and leaned toward him.
“I don’t have any answers right now,” I proclaimed three levels louder than normal. The people sitting nearby stopped their activities and stared at us.
“As far as my legacy, I’m going out to make a new one because I’m not satisfied with mine. And mistakes? Or my age? I couldn’t care less about either one right now. I just want to stay in the fight until I take my last breath.”
Spinning around, I walked out of Starbucks, not in anger or rebellion, but in freedom.
(Excerpt from my work in progress: Still in the Fight by Larry Nevenhoven, © 2020.)