Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Charade (08/14/08)
TITLE: No More Games
By Cheri Hardaway
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We pulled into the churchyard. When I saw my friend and her brood, I pasted on my smile and hopped from the car. Jacob begrudgingly removed his hat, tossed it in the car, and hiked up his baggy jeans, as he slouched by me to go inside, while I greeted Mona. Her seven children, ages two to twelve, stood primly by her side, the girls in their dresses, the boys in their dress slacks, as they waited politely on Mona.
“Hi, Mona. How are you all?”
“We’re fine. How’re you?”
I wanted to ask her for prayer, but things had changed between us as my kids, several years older than her own, had matured. I recalled a few years back, when she’d shared the latest dogma she and her husband had embraced.
“You should never allow your children to be unsupervised. An adult should be in attendance at all times,” she’d said pointedly.
I’d raised my eyebrows. “Do you mean that when my fifteen-year-old son has a sleepover, I should be in the middle of it?”
“No, I don’t believe you should allow sleepovers at all.”
When Jacob was sixteen, he’d wanted to take a job at the video store. Mona had given her advice then too. “I don’t think you should allow Jacob to work at the video store. That’s not a good environment for him.”
The few times since then that my husband and I had ventured to share a prayer request, we’d seen the subtle look exchanged between husband and wife… a look that spoke volumes without any words.
So when Mona asked how I was, I wrestled with myself. I needed her friendship. I needed the old Mona. But I was face to face with the new one, the one with perfect kids and a perfect life, the one who had trouble keeping her eyes off my son and on my face as we talked.
“We’re fine,” I lied. My plastic smile made my face ache, but not nearly as much as my hurting heart.
The service did little to assuage my turmoil. For the last couple years, my husband had encouraged me to distance myself from Mona. He felt that our friendship had ceased to be beneficial, that it just caused me pain and tempted me to seek approval where none could be found. He reminded me that I needed to live to please God, not people.
After church, at the monthly potluck, I saw Mona’s oldest son take his plate and sit next to Jacob. I also saw the look that passed between Mona and her husband. A few minutes later, I saw Mona’s husband whisper in Sean’s ear. Shortly thereafter, Sean left with his plate.
I had difficulty finishing my lunch around the lump in my throat, and what I did manage to swallow formed a huge boulder in my stomach. I scooted a little closer to my husband and took refuge in his embrace.
As his arm went around me, I knew what I had to do. God had given me this man to lead me, and it was time I listened to him. Suddenly I felt peace, and I knew that I was through playing this game, through pretending that I had no problems, through trying to impress people with my perfection.
My husband and I had done our best – and no, it wasn’t perfect – to raise Jacob to know the Lord. The rest was in His hands. We couldn’t make Jacob want to walk the talk, only the Holy Spirit could do that.
Before we left the church, I found Mona. I locked eyes with her and I said, “I’m through playing games. Please pray for us, pray for Jacob. He has lots of head knowledge, but it’s going to take a nudge from God to get it from his head to his heart.”
I didn’t wait for her response. That was in God’s hands too. I turned on my heel and followed my family to the car.
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