Kathy sat and listened unsure whether she should leave. This was a space and time that Sam and Emma should have alone. Yet she wanted to listen, she even wanted to try and help, although what she would have done that might have aided the situation was beyond even her comprehension. Sam was a shadow of usual self, even of the under confident man who she had grown to appreciate with a warmness that surprised her.
He sat on the sofa close to Emma, and he talked and Emma gently nodded comfortingly as he laid out the morning’s trauma. Sam kept saying, over and over again, “I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what happened.” And Emma had no words in response. She had nothing that would calm him, there were no words that would reassure him. There was nothing that she could do which would make the situation all okay. So she stuck to murmuring her concern and compassion.
Emma had been the only person to whom Sam could go as he walked out of church, he wanted to vanish with immediate effect, as he walked down the streets and past the bustling crowds preparing for their Sunday shopping experience. He wondered if this is what it felt like to have suicidal tendencies. He didn’t want to see anyone, he didn’t want to talk to anyone. Sam felt as though anything that he did would make the situation worse. That was why he had to go and talk to Emma, he did not have to explain why this had happened. Sam also knew that she would not have any inclination to believe the slander thrown at him from the pulpit.
It was unsurprising but still unexpected that Kathy was there when he arrived. His defences were down and he did not have the energy to hold it together while she remained. So he conceded her presence and in machine gun style interspersed with howls of pain and a handful of tears spat out the words Adam had spoken in a near verbatim fashion.
Kathy was stunned by the tale he told. She pieced together the story as he sped on, working backwards from this morning’s events through to his and Emma’s discovery before Christmas. She was at first minded to disbelief, considering the incredulity of the situation. What pastor would do such a thing she thought. But as Emma confirmed the story she began to see the baggage he had been carrying for the past month.
Sam realised he was not presenting his best side to Kathy, but he did not have the energy to care. This should have been the person that he held it altogether for. Here she was, Sam thought, seeing his very worst side, watching as all his emotions came spilling out, overflowing from the depths of his heart. He looked and saw pity ingrained on her face, and that made it so much harder to bare, sympathy was just about tolerable, pity was certainly not.
Only after it seemed as though he had exhausted his energies in venting his emotions did Emma begin to speak. “Sam, you’ve had an incredibly traumatic experience and now is not the time to make big decisions about the future. I’m here to listen and I’m not going anywhere.
“I want you to know that this is a safe place. If you want, in a couple of weeks you can take Kathy’s room. And if you can’t stand living at your place the sofa’s available for now. And I don’t think you should go into the office tomorrow, that can wait a few days.”
He knew that his sister was speaking sense, but Sam had not yet decided to completely give up on the fight. He was so outraged by the miscarriage of justice that he had suffered. There was a mingling of anger and frustration, and resignation and failure, in his thoughts as he sat wondering what to do next. His name had been ruined, and all in the effort of preserving the someone else’s.
Part of Sam wanted to come straight back at Adam, to demand to meet with the elders and defend himself and ask him to substantiate his allegations. But Sam knew that he couldn’t prove his claims without Alex’s cooperation, and any attempt to turn the accusations back towards the perpetrator would be seen as evidence of his guilt, casting the mud on the one who was correcting and rebuking the sinner in their midst.
Sam knew that if he wanted to he had a fair claim for constructive dismissal, the church wouldn’t have been able to sack him unilaterally even if the allegations were true, but before he got too carried away preparing a legal brief in his mind he reminded himself that he wasn’t technically employed, but as an apprentice he was on a training programme and the church basically had the right to do whatever they wished.
Besides which, Sam rather wished that this whole affair just came to a swift end. And when he came to think more deeply he realised that pursuing this through the courts would not be the best way forward. In fact sometime later he thought that it would be fundamentally contrary to his theology, as Sam looked across the world he saw men and women persecuted for their faith who did not respond with counter suits and campaigns but with prayer and fasting. These were men and women who inspired Sam, and in his only very little way this was his response. Not to any great act of persecution, but refusing to strike back nonetheless and instead turn the other cheek towards the aggressor. Such minded theology did not come at once, at first his thoughts were governed by deep resignation towards the conspiracy of forces arrayed against him.
Instead, Sam sat completely overwhelmed by the world around him. He simply put one foot in front of the next. Emma felt guilty for going to church, but Talitha had only become a Christian the week before so she felt obliged to go. When Emma made the offer for him to come along he nearly followed, only saved from the agony at the last minute. Not only would he have had to face a room of strangers but also Talitha who was a complexity he could live without.
Sam was walking through the world in a haze and knew that one day the mist would lift but could not see that day coming too soon.