Catching Grenades – Dodging Darts – A Story of Pastoral Affliction – Part 14

Part 14: Lightning…

Tuesday felt like a fever dream. Derek’s head was pounding. His heart was racing. I feel hungover, he thought – extremely angry at how his body would fight back when the stress of life and ministry mounted. Freaking weak. Be better. Do better. He stumbled to the bathroom. Dry heaving. Spits and drools. Typical.

Patricia was already downstairs in the kitchen. 5:45am. “What are you doing up so early?” Derek asked. “Babe, I know that you’re going through a lot right now. I wanna make you breakfast. Coffee?” Derek was annoyed at Patricia’s care and concern. Why is she so stinking nice to me? She should be angry at me. I’ve ignored her for weeks and haven’t been actively listening to her for months now. “Yeah,” Derek muttered – grateful for coffee. “But listen. I don’t have time for breakfast. I gotta get to Jared’s girlfriend’s house.” “What? Why? What could he possibly want?” Patricia was clearly annoyed at Derek having to bolt so quickly. Derek looked at the floor, “I don’t know. He texted and said it was serious and needed to talk to me asap.”

The drive to Jared’s girlfriend’s house had Derek’s stomach in knots. He approached a stop sign on the road leading to Jared’s location. The octagonal sign was blinking with red neon lights. The flashing lights momentarily mesmerized Derek as his mind immediately drifted to the first time he found himself in a strip club…

The building…

No windows.

Young, muscley bouncer.

Narrow entrance.

Crowded main floor.

The Men



Surprisingly, women too.

The Dancers…


Sad smiles.

High smiles.

Secret aggression.

Sparkling rage.

Deceitful dancing.

The twisted voyeurs…

Wiggles & giggles.

Red neon lights.

Derek shook his head to snap out of it. What the frick am I thinking about that for? Indeed, before Derek had joined the Army as a paratrooper, he had served a small stint with the local police department as a police cadet. He got to experience some of the dirty night life of law enforcement. Stay focused. Come on…

Pulling into the driveway of Jared’s house (really Abby’s house – Jared’s girlfriend), he saw Jared exit the house, Keystone Light in hand. Typical. 6:13am. “Wanna beer?” You have no idea. “No thanks,” Derek responds. Jared lights up a cigarette and inhales deeply. Exhaling, the smoke dances in thick slow-motion movement in front of Derek. “You want to know what sucks?” Jared asks. “What?” Derek responds without emotion. “Nothing is as it seems. [Strong expletives]. My wife is literally f-ing her best friend’s husband right now.” Derek’s mind raced. “What? Haddie? Why would you say that? How do you know?” Jared took a quick swig of his beer. “Easy, Pastor. I still have the keys to MY house. I went back to get some clothes to bring back to Abby’s house, and guess what I found? Holier than thou Haddie…’Willing to fight for our marriage no matter what’…Naked, in the shower, with her best friend’s husband. It’ll be interesting to see how she tries to justify and explain herself with this one!” Jared chugged the rest of the beer and threw the can on the lawn. He continued, “Anyways, do with this information what you will. I’m [strong explitives] done.”

Getting back into his Chevy Blazer, Derek was shaking. Just calm down, idiot. The day has just started. He put the vehicle into drive. His phone rings. It’s Draike. “Yo, what’s up?” Draike is talking fast…”Dude. Where you at? I need you up at the hospital asap. Don’s overdosed again. It’s bad. Like really bad this time…” “It never stops,” Derek responded. “I’ll be up shortly.”

Arriving at the hospital, Derek whips into the only available parking spot in the crowded ER parking lot. Why did they make this parking lot so stinking small? Don’t they know that it never stops. Derek checks his phone. There’s a text message from Hannah. It reads cryptically and dramatically: “I’m so done. It’s not worth it anymore.” Freaking night. Is it a full moon tonight? Has everyone lost their minds? No time for the drama. Got to get to Don.

Derek met Draike at the ER entrance doors. “Let’s go,” Derek says without making eye contact with Draike. They step into line, identify themselves to the front desk receptionist, and are immediately directed to Don’s room. Chaotic scene…

Frail body.

Labored breathing.



Lips candy colored purple.

More chocking.

And then…The seizures…Violent thrashing…A body destroyed.

Hot tears drip from Derek’s face. Why the f does it hurt so bad to see them destroy themselves? Why can’t I just stand here – numb – professional – stoic? Derek wiped the tears from his face and looked directly at Draike. “Pray for us,” Derek commanded Draike. Draike’s prayer was jagged, but beautiful – authentic.

Derek looked at his watch. 10:22am. “I got to get to the office for sermon prep. Do you mind staying here till Don’s Dad can get here?” “You bet,” Draike responds.

Back at the office. 11:05am…

Head pounding.

Difficult to concentrate.

Bible verses seem blurry.

The mind – a soupy mess of intense emotions.

Derek hears rumbling of the rocks in the parking lot. Who could that be? He takes a peek through his office blinds. It’s Emma. One of their senior saints at Kingland Baptist Church. What’s she doing here? She usually makes an appointment. I wonder if Bill is doing okay. Emma steps into Derek’s office. “Hi, Emma. Is everything alright?” “Oh, Pastor. It’s time. Bill is asking for you. He thinks that the end is near.” Indeed, Bill had been on home hospice care for 6 months now. He was expected to pass any day. “I’ll be right over,” Derek responded with genuine pastoral sympathy.

Entering Bill and Emma’s house, he was immediately met with Bill’s oversized hospice bed right smack dab in the middle of the living room….

Bill’s eyes were closed.

Intense labored breathing.

Death rattle.

Emma sheds a tear while gripping Bill’s hand.

Derek opens to Psalm 23. King James Version. He reads the words slowly – with emphasis. He gives a prayer (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication). He gives Emma a hug and says, “Call me as soon as he passes. And remember…Death is not the end.”

Back at the office, he looks at his watch. 3:12pm. His meeting with Caleb is in less than 2 hours. He tries to get back to sermon prep. He types out his notes on the screen…

God is good.

Sin is bad.

Stop doing bad things.

Start looking to God.

The words on his computer screen seemed to taunt him. He chuckled out loud. I went to seminary to learn how to construct this beautiful homily? Totally worth the money…

Draike enters Derek’s office. “You ready for this?” he asks. “Is it that time already?” Derek asks as the anxiety intoxicates him….[Slow motion fear. Rapid heart rate. Arm pits soaked. Time check. 4:56pm. Rumbling of the rocks outside. Car goes into park. Front door opens. Creaking of the steps towards Derek’s office. Caleb. Is. Here…]



Physically fit.

Pearly white smile.

Strong handshake.

Well dressed.

Intense eye contact.

“Hello, Pastor…How are you?”