A damnable itch, festering in the brain, simpering to be scratched.
Meningsbee was enraged.
He was wounded.
He couldn’t decide if he was more angry or hurt.
But in the drive home, grasping a moment of maturity, he decided to keep the events of the failed Bible study to himself. Yes, when asked about it, he would play dumb and refer all questions to the other parties involved.
And there would be questions. The congregation had great faith that Meningsbee would be able to come into the living room setting of Sammy Collins’ home and use his spirit and charm to initiate healing.
Maybe that’s what bothered him the most–a complete sense of failure; a rage over being out-foxed by this common possum, Swanson. How did he ever let himself be in such a vulnerable position that this upstart could make him look foolish and insignificant?
Even though he decided that the mature–or as he called it, the Jesonian–way of handling the event was to remain silent, his brain was inflamed with an inferno of retaliation.
And the more he considered his noble choice, to turn the other cheek and pretend it never happened, the more a self-righteous slime made him feel pious–superior to his adversary. Then an aching anger chased that religiosity, leaving him bound in a week-long fit of overwhelming obsession.
Fortunately, he succeeded in dodging all the phone calls from church members by proclaiming that he would share his findings on Sunday. This seemed reasonable to all of them. Why tell the story fifty times when you could tell it once, and have it done?
But what would he tell?
Even though Patrick Swanson did not ask him to keep their conversation in confidence, he knew that anything he would relate about the plans of this worship leader would come across petty–and of course, be easily denied.
He’d had such great hopes.
Meningsbee had come to Garsonville with the spirit of a servant, but now he was realizing that he still had a mind to be king.
Yes, in his more enlightened moments he was willing to be patient and wait for good things to come his way, but that damnable itch insisted on being recognized.
He got so worked up that he ended up with some sleepless nights that invited a common cold to further aggravate him. Sneezing, blowing his nose and sipping some tea and honey for a scratchy throat, he wondered if he could skip the Sunday service due to illness.
Things had to be handled, and unfortunately, it was his hands.
He didn’t pray enough, he didn’t study anything, he over-ate, over-thought and over-reacted.
He reluctantly dressed for Sunday morning and headed out the door. He had no message.
He had never come to spend time with the Heavenly Father so ill-prepared. All he had inside him was poison. But he drove to the church and stepped to the door.
A few people tried to hug him and he was able to maneuver away by explaining his contagious condition. Fortunately, the congregation easily handled prayers, offering, testimonies and even a song.
Then everybody grew quiet, the building completely still, waiting for Pastor Meningsbee to speak.
He stood to his feet, vacant of inspiration.
He walked slowly, as a man treading to an execution. He turned and looked into the hopeful faces of those who yearned for peace with their neighbors.
Suddenly tears filled his eyes. He feigned a sneeze and grabbed a Kleenex to draw attention away from his sudden emotional outburst.
Catching his breath, he picked up a Bible nearby and held it in the air. He stood there for a long moment, waiting for the Holy Spirit to give him utterance. There was none.
Yet the congregation was waiting.