Ed stood, hesitant, outside the office door. At a loss for words, he prayed for the right thing to say. His mind swirled with the events of the past week. How could so much have happened so fast?
It had been a typical Tuesday morning. Yawning, Ed made his way downstairs for breakfast. That was when he saw his wife’s expression. She was holding the newspaper in one hand and a cup of coffee mid-air in the other. He had only seen that look on her face a few times in his life and he knew whatever it was couldn’t be good.
“Lynn, what’s wrong?” he asked nervously.
Without a word, she handed him the newspaper and turned away quickly. The headline seared him like a gunshot:
“Local Minister Accused In Sex Scandal”
Ed’s eyes widened as he quickly scanned the article. Their pastor was being accused of having an affair and paying the woman off to keep it quiet. This just couldn’t be! Ed and Lynn had been friends with Pastor Sidney and his wife, Laura, for years. True, close friends. There had been no signs of anything like this, no trouble at all, as far as he knew. Only two days ago they had all been talking and laughing together.
Lynn turned back around, wiping her eyes. “Do you think it’s true?”
“I don’t know, but I’ve got to talk to him.”
He dialed the church number and spoke with the secretary, who was trying to be as diplomatic as possible. Pastor Sidney had disappeared that morning. Fear began creeping into Ed’s heart. Where had he gone? What was he going to do? All he could do was pray.
Days passed and no word from Pastor Sidney. Then, at nearly 9:00 Friday night, Ed’s doorbell rang. When he opened the door, he barely recognized the dynamic man who had mentored him for six years. His shoulders slumped under wrinkled clothes and a days-old beard grew over his sunken cheeks. There was a pleading look in his bloodshot eyes, which obviously had not seen sleep in a long time.
Ed led him into the living room where he collapsed into heaving sobs on the sofa. Lynn silently put on a pot of coffee. It was going to be a long night.
For hours the two men talked, more in depth than ever before. Sadly, the affair was true. Sidney made no excuses.
“I thought I was invincible, that it would never happen to me.” He bowed his head in shame. “I got tired spiritually and she made me feel strong again, only in the wrong way. Pathetic, but true. But I never, ever tried to pay her off. I genuinely cared about her, but she was using me right from the start. When I didn’t deliver, she exposed me. Simple as that.” He paused again. “It’s over, forever. Now I just want to get right, whatever it takes.”
He had talked to the board members the day before. A formal apology and resignation were expected…immediately. This Sunday would be his last time in the pulpit.
Ed had agreed to meet him before the service, but now wasn’t sure if that was a good idea. He knocked softly on the door.
“Come in,” Sidney replied.
The room was empty, except for a few boxes filled with personal items. Sidney sat at his desk for the last time.
“Is there anything I can do?” Ed asked gently.
Sidney shook his head. “You’ve done so much already, Ed. You’re the only one who hasn’t deserted me through all this. No, this is my responsibility. I have to walk in there and somehow try to say I’m sorry to all those people I’ve hurt.”
Ed paused. “I could walk with you.”
Sidney looked up at Ed as tears welled up in his eyes. The extraordinary selflessness from his friend, to walk with him at his lowest moment, overwhelmed him. “Thank you,” he choked out.
The familiar sounds of worship echoed through the foyer as Ed and Sidney stood outside the double doors leading to the sanctuary.
“Ready?” Ed asked.
“No,” Sidney answered flatly. “I could never be ready for this.” He took a deep breath. “Let’s go.”
Ed pulled the door open as they began to walk down the aisle, not knowing what lay ahead. It was the most difficult gesture of his life and, by far, the most significant.
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