“The Fellowship is broken” my tall, rangy coworker sighed, his shaggy hair and thick beard bristling dejectedly as he leaned against the wall. I felt it in my gut, the finality of his words and the strange twisting ache that would be pain if it was closer to the surface, but wasn’t there yet so it wasn’t pain.
Customers came in and we moved to help one find a book, and another locate a song they’d heard on the radio. The fellowship was broken and it was rather insulting to have to continue to work after realizing that it was in pieces.
For years we had worked together, and there was a bond between us that had been forged through Christmas rushes, catalog changes, dropped customer calls, strange requests, and the consternation of misplaced books. The age difference between us put us in the comfortable roles of older sister, younger brother and he’d assured me on more than one occasion he was delighted to have another older sister. He came from a large family but “There’s always room for another sibling” he said. I’d always wanted a mess of younger minions, I mean siblings, to mold. It worked out nicely, our adoption of one another.
For two years, I had watched his self-assurance and his understanding grow.
He had gone back to Bible College, giving in to the goad which the Lord had been pricking him with for a while. I loved watching his confidence grow. He went from thinking that he wasn’t going to pass a class to bringing home straight A’s and making the equivalent of the Dean’s List each semester. His enthusiasm and love for the Bible, which had always been there, was now gilded with amazing insights he’d found as he studied under the watchful eye of a professor. He brought these nuggets and rare bits of historical fact that made Biblical passages easier to understand in to share with the rest of the staff. I’d had a lot of ‘aha’ moments with him, and since he also shared the love of Science Fiction and Fantasy, we could talk movies and books too. This year, he had taken his courage in his hands, and auditioned for the role of Christ in his uncle’s church. The whole staff was praying, and waiting with bated breath to hear if he got it, and right before New Years, he came bounding into the store.
He played Christ a total of six times, and each was phenomenal. All the hours of practice he poured himself into paid off, he disappeared when he was on stage, and it was Jesus there for two hours and fifteen minutes.
I was blown away by how much strength he had found, and by his ability to set his mind to a goal and with the Lords’ help, achieve it.
And now, after four years of working together in all kinds of weather and in all seasons of the bookstore, he had risked. He applied for, and got, a better paying job. He was the third staffer to leave in the last eighteen months. More than that, he and I were the last of the “old guard” staff that had been in that store to where customers knew us on sight.
I was beginning to feel like the last guard standing at an outpost.
As thrilled as I was for him, a selfish part of me was all ready going into mourning as I moved around the shelves, pulling books. I wouldn’t have any one to quote The Princess Bride with while closing, or mutter under my breath on a stressful day “But why is all the rum gone?” from Pirates of the Caribbean (yes, I do that, yes, I work in a Christian Bookstore) and have him pick up the rest of the dialogue. I would be missing the one who could answer questions about the differences between dynamic equivalent versions of the Bible and word-for-word versions. I wouldn’t get to hear what he’d found in Scripture or share with him what I’d discovered.
The fellowship had been broken. Broken by overwhelming blessing straight from the Lord’s hand though, not by greed or an arrow to the chest.
He gave me a faint smile has he picked up the ringing phone. Before he greeted the customer on the other end he said,
“The fellowship has failed”*
“Not if we hold true to our own”* I replied with a faint smile of my own.
We will find a way to fellowship with one another again.
Until then, Andrew~Coriam Deo, and may He hold you in the hollow of His hand.
* The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring