Cathy Wiseman

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Excerpt from

"In Whose Steps?"



Pastor David turned his back on the still-gray skies and his eyes swept his office again.  For some strange reason, they caught on a book he’d read years before--at least he thought he’d read it.  Walking to the bookshelves, he took down a worn copy of In His Steps. It was dated 1937! David couldn’t remember if it was his book or whether the previous pastor left it for him.  Well, he thought, there couldn’t possibly be anything helpful in a book so outdated, definitely nothing that will apply to my church.  As he leaned against the shelves, he opened it at random and fanned the pages.


            “What would Jesus do?”  David read, vaguely remembering the phrase and deciding he had read the book many years ago.  As he pondered the words, he realized with a start that the phrase sounded odd to him. More often than not, he thought about what people would want him to do, not what Jesus would want him to do.  As he continued to read, barely realizing what he was doing, he eased himself into one of the side chairs.  In His Steps’ Revered Henry Maxwell’s church actually sounded much like his own First Christian Community Church.  Not only the church, David thought, their pastor even sounds like me.


             David read to himself:  “As Henry Maxwell delivered his striking sentences with impassioned and dramatic utterances, there was a mutual feeling of satisfaction between the pastor and his congregation.”  Suddenly David realized that he was standing, hand in midair, as if he had just given an “impassioned and dramatic utterance.”  He had to admit that he was familiar with that “mutual feeling of satisfaction between the pastor and his congregation” because he often experienced it.  He loved it.  Yet, somehow, as he saw it in print, he realized how smug it--he?--sounded.  Was that what he was?  Smug?


            Although he hated to acknowledge it, he reflected that “smug” was probably an adjective that did fit him.  But I think it’s more than that; I must have some unconscious unmet need, he thought.  Some kind of deep ache down in his heart, something eating at him that just wouldn’t go away, something he was trying to verbalize was hanging right at the edge of his consciousness.  He couldn’t believe it was just smugness.  A huge sigh escaped.  Maybe it wasn’t an ache after all; maybe he could more accurately call it numbness.  Thoughts of a mid-life crisis returned.


            His thoughts verbalized.  “What’s keeping Carl?” he asked outloud, as if he’d get an answer.  As he craned his neck, he could see his assistant was engrossed on the phone.  Saved from exposure, he sighed to himself, even as he thought anxiously, Uh, oh, isn’t sighing a symptom of depression?  The depression word kept haunting him, stalking him.  One of his elders had actually been hospitalized for depression, was still on medication for it.  If it could happen to him--is it contagious?  That’s stupid, of course it’s not contagious—I must be getting paranoid--next I’ll be obsessing, he brooded.


            Noticing the book was still in his hand, he thought he might as well continue to read to get his mind off that darned “d” word.  Strangely enough, Reverend Maxwell’s story seemed to speak to him.  He continued to read on, oblivious of the time.


            “David!  What’s going on?  Linda said you wanted to see me?”  Carl said, as he walked unannounced through David’ open office door.


            David looked up, almost guiltily, as if he’d been caught doing something wrong.  He jumped up with a quick glance at his watch--he’d been reading for more than two hours.  Incredible!  Not so much that two hours had passed as that he’d gotten his rainbow, his sign.  Thank God!  I’ve found the answer to my apathy.  It’s all right here in this book, he wanted to shout.  He didn’t, of course, not sure why.


            David looked at his psychologist friend Carl, thinking once again how much he reminded him of the caring therapist Robin Williams played in the movie Good Will Hunting.  Come to think of it, David thought, Carl even looks like Robin Williams, beard and all.  And Carl seemed to ooze the fruits of the Spirit:  gentle, kind, patient, good, loving--you name it.  It was beyond David how Carl could always be such a good guy;  it was from his training, he guessed.  He was always tolerant and accepting.  David knew he could share anything with him.  Then why haven’t you? He asked himself.


            “Helllllooo, David, are you going to answer me?  Have you done some self-hypnosis?  Maybe I left you in a hypnotic trance the last time we were together and never snapped you out of it,” laughed Carl, snapping his fingers close to David’s face as if to bring David him of a trance.  “You are really engrossed.”


            “I can’t wait to tell you why, Carl!” exclaimed David.  “I was so anxious to see you this morning, thinking I actually need a session with you . . . ”


            Carl interrupted quickly.  “I can’t . . . “


            David cut him off.  “I know, I know, you can’t see a friend professionally.  I was only kidding.  Well, kind of;  I did want to talk to you about some weird feelings I’ve been having to see what you thought I should do.  Actually, I was afraid you might even refer me to one of your therapist friends.  But not now.  Carl, I’ve been reading this old book, In His Steps, and--”


            Carl interrupted again.  “Yeah, I read it about twenty or so years ago--think I was a teen when I read it.  Didn’t the pastor of that church, along with a bunch of his congregation, decide not to do anything for a year without first asking, ‘What would Jesus do?’  Pretty interesting concept.  And it would be neat if it would work, but of course, it won’t.  Too idealistic.  Too simple.”




Copyright © 2009 Cathy Wiseman and