“This mutha fucker right here.” Servant pointed at the holiest man he ever knew in front of the entire congregation of Harmony Baptist Church, and no one gasped. No one stood up and yelled him down. He is the most devout of us all. Servant is a saved Christian doing God’s work.
Watch very carefully, I show you how we got to this point.
It really starts with a flood. Uncle Wrath lived on a flood plain, I told you this. Well the rain would not stop and the small creek behind his trailer rose. It went from trickling and beautiful to raging and vengeful, and within an hour the front yard was a lake. No, a raging river. Probably a bucking ocean.
Right next to his plot was a massive field that had just been cut back by the city. The grass had risen to nearly waist high before Waynesville got around to chopping it down, and all that grass lifted in a great wave to slam against Wrath’s yard. A ton’s weight of sheared grass pressed into his fence, into his trailer, and the aftermath of the wave was devastating.
His fence was tangled by great and heavy clumps of blades. The piping of the chain link bent and twisted. Everything that had been orderly about his plot was in tatters.
But my grandma is a Christian and they are a helpful and giving lot, so when she told the church what had happened, we expected a wave of volunteers to come save this man’s property. What we got was Brother Faith. He was at least eighty, a lean man, and short. He looked as if he could barely stand as he walked in with a wide brimmed straw hat and shook my uncle’s hand.
“Here to do my part,” was all he said, looking Wrath in the eye. I turned my back and rolled my eyes. Uncle Ball shook his head. Harmony had not shown up, and I questioned the godliness of my church.
My uncle looked at him and said, “Well we need that lawn over there raked,” pointing to a spot of land that was cleared of the lumps of grass. It was an easy job for an old man. Brother Faith looked at the yard and set his hands on his hips. Everyone went quiet, then he looked at my uncle and nodded.
“How ’bout I just make my own way?”
Happy to get the old-timer out of the way, Wrath smiled, patted the man on his shoulder like, you do that, little buddy. And we all went back to work. There were three trailers on that plot, with a lot of yard to work, and Wrath was only interested in getting his yard, the back-trailer’s yard, in order. So when the old man went tottering off, we went back to the heavy lifting of the backyard, glad he was out of the way and wishing we had a few more strong backs.
Three of us. My Uncle Ball was in his twenties tipping toward thirty, in great shape and came from working class stock. Uncle Wrath, maybe mid-thirties and strong, he was at the time the strongest man in my life, both in personality and body. I was almost sixteen and nearing my prime. When Faith walked slowly to the front yard, we cut our losses and forgot about him. We strained and complained, stopped for breaks, and drank copious amounts of Gatorade.
When Faith did not come back an hour later, Wrath went to see how the ancient man was fairing. He brought him a glass of Gatorade and came back with wide eyes and a gaping mouth. He also had a full glass of Gatorade.
“What, did he collapse?” Ball said.
“He is done with the front yard,” Wrath said. He looked like he had just taken a punch to the face. He looked like Ball looked and like I felt.
I let out a nervous chirp. But Wrath was not lying. And he glanced at the Gatorade in his hand and back up at us. “Said he was fine. And that he never touched the stuff. Said he brought a thermos of cool water. Told me not to worry about him.”
We shrugged and went back to work, now with more vigor. We could not be outdone by a man in his eighties. We picked up the pace and stopped taking breaks. We worked on tangled fence and carried more grass.
We had a wheel barrow. Faith did not. We had as much Gatorade as we could drink. Faith had a small thermos of water. We had three guys and Faith was done with the second yard by the time we had half the fence up.
We stopped and stared at him, and he gestured to the back trailer. “Looks like you lost your skirt,” he said, pointing at the section of the trailer that hung from the bottom of it to the ground, a thin piece of corrugated steel that was in a knot in the back of the yard. “Mind if I have a look?”
We looked like idiots, I am sure. Insulting idiots, as we stared dumb at him.
“You want to sit down?” Ball said.
