Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Bitter and Sweet (05/28/09)
TITLE: Ada Leigh's Parents
By Ed VanDeMark
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“I don’t know how he can stand to stay with her.”
“It would take a real saint to be married to that woman.”
Shirley wasn’t always the bitter woman she is today. When they were young she wasn’t exactly a ball of fire but she didn’t hate the world. Then again Charlie wasn’t a real gem. In fact folks wondered what rescue mission she found him in.
Then there was a succession of pregnancies and miscarriages and finally Ada Leigh was born. It was apparent from the beginning, she wasn’t perfect. Deaf, and a mild retardation, that’s what the doctors said. Shirley didn’t handle the news well, and she holed herself up in the house for nearly a year. When she emerged she had a mission. Who’s to blame?
One test lead to another and finally genetic testing, Charlie carried the genetic defect that caused the retardation, and possibly the deafness. Shirley bawled without relief and beat on his chest the day she got the news. From that point she refused to care for their daughter, and only spoke to him when it was absolutely necessary.
They hadn’t been church people and when Charlie suggested they seek out the Methodist pastor she refused to go. At his wits end he did go and in time he and Ada Leigh began attending Sunday morning worship services. At first he kept Ada Leigh close to his side for fear she’d be mistreated but as he got to know folks he loosened his tight grip on her.
When the Sunday School Superintendent suggested Ada Leigh might enjoy Sunday school he was hesitant. He relented when he was told he could attend with her. After six weeks he decided to let her go alone and he began attending an adult class. Almost immediately he noticed that Ada Leigh was more alert and much happier than he’d ever seen her. To his surprise she was included the Sunday school’s program at the following weeks worship service. She signed the song the other children sang. Charlie cried and following the service he made his first trip to the alter to pray. Each Sunday Charlie prayed at the alter following the service. Each Sunday he asked God to send him someone who could explain the joy he experienced in this place. Finally, John felt moved by the spirit to kneel next to Charlie while he prayed. For the next three weeks John kneeled next to him and prayed without uttering a word. Finally Charlie turned to him asked the question that burned in his soul.
“Why is everyone so nice to us?”
John replied. “Because we love you.”
“You don’t even know us.”
John said. “Jesus loves you.”
“What’s that have to do with it?”
“Jesus loves us too.”
Charlie looked puzzled. “I’m not very smart and you’re talking in riddles I don’t understand. I’m not a good man and I’m responsible for Ada Leigh being the way she is.”
“I’m not a good man either, but God didn’t require me to be a good man, he just loved me because he wanted to. The Bible says his son Jesus died for me while I was yet a sinner.”
“Just because he loves us?”
“I think you’ve got it.”
Over the next few weeks John and Charlie met and as John opened the scriptures, Charlie accepted Jesus whose love for Charlie held him to the cross.
That afternoon he informed Shirley he’d accepted Jesus as his savior. She again beat on his chest with a fury and cried out. “How can you be such a traitor, he made our daughter inferior.”
He let her cry and vent without speaking a word.
Daily he knelt by his bed and prayed. “Thank you Lord for loving me first. I thank you for Shirley and our beautiful love child.”
One day he over heard two women speaking in disparaging terms about his wife. When they realized he heard them, one of them spoke. “Charlie Matthews how can you stay with that vengeful woman?”
He replied. “I’m loving her first, because that’s what God did for me.”
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