Thinking Out Loud

November 15, 2019

Dammit Isn’t God’s Last Name

On the last Friday night of the month, Youth Pastor Wayne Wyatt would suspend the normal Youth Group format in order to have either a sports night or a music night. For the music nights, he would book a band that was known either locally or regionally, but this week was an exception.

“We don’t really have a name;” the guitar player told him.

Wayne preferred to use bands that had played other area churches so he could contact the youth pastors there and get recommendations, but these guys were friends of Brooke, and her dad was the church board Treasurer, so he figured he was on safe ground.

The kids mixed around the room. There were snacks at the back. Colored lights. It looked like a dance, except nobody was dancing. No one ever did. There were about 60 teens when the night started, but a few songs in there were closer to 80 in attendance.

The guys in the band were well-dressed and polite. They started with a Switchfoot song that Wayne knew, and then a cover of song by Skillet.

For the third song, the guitarist started out with, “We’d like to do one of our original songs for you now. My grandpa had a song he liked that went, ‘He’s more than just a swear word, more than just an I-don’t-care word,’ and I know that for many of us we hear people say God dammit all the time and–“

At this Wayne stopped what he was doing and wondered where they were going with this.

“–or we hear people say ‘Oh my God,’ and we forget to give respect to God’s name. So we’re gonna do a song called ‘Dammit isn’t God’s last name.'”

They cranked up the introduction,

You see in on your screens
and you hear it in the street.
They’re using God’s name
In a way I won’t repeat.

Wayne turned away from the stage. So far, so good. He spoke with a couple of the teens while the verse continued, but then the chorus got his attention.

‘Cause dammit
Dammit isn’t God’s last name.
‘You know dammit
Dammit isn’t God’s last name.

It wasn’t the type of lyric their guest bands would usually perform, but he figured the song was a one-off and he’d try to relax. A group of guys wanted to know the deadline to sign up for Snow Camp and two girls wanted to know if they were doing a car wash in the spring because they had some ideas. But then, moments later, there it was again.

‘Cause dammit
Dammit isn’t God’s last name.
‘You know dammit
Dammit isn’t God’s last name.

Some of the kids were singing along. When the chorus came around for a third time — he wondered if this song might ever end — he looked closely and they seemed to be enjoying saying ‘dammit’ all too much.

But then the band went into a bridge that consisted entirely of

Dammit, Dammit
Dammit, Dammit
Dammit, Dammit
Dammit, Dammit

On the third repeat, with all the kids in the group shouting the word back to the band, he decided enough was enough, and started walking swiftly and intentionally in a direct line to the stage.

But his path was blocked by a girl who seemed to appear out of nowhere.

“Pastor Wayne,” she said, “You have to come quick; Carly’s fallen in the restroom and she’s hurt really bad.”

Injuries are every youth pastor’s worst nightmare, so he changed his path and started walking toward the hallway. As he picked up his pace, several things occurred to him at once. First of all, he knew the kids really well, and he didn’t know anyone named Carly. For that matter, he didn’t know the girl who had summoned him. And how could he just walk into the women’s restroom?

The sound of the band was wafting from the youth multi-purpose room.

‘Cause dammit
Dammit isn’t God’s last name.
‘You know dammit
Dammit isn’t God’s last name.

At least they were back to the verse. Or other chorus. Or whatever it was. His head was spinning. At that moment, Ted and Belinda, the official youth group sponsors appeared in the hallway. He quickly called out to them, “There’s a girl hurt in the restroom.”

They were on it. He could return to his other issue. The band was back to the bridge and the kids were shouting a frenzy.

Dammit, Dammit
Dammit, Dammit
Dammit, Dammit
Dammit, Dammit

In the hallway on his right was the electrical panel. He opened it and identified two breakers. One would cut the power to the stage and the other would cut the power to the wall receptacles, where the band’s mixing board was plugged in and all the colored lights. Some of the group’s electronics would need several seconds to reset. That would give him time to have some words with the band members.

At the same time as that happened, he looked down the hallway and saw Belinda emerging from the women’s restroom. She shrugged her shoulders. There was no one hurt inside.

Wayne switched the breakers and according to plan, the sound went quiet. Unexpectedly, the light in the hallway went out as well. He decided to give this ten seconds, and in that short span of time, while everything around him was physically void of light, the lights went on inside him.

He felt he’d been set up booking the band. He realized the girl who told him to book the group didn’t really like the job he was doing as Youth Pastor. He realized the other girl, who had told him that the fictional Carly needed rescue had been training her eyes on him, waiting for the moment he would try to shut down the performance of ‘Dammit’ so she could distract him.

Eight, nine, ten. Ten seconds. He threw the switches back on.

When he did and the lights in the hallway came back, there was Brooke and standing next to her was her dad, the church Treasurer and head of the hiring committee which had brought him to the church in the first place. Both were scowling.

He looked deep into Brooke’s eyes for something that would answer the question as to why he’d been set up. But instead, the mystery girl emerged and inadvertently brought with her a brief moment of comic relief.

“It’s too late, Pastor Wayne;” she said with a straight face; “Carly’s dead.”

 

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