Gabe was silent for a moment. “I have to be honest with you. I haven’t been to church in well over a year.”
She wondered what had happened to cause his lapse in faith. And given what he’d just told her, she had no idea why he’d even offered to come with her in the first place. But she didn’t want to pry into his personal life by asking. She, better than anyone, understood the need for privacy. “Well, I have to tell you that out of all the church services I’ve attended in my lifetime, Pastor John gives one of the best,” she said lightly. “He’s down to earth and yet always helps remind us what God would want us to do. Maybe I’m being presumptuous, but I think you’ll like him.”
Gabe made a noncommittal noise but didn’t say anything more as he pulled up to the parking lot of the church. She struggled to get out of the car, which wasn’t easy, but within moments, Gabe was there, helping her.
“Thanks,” she murmured, hoping he wouldn’t notice the breathlessness in her tone.
“Stay there,” he told her. “I’ll get the crutches.”
He pulled the aluminum crutches out of the backseat and set them next to her. “Try these. I set them up for your height based on memory, but I might have the measurements wrong.”
She took the crutches and propped them beneath her armpits, not surprised to discover they were perfect. “They’re great. Thanks so much.”
“I broke my foot once, so trust me, I know what you’re going through,” he confided. “It’s not as easy to crutch walk as it looks.”
She flashed him a smile and made her way over toward the sidewalk leading up to the front door of the church. Gabe stayed right beside her, his hand hovering on the small of her back, as if he was worried she might fall.
There weren’t many parishioners in attendance as it was the holiday, but those who were there greeted her by name. She didn’t know if she should introduce Gabe, and if so, as what? Her friend? A colleague? One of the doctors she worked with? She couldn’t bring herself to use any of those options, so she decided not to say anything at all.
Gabe was likely regretting his offer to bring her, based on the knowing looks being flashed their way. Did Gabe realize the power of small-town gossip? She could feel her cheeks turning red and ducked her head, hoping no one would notice.
She told herself not to worry what anyone else thought. If this was what Gabe needed to bring him back to the church, then the minor discomfort was well worth it.
Closing her eyes, she sent up a small prayer. Please, Lord, show Gabe the way home.
Gabe stood beside Larissa in church, wondering why on earth he’d agreed to this. She’d given him an out, had offered to be dropped off and picked up in an hour when the service was over. Honestly, that was exactly what he’d considered before she mentioned it.
But he hadn’t taken the chance to skip out. Instead, here he was, attending church in the first time in over a year. His sister had dragged him to services whenever possible back in Madison, but after moving to Crystal Lake, he hadn’t bothered.
When Larissa had mentioned that she couldn’t force him to believe in God, he’d relaxed his guard. He loved his sister, Kimberly, but she was constantly preaching at him, trying to get him to buy into every one of her beliefs. Instinctively, the more she pushed, the more he’d backed off.
He picked up the hymnal and found the opening hymn. One thing he’d rather liked about the church services was the music. It occurred to him now just how much he’d missed it.
As the organist began to play, they rose to their feet and began to sing along. His baritone was a bit rusty, but he soon got into the rhythm.
He caught Larissa’s pleased smile as she joined him in singing along. Her arm lightly brushed his, and he kept his eyes centered on the hymnal, pretending not to notice.
Even though he did.
The pastor was younger than he’d anticipated. Gabe hadn’t expected to enjoy the service, despite Larissa’s glowing praise of Pastor John Gorman, but since the theme of the sermon today was forgiveness, he found his attention riveted on the pastor’s words.
Pastor John paused for a moment and then read, “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses (Mark 11:25).”