A Short Story

Two friends, Jordan and Taylor, sat huddled behind a tall stack of fold-up tables in the church fellowship hall. They’d been told by their Sunday school teacher that all the elementary-age children needed to go outside after church service while the youth and adults gathered in the fellowship hall for a special time together with a guest of honor, who would then visit the younger kids outside after finishing inside.

“Hell with that,” Taylor had whispered to Jordan. “Let’s check out the adult gathering.”

Nodding, Jordan gave Taylor a little smile.

While the rest of the kids had followed the teacher outside, Jordan and Taylor sneaked away to their current hiding spot, slumped down with their backs to the stack of tables so no one could see them. So far, all they’d heard were the adults and youth yakking it up while stuffing their faces full of some cake called “death by chocolate” and no doubt washing it down with Miss Winston’s famous pink lemonade—famous for its nine parts sugar, one part actual pink lemonade.

Then the room went dead quiet. Jordan looked over at Taylor, who shrugged.

A moment later came Pastor Morgan’s voice: “Ah, our guest of honor. Thank you for coming all this way for a special visit.”

As a few others welcomed the so-called guest of honor, Taylor pointed toward the top of the stack of tables, then started turning around, clearly intent on rising up and taking a peek. But Jordan’s hand shot out and caught Taylor.

“No!” Jordan hissed. “Just listen.”

Taylor sighed but nodded and sat back down.

“I don’t know how we can say thank you enough for all you’ve done for us,” Pastor Morgan went on.

“Yes, the commitment and dedication you show to serve so many,” came a woman’s voice that sounded like Miss Winston.

“And the sacrifice.” That was Jordan’s mom, who sounded like she was going to cry. “Pouring out your life like that.”

“You give us peace.” And Taylor’s dad, who likewise sounded choked up.

“And freedom,” sounded a croaky old woman’s voice.

Eyes popped wide open, Jordan looked over at Taylor.

“What?” Taylor whispered.

Jordan jerked a thumb in the direction of the gathering. “I think it’s—”

But Jordan went quiet when everyone continued their praises:

“Thank you so much for being our defender.”

“Yes, our protector!”

“You keep us safe.”

“Amen! And you bring hope and light to this bleak, dark world.”

“A true deliverer!”

“A good, good man—a rock.”

“We’re just so thankful to you!”

“Oh yes!”

At that all of those gathered began chattering amongst themselves.

Taylor smacked Jordan on the arm and leaned closer to whisper, “Who? Who do you think it is?”

Jordan swallowed. “Didn’t you hear what they called him?”

“Yeah, so?”

“Like it’s right out of the Bible,” Jordan whispered.

“Huh?” Taylor said.

“The Bible! Those are all ways the Bible talks about Jesus.”

Taylor’s eyes rolled up and then back down. “Are you kiddin’ me?”

“I mean it!” Jordan said. “It ain’t like we haven’t heard stories of people seeing Jesus, right?”

“Mmm … I guess. Seems pretty weird, though.”

“Yeah, maybe—but c’mon!” Jordan said, gesturing with her hands. “Sacrifice … peace … freedom … defender … protector … light in the darkness … good man … rock … and deliverer too. It’s gotta be Jesus!”

Taylor said nothing and only stared down at the lime-green carpet, clearly in deep thought. “Yeah,” she finally said. “Who else could it be?”

The gathering seemed to go quiet then, and a moment later Taylor and Jordan heard Pastor Morgan say, “I know the kids outside will love seeing you. Thank you again for coming!”

Multiple voices joined in, and now Jordan and Taylor felt it would be safe to chance a peek. Both girls turned around and inch by inch raised their heads until their eyes finally crested the top table.

They saw a man in a camouflage uniform give a wave to everyone and then walk out the door.