Sculptured nails rapped the vanity table. Elizabeth exhaled impatiently. “Come on, Yvonne, pick up.” Then, she snapped the cell phone shut, not bothering to leave a message.
Elizabeth studied her silk-clad image in the oval mirror. She appeared flawless with blushed cheeks, perfectly shaped – thanks to fill-in forms and a pencil – eyebrows, luscious cadaver lashes, and collagen-enhanced lips tinted the same fiery red as her nails. Her highlighted-blonde hair, freshly cut, flicked out just right. “I shan’t ask the mirror,” the former beauty queen whispered to her reflection, “I know I’m the prettiest in the land.”
The phone vibrated, rattling the vanity like she rattled her friends’ nerves. Reading the caller ID, Elizabeth demanded, “Why didn’t you answer your phone?”
“Hi, Elizabeth,” replied Yvonne, forcing a cheery response. “What’s up?”
“I wanted to share my good news,” Elizabeth replied. “Sally invited me to visit her mega church, Exaltations. She mentioned if I was a member, her music minister would definitely give me solos. I’d sing in front of thousands. You realize, Yvonne, I am the best soprano in our choir. However, Pastor Keith refuses to use my gift for solo performances.”
Elizabeth continued, “Really, can you believe how horribly Jenna sang yesterday? And she wore that faded yellow thing she calls a Sunday dress - more like a cleaning rag. Worse, did you see her hair? She fried it with a home perm. I told her she should have come to my salon. Later, I told Pastor Keith I should have performed the solo. He just smiled. Yvonne? Are you there?”
Breathing a prayer for patience, Yvonne replied, “Yes, Elizabeth. I’m just seeking a way to tell you, nicely, you’re being jealous and judgmental. Pastor Keith asks members, whose spirits are intent upon worship, to sing solos.”
“Well, Sally said if I joined Exaltations, I could sing as often as I like. I would abhor leaving Maranatha, nonetheless, I’m not receiving all I require. Next Sunday, I think I should attend with Sally. Don’t you agree, Yvonne?”
“No, Elizabeth, I don’t. In fact, I think you couldn’t make a worse decision. You’re part of Maranatha’s family. Remember when you broke your ankle? We organized meals, helped Frank take care of the kids, and cleaned your house. We support each other, living out the scriptures. You shouldn’t ditch your church because you don’t get everything you want. Besides, you always sing with the choir.”
“Anybody can sing with the choir. My voice is strong and pure, a soloist’s voice.”
In truth, Maranatha’s congregation might grieve if Queen Elizabeth left, but they’d also breathe a sigh of liberation. They were often exhausted by Elizabeth’s attempt to rule the church like her own kingdom. She demanded attention through bitter complaining, calling out an individual’s perceived deficiencies, ordering her subjects around, and boasting of her beautiful self and wonderful abilities.
Because they knew she’d suffered an abusive childhood, the church family tried to overlook her grandstanding and squalls, waiting patiently for Elizabeth to mature in Christ. Meanwhile, they desperately prayed for her heart and for their composure. When Elizabeth looked down her nose at an inferior subject, like Jenna, her eyes crossed, comically. Everyone watching would sputter, attempting to swallow their laughter. Likewise, when the queen criticized a subject’s clothes, hair, singing…, no one mentioned that her own ragged undergarment of insecurity was showing. Maranatha valiantly attempted to exhibit grace.
“Yvonne, are you there?”
“Yes, Elizabeth. I’m wondering why you would pull your family from their friends. Why leave the security and loving support you enjoy here? Why give up your spot in the choir? You’re blessed with everything you need at Maranatha. It’s irrational to reject all you have for a chance at singing numerous solos to a huge audience, seeking prestige, fame, and hoping for friends who are perfect. Hello? Elizabeth?”
Elizabeth gambled and lost. Her new church kingdom proved to be only a mirage, a membership-building campaign. Frank and the kids remained at Maranatha. Before long, Elizabeth divorced Frank. Two years later, she checked into Addiction Rehabilitation, a Maranatha-sponsored facility. One enormous choice cost Elizabeth everything.
But the story continues…
Though greed for status and adoration had stripped Queen Elizabeth bare, it was the best thing that ever happened to her. While drying out, Elizabeth absorbed Christ, owning the verse: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”*
One Sunday, the queen made her return entrance into Maranatha; this time, as a servant.
*Philippians 2:3 (NIV)
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