Becca’s feet dangled from the cushioned pew. When she saw that one white patent leather shoe had a black scuff mark, she tucked her foot under her bottom. On her lap she gently held the little Bible that Mrs. Cherry had given her just moments ago for her 2nd grade Sunday School promotion. With one finger, she traced the gold letters pressed into the white leather: Becca Rose Earley.
When the black-robed preacher cleared his throat and started to talk, Becca opened the Bible. Inside, she found her name again, in swirling cursive letters. She started turning pages; the gold edges of each pair made a crinkling sound as she separated them. Becca glanced at Mama—was the noise too loud? But Mama just smiled and patted Becca’s yellow dress, so she continued to peel apart each page, being very careful with the thin paper.
After several pages, Becca was surprised to come across a stiff, shiny picture. She knew who the people in the picture were: Adam and Eve. They were hiding behind a bush, but Becca could tell that they weren’t wearing any clothes. She looked very hard at Adam’s shrub, and suppressed a little giggle. Did Mama know there was a naughty picture in her new Bible?
On the other side of Adam and Eve, Becca found another picture that she recognized—Noah’s ark. There was old Noah in his bathrobe, holding the door open for all those animals. Becca carefully searched the picture for her favorites—yes, there they were, two kitties playing down in the corner. One of them had four white paws, just like Princess Sophia.
There was so much to see in the Noah’s ark picture—two pretty birds fluttering near the top of the ark, two giraffes poking their heads out of the windows, even two smiling snakes slithering up the wooden ramp. But Becca was very curious now to see what other pictures were in her Bible. Still, she turned each gold-rimmed page slowly, cautiously, holding her breath as she neared each picture.
All of the Sunday School stories were there: scary Abraham with a big knife held high over his head, Joseph with his beautiful striped coat, David wearing a dress and aiming his slingshot, and long-haired blind Solomon pushing down the pillars of the temple. Many pages later, Becca found a Christmas picture, with a fat, smiling baby Jesus and His pretty mama dressed in blue. Jesus and his mama and daddy all had shining gold crowns, and Becca wondered if the baby liked to wear his crown in bed.
When Becca turned to the other side of the away-in-a-manger picture, her forehead crinkled and her eyes narrowed. There was grown-up Jesus, surrounded by children her age, but the words at the bottom of the picture said Suffer the little children.
Becca tugged on Mama’s sleeve. “Why are the little children suffering?”
Mama smiled and placed a finger to her lips. “Shhh, Becca.”
She whispered the question this time. “But Mama, why are they suffering?”
Mama leaned close and whispered in Becca’s ear. “I’ll explain it to you later. Shhh, now.”
Becca studied the picture. The children didn’t look like they were suffering. A chubby toddler sat on Jesus’ lap, and a bigger boy with blond hair was leaning on Jesus’ knee and smiling. One, two, three, four, five more children were nearby, most with mamas and daddies. Why were they suffering?
Then Becca saw it—behind Jesus’ outstretched arm—the top of one curly little head and a child’s hand, reaching. Becca couldn’t stop looking at the tiny hand, its fingers waving helplessly behind Jesus’ white robe. She’s trying to reach Jesus! Becca thought. He doesn’t know she’s there! She’s suffering!
Becca wanted to show Mama the little reaching hand, but Mama’s eyes were closed. The people were all praying, so Becca prayed, too. Jesus, there’s a suffering little girl. See her? Amen.
Jesus bounced Hiram on His knee and tousled Shimon’s curls. One by one He called each child by name and blessed them all. After a time, He looked around at the small gathering. “Joanna?” He said. “Come here, little one,” and He reached under His right sleeve and boosted her up to His lap. I saw her, Becca. I see you all.
Author’s note: Based on Mark 10:13-16. This is loosely autobiographical—I used to worry about that little hand, pictured in my first Bible. You can see the picture at http://biblia.com/jesusart/jesus-children-25.jpg.
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