I went to Covenant Baptist Church on a recent Sunday morning. I stop in now and then. Their pastor just left for another church, so Covenant will have a series of guest preachers over the next few months. It’s been nine years since I left Covenant, the ministry, and subsequently the Church, if you count membership in a local church as the essential factor for membership in, you know, THE CHURCH.

Some children were on the porch playing tag. A girl yelled, “I called no tag-backs.” Another child shouted, “No you didn’t. Tag-backs are allowed.”

I spoke up with my man voice. “No tag-backs was definitely called. I heard it.”

They froze and looked at me. Suddenly an adult was in their midst. They thought they had escaped into their little kid world with little kid rules and little kid pecking orders and little kid conflict resolution styles. But then one of the big people showed up and settled the argument with his big person voice.

I remember, when I was a kid, hating it when the big people did shit like that.

But the pause was only for a second. What the hell, tag-backs or no tag-backs, the game must go on. They exploded back into their frenetic game and forgot about me. Except for the “No tag-back” girl. She came up to me and asked, “Are you the preacher?”

She doesn’t know me. But I know her. Her name is Miriam. She doesn’t know that I married her mom and dad and was present at the birth of her three older siblings. She wasn’t even born when I left the community. I looked closely at her inquiring little face. She’s a ridiculously cute kid. Seriously if you saw her you would say, “Aww.” You’d have to.

“No sweetie. I’m not the preacher. I’m just a regular guy.”

“Okay,” she said and turned back to her game, screaming with great emphasis, “I SAID NO TAG-BACKS!” Apparently someone had begun tag-backing during her absence.

I watched for a moment or two, then turned to the door through which I entered this church thousands of times years ago. So familiar to me and so strange is this door, this portal into what was once my world. Opening it is like unexpectedly running into an old girlfriend on the street.

My own words were stuck in my head. I repeated them over and over. “I’m just a regular guy now.” And I like being a regular guy. I am at peace and happy to be and say that.

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