The Next Faithful Step
Scott Cormode, Fuller Theological Seminary
Darien Hill became the choir director of the little country church three months ago. He was a thirty-three old single man who worked as a computer programmer in Fresno, California. He kept the computer job because the church really did not pay enough for a living. But he did move out of Fresno and up into the hills where the church was located.
When he interviewed for the choir director’s job, someone asked him about his beliefs. “I’ve been shaped by two encounters with death,” he said earnestly. “When I was twenty-six years old, my fiancé, Cassandra, rolled her car on the old highway not too far up in the foothills. She slipped in and out of a coma for a few weeks, and then she was gone.” His voice was clear, but there was still pain in the memory. “Not long after that, they discovered my mother had breast cancer. After a year or so, I moved in with her to take care of her the best I could. I had to put aside my music. There just was not time. She passed away three months ago. “ He stopped to take a breath. “I want this job so that I can rediscover music. I’ve put off God’s call to me while I was with Mom. But now I’m ready to return to my love.” As he finished his story, a few people dabbed their eyes. The only substantive question that came in the ensuing conversation was from the pastor, Rev. Charlotte Robinson. She asked him the same “sacrament of baptism” question she’d asked every candidate. Darien smiled gently at the question, “I am not sure what a sacrament is,” he began with a self-deprecating chuckle, “but I can tell you that baptism is a time of joy because a lost lamb has returned to God’s fold.” The committees smiled too; they liked him. And they hired him.
After a few weeks the pastor met with him to talk about how the job was going. Reverend Robinson had planned to talk with him a bit about his theology. She believed he was doing a good job with the music part of his work; and the choir clearly liked him. But she could see that he did not have much depth to his theology. Most of the children who had grown up in the church had a better understanding of the Bible by the time that they graduated from high school than he seemed to have while leading worship. She wanted to suggest an informal program of reading for him. And she thought that perhaps that they could read through the lyrics to songs together and talk a bit about what they meant. That was the conversation she intended to have.
Their lunch was not what she planned. Darien arrived a bit late. And after some pleasantries picked up the menu. Five full minutes later he was still distracted by the menu. She thought that he might be avoiding her until he looked up. He looked frightened, like the thought of ordering was too much for him.
“Is something wrong?” Charlotte asked. He nodded. She waited.
“This morning I went to the doctor. I have not been in awhile. I’m kind of used to them giving bad news. Anyway, he listened to me talk about how I’ve been feeling and then he did some tests. And he thinks I have Type II Diabetes – you know, the kind where you have to take insulin and all.” He paused for a second. “I don’t really know what to eat. Do you think I should have a salad, maybe?”
Charlotte Robinson could tell that he was not really asking about salads. He was trying to figure out how the diabetes was going to affect his life. And Charlotte knew that nothing that she said this first day would change his life. She also knew he was going to need a community that cared for him. As she talked with him that day, she thought about all the things she wanted to say to him over the coming months.