But in all honesty, while we were covered in sweat and our arms were cut up from sharp blades of grass, Faith looked untouched, much like he had when he arrived. He took his hat off and patted his forehead with a cloth he had tied to his belt.
“Bit of a scorcher we have here today, huh?” he said.
“I would say,” Ball said. It was well over one hundred degrees and this man was barely sweating.
“Well, stood around enough I reckon. Better get back to God’s Work.” Back went the hat and he tottered over to the trailer. He had a skirt to look at.
This did not stop.
Soon we were taking orders from him. His easy way and humble attitude guided us through the work we had left to do. And when we had all but the final ten feet of fence up, all the grass carried off, the skirt back up, and the stairs rebuilt, we stood back, happy with our end result.
“Can’t thank you enough, Faith,” Uncle Wrath said. “Never thought we would get half of this done.”
And we wouldn’t have. This man was twelve times the worker we were, and while he worked and sang hymns, he showed us the true and awesome power of God.
“Can’t stop now,” he said. “We have ten more feet of fence to raise at least.”
My uncle kicked the piping that would run the top of the fence with his boot. “This is ruined.” It was bent and twisted like an oily French fry. It had more creases in it than we could fix, and the four of us could never have bent it back in any way that would render it useful.
“Can I ask a favor of you fine men?” Faith asked.
“Shit, anything,” Wrath said.
Faith lifted an eyebrow at the language.
“Sorry sir, what I meant to say is, we sure do appreciate everything you have done, and I personally would be glad to do you any favor you would ask.”
“Do you have any fire wood?” the man asked.
“Don’t have a fire place, but I have a log in the back,” Wrath said.
Faith took a sip from his thermos and nodded. “Well let’s get it out here then.”
Took me and Ball to move the thing. Faith told us exactly where to put it and he motioned for the bent, useless piece of piping.
“Hand me that, please,” he said.
Wrath looked at Ball. Both looked at me. And we handed that man the ten-foot-long piece of bent steel.
Maybe physics can explain this, but I sure can’t. Could get ahold of Knot. He is working on his PhD in physics, maybe he has an answer. Faith tapped that bend on the log ever so gently and, with a hollow tone, it straightened instantly.
We all jumped back as if we had seen a miracle, and maybe we had. He turned the piece of steel pipe and with a gentle tap, the next bend popped out. Two more and we had an unmarked, unmarred piece of fence.
“I think if we hustle, I can make it back for dinner.”
This is Brother Faith. A man of God.
Now Rose is hungry for anything that can make her seem as holy as possible. The Bishop family, wife and husband, got the old bus out behind the church working again and started to make the rounds to the back-road homes with children. They started bringing to church the young with nothing to do on a Sunday morning and my mother was jealous of the praise they were getting. Soon there were so many kids they started to disrupt the service, and when the congregation was asked for volunteers to set up a Children’s Church during the sermon, my mother saw her opportunity.
Three Sundays a month, Rose and Mumble would plan a lesson, and together they would minister to the children. Harmony found curriculum, and my parents were teachers. Now, that is a thankless job and a few months in, my parents were over it. But every week they planned a lesson, and every week they smiled and spoke to the kids, trying to find a fun way to make Christ live in the hearts of the young. To be honest, that is not very hard. Christ is pretty fucking fun.
I am not sure how many years they did that job. I know that very soon after taking it on, they began to resent it. But it was at least a year in when my mother, desperate to not have to plan a lesson, late on a Saturday night, came to me.
“Honey, do you want to do God’s Work tomorrow at church? I can feel God telling me that he wants you and your talent to work his ways.”
“What do you need?” I asked.
“Can you teach the kids a lesson tomorrow? Me and Mumble are just bushed and like I said, God is talking to me. He is leaning on my heart to invite you tomorrow morning.”
“What would I even teach?”
“I don’t know, tell a story. You are always running off at the mouth with tales for that game of yours, that DnD. How about you finally put that energy into the work of the Lord?”
