Dorcas knew Hayden would be hurting when he came back. Like the rest of the city she had watched the whole thing on TV when he walked out on the biggest basketball game of his life. She met Hayden at his dorm after the team came back from the airport.
“What took you so long? The rest of the team arrived 2 hours ago!”, she said.
Hayden turned away. “I want to be alone, Dorkie”. He didn’t want to tell her that he had been pushed out of the van by the rest of the team and forced to walk home from the airport.
Dorcas eyed the bruise on Hayden’s forehead. “Hayden, what happened?”
He snapped at her. “Well I guess the fellas were a little ornery after losing a game by 38 points on national TV!”. Instantly he regretted it. “Sorry Dorkie.” Pause. “At least Charles got off the van and walked home with me”.
Dorcas followed Hayden into his room. Be patient, it’s coming, she thought. Hayden faced the window, silent. She sensed tears being stifled.
Then the dam burst. “I feel like such an idiot! “What was I thinking, walking out and asking a packed arena to follow me! How incredibly…self-righteous, how incredibly stupid could I be? Do you have any idea what the people in this town are going to think of me, say to me? And why? For God! So I could be the Good Christian. The Church Geek. Gee, how blessed I am right now.” He collapsed in his chair and hung his head.
Slowly, carefully, Dorcas moved over to him. She wasn’t thinking; it was all heart now. She knelt and took his face in her hands. “And you are also… the most honorable man I have ever known”.
And then she kissed him.
A warm sensation began where Dorcas’ lips touched his and spread down the back of his neck and into his chest. Just for a moment. Then she separated, leaving Hayden dazed --yet with every nerve ending tingling.
“And Hayden”, Dorcas said as she moved to go, “Elder Andrew will pick you up at 7:00. The elders want to meet you at the church tonight.”
Hayden couldn’t reply. Like Zechariah in the temple, he’d been stricken dumb by an angel.
Elder Andrew drove Hayden through the campus. His face betrayed nothing as he made light conversation. “Place looks like a funeral”, he commented. “Is it always so glum around here?”
“No, just lately”, replied Hayden. He turned his head to avoid being seen by a group of students coming out of dinner. “Um… can I ask what the elders want me for?”
Elder Andrew frowned. “I think I’d better wait on that, Hayden”. They drove the rest of the way in a gnawing silence. Andrew dialed his cell phone and said simply, “We’ll be there in ten”, then snapped it shut. After ten very long minutes, they entered via the back way and parked in the alley. As they got out Andrew turned to Hayden, his face serious. “Now Hayden, don’t be alarmed. I’ll help you through this. Just follow me.”
Mystified, Hayden followed him into the office, then through the narrow choir entrance behind the sanctuary. Elder Andrew thrust open the door to the sanctuary and pushed Hayden in.
The pastor’s voice boomed over a microphone “And now, at starting Forward… HAYYYYYDEN DAYYYYLEEEE!”. The sanctuary, which was filled, broke into a great shout. Confetti poured from the balcony, and as Hayden turned he saw a photo of himself from the game being projected up front and entitled “Sermon at Mid-court”. It was followed by pictures of newspaper headlines like “MARYLAND LOSES, GOD WINS” and “DAILY FINDS NEW MOUNTAINTOP”.
Elder Greening stepped forward, and old Gertie Hardnock began to chant “Hay-DEN, Hay-DEN, Hay-DEN!” As the chant swelled, Hayden saw many friends from his church – but also many strangers, people from other churches who’d been moved by what Hayden had done. Elder Greening smiled and opened her arms to embrace him, and as she did she said in his ear, “Well done, Hayden. Well done, good and faithful servant”.
That broke him. Hayden cried like a baby until confetti stuck to his face like stars from heaven.
End of Church Story