Kathryn observed Cindy’s chatter with Michael and caught her eye as she turned to leave with Ramon. She could see the hurt and defiance in her daughter’s eyes and she instinctively broke away from Jeremiah and ran toward her. “Cindy,” she called out.
In the distance, Cindy paused and beckoned Ramon to keep walking. Kathryn caught up to her, breathless. She placed her hand on Cindy’s face and cupped her cheek.
“Hello, darling, how are you making out?”
Cindy attempted to say something, but only tears came. She avoided Kathryn’s eyes and played with the zipper of her jacket. She looked like a little girl again; her hair in a ponytail, her jeans stuck in the laces of her duck boots.
“Why does he hate me?” she asked, now looking in Kathryn’s face.
Kathryn paused and shook her head. “Your father doesn’t hate you Cindy. Quite the opposite sweetheart; he loves you very much. There isn’t a night when he doesn’t
“Don’t even go there Mom. Please do not go there.” Kathryn reached out to take her hand. Cindy turned away.
“I’ve got a question to ask . . . when he prays for me every night, who does he think he’s praying to?”
“Cindy, you know this discussion leads us nowhere—”
She persisted, “No Mom, I want to know. Who is he praying to?”
“Then let me tell you, Mom. He’s praying to Jesus. And I don’t see anywhere in the Bible where Jesus says that you can stop loving your daughter because you don’t approve of her life.”
With that, Cindy began to bawl, but still standing rigid and defiant, fists clenched. Kathryn embraced her daughter and cried with her. Cindy pulled away and walked toward Ramon who had started the loud motorcycle. Kathryn wiped away her own tears. Cindy mounted the bike and Ramon jerked the hog forward.
Kathryn turned and glanced at Jeremiah. For a split second their eyes met and said the same thing: That’s our little girl over there and we’re losing her. Jeremiah’s eyes flashed back to his shoes.
Kathryn reflected on one of her favorite Bible verses, “Train up your child in the way he ought to go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” She decided that she would leave the situation with God. Standing alone in the field between her husband and her child, she quietly whispered a prayer to the Lord. She had no Band-Aid big enough to heal this wound.
Michael trudged slowly toward his dad unsure of what to say. One thing he was certain about, he had no desire to play the referee. He’d been officiating matches between Cindy and Jeremiah for years.
Cindy always had a rebel’s heart. She was two years older than Michael and roughly three years younger than their older brother, David. The boys cruised through grammar and high school with hardly a bump in the road. Cindy’s high school career had been a whirlwind. If there was a playbook about the behavior and lifestyles of pastors’ daughters, Cindy was constantly writing new chapters.
Although she was a handful, most of her run-ins with authority were more in the nature of good-hearted fun. She’d never really experienced any serious problems. The wheels came off last summer when she announced that she was moving in with Ramon.
For the family, this was no detention for popping gum in class. This was a brazen move that cut against everything Jeremiah stood for and taught for more than thirty years in ministry. He forbade it. Cindy rebelled even more. Michael, Kathryn and David each tried to work on one or the other with no success. For the past year Jeremiah had said little more than hello or goodbye to his only daughter.
Michael watched his father as he neared the place where he was standing. He had the concerned look he always had whenever Cindy came around. At his height and weight, the team could use a presence like his on the field next week. Michael chuckled at the thought. Even if he physically could, Jeremiah had no desire to play sporting games. He was God’s linebacker.
His favorite exercise was standing in the pulpit three times per week where he preached the word of God with conviction and power. There was never any doubt where he stood on an issue. He could open the Bible and clearly analyze or illustrate any point which he was always glad to do. Some people may not have agreed with the good reverend, but they sure weren’t going to tell him to his face.
Michael couldn’t help noticing that his dad was looking older. He was a cancer survivor on doctor’s orders to cut back on his hours and commitments. He had done so to some extent, but in his eyes, there was no time to waste in God’s army.
Michael approached Jeremiah, who was now joined by Coach Parker and Todd. Todd made a joke about the upcoming championship game. Ozark had pulled out tonight’s game by a hair. It would take more than a desperation throw to win the next one. Jeremiah reassured the boys. “As far as I’m concerned, you boys are already champions. You all played with guts and heart out there. That’s all we can ask of you.”
“You’re right, Reverend,” Coach Parker added. “These young men have taught us a lot about courage and character.”
Michael looked at Jeremiah. He didn’t ask about or otherwise mention Cindy. Michael then looked at Todd. His face was saying exactly what Michael thought: Let’s head to the locker room. We’re missing the celebration. The boys dismissed themselves and jogged across the field. Todd turned to Michael, “I saw Cindy in the parking lot with your mom. How’s she doing?”
Michael paused. He wanted to be careful with his answer. He knew Todd had always liked Cindy. Although he was the quarterback, well-built and handsome, Cindy never showed any interest. He was two years younger than her and Michael’s best friend. He stood no chance.
“She seems to be doing alright,” Michael said.
“Still seeing GI Ray, I see.”
Michael was glad to arrive at the boy’s locker room. He pushed in the door with a rough shove. His teammates were dancing and standing on top of benches, pretending to smoke cigars. Others were bragging about the game. Todd ripped off his jersey and struck a pose, straining every muscle in his body. Michael shouted and threw his arms around three or four players.
It was the Rams’ greatest victory ever. They would all enjoy this memory for years to come. The local newspapers would record their glory, and Michael’s spectacular catch. In his heart he thanked God for the victory and just as quickly, dismissed the voice in the end zone.