“Fine,” Servant said, shifting out fast to try and please my mother. “I will do whatever I am led to. And we will see where it goes.”
It is now midnight on a Saturday night. I have ten hours to plan a lesson for Children’s Church and no ideas.
I didn’t know what to call it when Artist took over. I had seen him crap out a few times when the juices would not flow and a game was ruined by no inspiration. All Servant could do was pray. All he could do was ask for God to please not make a fool out of him the next day.
Fitful sleep and I wake up and grab my Bible. It is eight thirty and I still have no ideas. I have to be at Church by nine and sitting in Sunday School. I have to find a way. I need God.
I asked Rose if I could skip Sunday School and pray. She beamed at the idea of me being seen in the chapel asking God for guidance for half an hour while the church went about its work. She might have pictured a follower of Christ opening the door to the chapel and seeing me seeking the Lord on my knees in front of the altar. I am not sure, but she hugged me and said, “If that is what God is leading you to do, then so be it.”
Half an hour later I am on my knees in front of the altar, because I have no ideas. I have no way of teaching this class. No hope of doing anything but stammering and sweating.
So I pray, and no voice of the Lord. No guidance. Nothing but the blood gushing in my ears and the still of a church in worship in other rooms.
When the congregation began to come in the chapel, I got up. I walked to the classroom where twenty bored children were waiting for me and I looked at them with a shaky voice.
“I’m your teacher today.” More bored looks. “Give me a minute and I will be right with you.” I went to a tiny room off the side of the room where they waited and I closed the door behind me. Five minutes I am in there before a tap on the door.
“Honey, we are all very excited to see what God has laid on your heart today,” Rose said. I could hear panic in her voice. “The kids can’t wait to hear what you have to say.”
I am trembling and near to crying. Questioning God’s love for me and if he can even work through me in any way, when I hear, clear as a trumpet in my mind:
I need the Devil today. Give them a slice of the Adversary and they will see my hand and feel my love.
I have not heard the voice of God in me until this moment and I know he is real. I know he is love and I know he has a plan.
I step out of the small alcove I have been hiding in, and I look at the apathetic faces looking everywhere but at me, and I freeze.
Sitting in the back middle of the room with a squirming child on his lap is Brother Faith.
“Sir,” I said.
“Came to see the show,” he said.
“Not gonna be much of a show, I fear.”
“Not what I heard,” he said with a grin. He pointed at the sky and fell silent.
“Praise the Lord,” my mother whispered.
“Yo, little ones,” I said.
This is not Shadow. This is not Artist. This is Servant. And he still has no plan. But he has confidence. It will be there when he needs it. “Today I am going to show you the Devil.”
Every eye snaps to my face. They stare at me, their mouths hanging open. “We can’t understand God without first seeing his Enemy. So for just a moment, let’s look into the face of Satan. And we will see God’s might. And we will see that God never loses.”
My mother does not like this at all. Children hear just a spattering of Satan. He is not ever to be the focus. But that is not the Lord’s Will today. I look at Brother Faith. I look at my red-faced mother. And I do not know what words will come out of my mouth when I say, “Today we learn about Job.”
The biblical figure, not the dude. I haven’t even met that guy yet.
Do you know the story? Some of you might, others maybe not. It is one of the favored stories of any Christian. It is a story of faith in God and the love of a devout man.
So Satan comes to God one day and says there are no good men in the world. That Christians are only as loyal as their fortune and that any man can be turned from the Lord with a little push.
“Well look at this cat Job,” God says. “He is my main man. Dude is ride or die all the way.”
So the Devil looks at the life of this man and scoffs. “You have given him riches, livestock, land, love. How do you not have this guy swinging?”
I’m not actually saying this to the kids. I’m trying to do a thing here. A summary, if you will. Just hang on. We haven’t even gotten to the real blasphemy yet.
God smiles and tells the Devil to test him. Just this once, he will hand over the fate of a man to the Devil. But just to shut this asshat up.
