Sunday morning I saw her from a distance, sitting with her parents. This week Dr. Sage asked me to join him and his wife, so I did. The guy at the keyboard was leading the singing time this week and he took it in a bit of a different direction, skillfully weaving responsive readings in with the songs, as well as what he called “Korean style praying”, namely everyone praying as loudly as they could, all at the same time. I didn’t really like that, being a more contemplative type anyway, and was surprised to see Dr. Sage simply standing there with his eyes closed. His glow, however pulsated ever more powerfully as I could see him communing with his God amid the cacophony. It wasn’t until we sat down that I noticed that the guitarist today was Mat and not Anton. Oh, no, I thought. What happened to him?
After the service, I looked for Jasmine, but she wasn’t there and neither was Anton. How odd, I thought, heading out to lunch with Mat and the singles again. Carl was along, too, and this time I spent some time talking with him, hearing about his days as a petty officer on a destroyer during the cold war. Then I headed over to my parents’ house to tell them how the previous day had gone. Dad smiled gravely and Mom positively shone at how I had handled it. I was buoyed by their joy and headed home after dark. I parked my car in its usual spot and headed to the entrance of the apartment when a shadow detached itself from the doorway next to it. I barely noticed it, until a pair of strong hands grabbed me and slammed me against the wall, knocking my glasses off. I winced and opened my eyes to stare into the wolflike features of Anton.
“You!” he snarled. “You took it all away. You took her away, damn you!” He raised his fist and swung it at me. I was too stunned to move and caught the full force of it on the side of my head, splitting my cheek. Oh, God, help me! I cried out inwardly.
“What did I do?” I asked, knowing all along that I had prayed for them, that it was my prayers that had made this happen.
“You stole her from me,” he hissed with a curse. “She was mine and you stole her from me. I knew you would do it the day I first laid eyes on you. You want her for yourself!” He raised his fist again.
“I would say you lost her yourself, Anton,” I said coldly, and I was amazed at how steady my voice was. He shook at that, growling again, his lupine eyes blazing in the night. I brought up my left arm and for once I could see the crystal glow of my shield.
“How dare you say that!” he howled.
“I know what you are, Anton,” I said. “I can see that you’re a wolf in sheep’s clothing. You’re in this for yourself and no one else.” I took a deep breath and continued, “I’ve been praying for you both, Anton, that God’s will be done and that you would both know him better.” I pressed my shield against him gently and it pushed him back. He let go of my collar, talons still extended.
“You what?” he gasped.
“All I want is Jasmine to shine again, Anton,” I said evenly. “And you can shine, too. You can be a sheep instead of a wolf; you can really be part of the congregation of saints.”
“What do you mean?” He snorted. “I only joined those holy rollers so I could get Jasmine. Her old man is a moron and that praise and worship crap you sing on Sundays is some of the most poorly written music on the planet. Why would I want to be a part of that?” He growled, slavering. “And why would I want such a worthless uptight wench like Jasmine anyway? That was my mistake.” He looked at me. “Thanks for pointing it out. Here’s your payment.” He slashed at me and I raised my shield, his claws raking sparks across it. He had meant to wound me, but did not touch me. My faith had protected me! I praised God for that. I bent to find my glasses and saw something dripping on the ground. While my spiritual self was unharmed, he really had split my cheek with his punch and I was bleeding.
I went upstairs and knocked on Mrs. Chung’s door, only to have it opened by my warrior-queen mentor.
“Sam!” she exclaimed. “What happened?”
“I had a chat with Anton,” I said. “I just want to know, is it bad enough to need stitches?” She laughed at that.
“Didn’t I say you were a brave one, young man?” She stepped aside. “Come in and I’ll fix you up.”
The rest of my week went by calmly. I had found peace, knowing that God had answered my prayers. I’d held true to my motives and to my commitment to pray for Jasmine and Anton; and I kept praying even for him. After all, isn’t he just a lost soul, too? Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities and powers of spiritual wickedness in heavenly places. So Anton is not my enemy, no matter what he tried to do to me; and pray for him I will.
That Sunday I sat with the Sages again and looked across the congregation to see Jasmine with her parents, just a few rows ahead of me. Jasmine was shining again, perhaps not as brightly as before, but I knew it would increase. I looked towards the front where Kenneth was once more leading worship; and I was happy.