How hard the trials and responsibilities must have been, those laid upon her shoulders. How rough this hand that life had given her. She was aged, beyond her physical years, in an old worn dress, once adorned with a bright colorful flower pattern, upon the rough wood bench she sat. Her feet were bare upon the dirt floor, scarred and hardened a testament to her perseverance despite the neglected path she had been set upon. Her front teeth were crooked, squished together, a fact that she was not only aware of but lacking confidence in the beauty of her smile, tried to cover when she was moved to laughter. In her malnourished arms she cradled a sickly sleeping brother adorned only with a knotted silky textured cloth for a diaper and an old T-shirt.
Her dulled brown eyes darted around surveying us new comers, us visitors from the far off land, the land flowing with milk and honey. She watched us from the wooden bench set at the side, inside the tin walled structure as we consumed our fill of tamales bestowed upon us by the sacrificial hands and hearts of the church members, some who went without food for days so we could be fed as they did not join but looked on. She watched carefully as we played with the other children unencumbered by their younger slumbering sibling. She watched as we carefully moved the benches back into place for the church service to begin. Sitting through the church service she held her brother, sometimes gently and with care, other times she would toss him to the other arm as if he were a lifeless rag doll, but he slept on showing no signs of discomfort, waking, life. She watched as I sat beside her and attempted to sing worship songs in Spanish, as I tried to keep up the clapping beat, to music I did not understand. She watched me, as I gazed upon Pastor Marcus giving the history of the church and how he came to be pastor there.
She watched while I came to know that it was me sitting there holding a sickly child in my arms, sometimes with care and concern, sometimes with disdain. She looked intently upon me as I stared into her eyes and realized that I was there sitting where she was. She personified what I did not want to see in myself, a child lost, longing for acceptance, love, yearning to belong.
The tiny corners of her mouth lifted upwards as she intently witnessed the lone tear roll down my cheek. I had seen the truth of her presence; she was a mirror into who I really was. Shattered, the image of the individual I believed myself to be, lay on the dirt ground, beyond repair. I was a weak little girl wearing a torn dress, once beautiful and vibrant with life. I had allowed time and circumstances to discolor tear and dirty my dress. My feet were sore and calloused from the paths that I had chosen to take, paths fraught with uneven ground, overgrown brambles and thorns. In my frail arms I sat with my sin, a child many years out of the womb still cared for, still being held in a tender embrace. Skin wrinkled not with youth but with birth that has been warped by malevolence. Eyes aged from the knowledge of hatred, contorted hands extending from distorted arms, reaching in desperation, wanting to be caressed and cared for. There I sat wanting to care for it, holding it, cradling it as if it were the last part of me, then other times wanting nothing to do with it, to be encumbered by its weight and lifeless form. It refused to be moved and I refused to rid myself of it.
The Pastorís words no longer mattered.
The only voice that I could grab was that of the truth, it was unveiling itself, it was unveiling me. There I stood on a black precipice - a young child, malnourished, clothed only with fragments, holding that which I thought to be most important: Self-determination, self-rule. Bitterness held from years past that had been allowed to breed and magnify into calloused anger. Self-imposed isolation that had oozed into self-resentment, all of which kept me in the state that I was truly in, my eyes searching surrounding faces for approval, love, acceptance.
There we sat, the girl and me, reflecting each other, gazing intently upon the elegant wooden cross resting upon the table at the front of the sanctuary, knowing that Truth revealed what had lain within, knowing only that same Truth would redeem us.