So the Devil kills every loved one. Destroys his land. Kills all his livestock. The Devil wipes his ass with this dude’s life.
But Job is not budging. His boys tell him to curse God, but he flatly refuses.
Of course God wins this little challenge, it’s his book. But here we are. Satan is talking to God, telling him there are no good men, and he points to Job.
“Look at this mutha fucker right here,” the Devil says, by which I mean Servant says.
In Children’s Church.
In front of twenty kids.
And Brother Faith.
My mother loses her shit. She damn near screams. She is so furious that she is stunned to silence. Her mind is concocting all the horrors she will throw upon me when she gets me home, and Mumble is fighting back laughter.
The kids gasp.
Brother Faith. He chuckles. See, he was told by God to be in Children’s Church that morning because God wanted to show him something. He was told by me before I even opened my mouth that I was going to show him Satan. And by the look on his face, and the way he is whispering to the young boy on his lap and pointing at me, I have done it. I have brought the Devil to Harmony.
All praises be to God.
My mother rushes me after the class and grabs my arm to jerk me off to whisper scream at me when Brother Faith is blocking her way.
“Can you do me and this church a favor, young man?” he says.
“Brother Faith, I want to assure you this will not go unpunished. We know this is the Lord’s house and we do not even tolerate that sort of language at home, and it will not be tolerated in church. I am so sorry that I allowed this to happen. I am so embarrassed.”
He is waiting to get a word in, because Brother Faith is patient.
When my mother can make no more assurances, when her anger cannot express itself any further without the foul language Mumble is famous for, Brother Faith turns to me and smiles.
“I hope you will perform your interpretation of Job for the entire congregation next Sunday. I was very moved, and God was right. It was quite a show you gave us today.”
He shook my hand with his calloused knot of a hand and nodded.
All the next week my mother is working on me. “You will not use that language in front of the church. I will not have it. It shines a bad light on this family and this home. Not to mention the blasphemy and blatant disrespect it shows for the Lord. After everything he has done for you, you will disgrace his house with your filthy tongue? I will not have it.
“Hasn’t God done enough for you? He has given you a safe and loving childhood. Two caring parents. Two perfect siblings. He gave you Destiny, and by His will, He will give her back to you. How dare you even think about doing what you did in that room with those poor kids.” She is pissed. I mean pissed. “God gave you his only son and you plan to—”
“I will allow my tongue to be led by God. I give you my word.”
But that was not enough. So every day I got this lecture. And every day Servant reminded her that he loved God. He was grateful for Christ and he would never dishonor God.
But that is not what she was saying. What she was saying all week long to me is that I will not dishonor her. No matter how I was led by the Lord, her reputation and her message of Godliness was what was important here.
We know how this goes. So let’s get to it.
Servant stood before the church, with the pulpit pulled aside and a full stage at his feet, and looked out over the crowd. He almost began, but the hand of the Lord held him back for just a moment.
Brother Faith stood up from his spot in the chapel. Everyone knew where he and his wife sat. Everyone knew third row back all the way to the left was where we would find them every week. He stood, rubbed his hands together, and spoke.
When this man spoke, everyone listened.
“Jesse is going to perform for us exactly what he showed me last week in Children’s Church. He will give it to us how God gave it to him. Every word. As God planned.” He nodded at me and Servant bowed his head.
He did pray in that moment, asked God humbly to be led. Let no word pass his mouth that was not chosen for this church.
“Today I am going to show you the Devil,” Servant said. “To the best of my ability. And if it is God’s Will, I will not let Brother Faith down.”
I looked on the far-left middle of the chapel where my mother scowled at me and I got out of God’s way.
When the moment came, and with the righteous hand of God moving me, with His words playing on my tongue, Servant stood before the entire church, and at the moment of the Devil’s aggression, he said, “This mutha fucker right here,” pointing at my Job. Pointing at the greatest man of God I ever knew. And my mother fumed. Faith grinned and nodded. And the congregation stared up in awe at the words of God.
This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 3: The Keep.