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TRUST JESUS TODAY
I figured I'd give the BBNB readers a happy installment for a change. Of course, it wouldn't be BBNB material if there wasn't a bit of darkness in the mix... But happy endings are always good, right?
The choir director had us all gathered there…
On stage. In rows. White robes. Holding candles.
First time I had seen the church from this direction.
It was even more beautiful than Grandma’s recollection.
Normally, I’d be looking at the flowers and the banners.
The robes on the priest at his pulpit…
But that day, I could see that the woodwork of the structure was exquisite.
The upper-balcony housed a second organ.
The one that didn’t quite sound right, but BOOMED over everything.
The banister with all its pegs was so ornate.
Truly, Jesus had built this church himself while He was here…
But where had He gone?
St. Jude’s Catholic Church had become little more than a nursing home
For all the ornery old nuns. The last of their kind. The Highlanders.
Skeletons with skin. Tongues that spoke the Lord
Housed behind crooked, demonic fangs. Yard sticks, their weapon of choice.
They all stood watching us this Wednesday
As the choir director told us the symbolism of the candles we held.
The light inside that could never be extinguished.
A pep-talk that had frankly come far to late for me to hear it.
Some of the boys were giggling and blowing out their candles
While the altar boys came around again, rolling their eyes.
One of them burned his hand on the dripping wax
And then proceeded to pour his wax on others around him.
All the little girls’ eyes were locked on each other’s robes
Or on the tiny flame atop their candle, smiles wider than Heaven itself.
I was the only one I noticed who was actually paying attention.
Eyes blacker than coal. Pupils shut. My light burnt out.
The only light that I held on my person was the one flickering in my hand.
Even as the choir director spoke, I knew that his words weren’t for me.
I only sang so as not to get yelled-at. Of course, singing was also fun.
But how do you tell a child who’d already been robbed, neglected, and sexually abused
That the bright light he once had inside was still glowing, and hadn’t been blown out?
How do you achieve that in a large group setting?
You can’t. And did they want to really listen to me and my heartache?
No. Not really. They just wanted this holiday performance to be a success.
I understood that we were to simply act in unison and never dare to question.
I understood it, but I hated it. It went against every last fiber of my being.
I was a curious kid. Always asking “Why?”
Always looking around. Always observing.
I remember being in the front seat with Vera’s mom on the way to the play.
Grabbed her shifter and put us in neutral. Just to see what would happen.
Then, when we got to the play, I had to go to the bathroom.
Vera’s mom was with the girls, and I was in the center lane.
I hesitated. Thought I should tell her first…
But James said he was leaving, so I better follow or I wouldn’t find it.
She’d thought she lost me. Thought I’d been abducted.
Which would have actually fit-in regularly with the theme of my life so far.
One small glimpse of thankfulness, and then anger lit-up her face.
It was the first and last field trip I attended with St. Jude Elementary.
And then, there was my First Communion…
They said it was more than bread and whine.
The Body and Blood of Christ. I’d feel my soul lifted the second I consumed.
Needless to say that on my turn, I just HAD TO HAVE IT!
“The Body of Christ,” I stepped forward and grabbed the wafer!
Right out of her hand! SHOVED it in my mouth!
Now what did they tell me about cupping my hands? Oh well…
Nuns started “Pst!”-ing at me. Didn’t want to drink the wine.
Mandatory upon first communion. I was corralled like a little lost sheep.
“The Blood of Christ.” I stepped-up to the cup.
Thought of all those lips that had already been on it…
Took a taste of Armageddon and choked all the way back to my seat on Jesus’ fire.
I thought it’d maybe taste like Koolaid… had to swallow all of it in gulps.
Choking, tearing-up, burping, shivering as my insides ignited the whole way down.
The Body was a dead disappointment... I felt like the Blood nearly killed me.
I received a ruler across my hand when I got back to my pew.
I’d forgotten every rigid and senseless procedure.
I had gone to the alter in my own un-tainted honesty
And received the gifts in a spirit of passion for the Lord Jesus
My hero that I heard about every Wednesday for almost a year.
And to be told that I didn’t do it right…
To be told I should be ashamed of myself for not listening.
For not being just another mindless duckling in the row, going through the motions.
For embarrassing my nun in front of all the other ancient ones…
If nothing else had blown out my candle, that did.
What should I care about a God that hates me for trying and failing
To do something I’ve never done before, in front of an audience
Of tired, wicked, old women who despised me for my youth?
“This Little Light Of Mine…” Yeah, I’m gonna’ let it shine…
Shine to cover up my inner darkness.
Shine until the nuns look away, satisfied.
Shine until The Offender comes into my life and blows it out again.
“This Little Light Of Mine” was as dead as my first taste of the Body had been.
That’s the way I carried my Christianity from that point on.
Any given Wednesday, the Priest would be up there giving his spiel…
Talking so slow I couldn’t follow him anyway…
Uninterested in the message. Sure that Jesus would be ashamed of St. Jude.
I’d disregard him entirely. Turn around and talk to someone else in the back row.
I’d get the ruler and a tongue lashing besides. Turn back around and pretend to care.
I felt so constricted and so stuffy in that church
I felt the collar on my shirt choking me, ever-so-slightly.
I’d undo the top button and get yelled-at.
I’d sit there letting my collar constrict me, inevitably forced to yawn.
I’d yawn again and again, passing it to other children.
Causing the nuns to ask if I was tired.
Causing them to think I was acting in sarcasm.
Who knows… I genuinely felt constricted, but then…
Maybe I WAS acting out the only way I could without being punished.
For years after we moved away… Even now that I am grown.
Mom has always wondered why I hate shirts with collars.
And why I always yawn so much in church.
I tell her I just feel the warmth and the peace of Christ and get sleepy.
But not every church or priest or sermon makes me yawn.
I only yawn when I feel like I’m back at St. Jude.
When I feel that same stuffiness… that same general lack of oxygen.
That same quiet feeling that Jesus would be ashamed.
Since then, God has come back into my life.
And I cannot express the joy I’ve felt because of it!
I was wearing a collared shirt when I heard the sermon the brought me back to life!
Not a yawn escaped my lips that night.
I breathed a breath of fresh air and my candle was LIT once again!
“This Little Light Of Mine…” This light knows when the Spirit is in the cathedral.
This light knows which congregations and teachers that Jesus would be proud of.
And so “This Little Light Of Mine…” I’m gonna’ let it shine…
Just as boldly and brightly as the church I’m in will allow.
And whether it flickers or gets snuffed-out decides whether or not I’m coming back.
“This Little Light Of Mine…” I will go wherever I’m called and do whatever I have to do.
I’ll participate with the greatest passion I can muster to keep this light from losing it’s spark.
I won’t be blown-out again… and it’s not always Satan doing the blowing.
I wish I could go back and re-listen to that choir director’s pep-talk again.
It’d probably make a lot more sense to me with everything I know now.
But the metaphor isn’t hard to decipher…
And I think that God has been teaching me this lesson very subtly all along…
So “This Little Light of Mine…” I’m gonna’ let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine…”
And therein, I know that Jesus would be proud.
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