Ruth Hadley reread the diagnosis from her doctor. Shaking her head, she folded it and placed it in her apron. At seventy, by choice, she was single and lived alone.
Her home was a large two-story, set back from the street in a small town. The inherited home along with a small trust from her parents allowed her to live a solitary life.
This evening, with the diagnosis clinched in her hand, Ruth came to sit under a grape arbor in the backyard. In the fading light, shaded by the house, she glanced at the words of the doctor. Silently, she glanced up. Her home was aglow with sun’s ebb behind it. The windows gold against the weathered red bricks.
Tonight, a few of the sun’s rays were captured behind a stained glass window hung in her dining room – a framed scene of fragmented glass showing Jesus being baptized by John. Within the glass, the light seemed to pause, but just for a moment and then escape, transforming itself from its yellow flame into translucent jeweled tones.
In her metal, lawn chair, bathed in a rainbow of celestial light from the window, Ruth sighed and whispered for God’s grace.
The window had come from the casement of her church going through a new-age transformation ten years past. The church’s elders advising for the abandonment of the classical grandeur of yesterday, calling it outdated and worn; and counseling to adopt the sleek and unencumbered vogue.
Old time gospel was to be replaced with modern evangelism. Youth and spirituality was the clay of the future, tradition an outdated kiln. High veneer was to be painted, not fired in some hot furnace least their church becomes a shed for old, scorched and broken vessels.
The cool glaze across their surface reflected affluence, but to many it only hid the cracks beneath its veneer. Yet, the firm core of bone china could not hold its own against the porcelain façade and a rift began.
The stained window, under which Ruth had been baptized at age nine, had been discarded. She bought it at auction and hung it in her dining room – a tenuous grip on the past.
And, with the window, she took her membership and embraced a life of greater solitude, steeped in the recent past - littered with the forlorn, forgotten and infused with the air of unforgiveness.
Her life now becoming, too heavy to carry alone and too overwhelming in the dimensions of its bitter landscape to understand. Sitting in the hues of the stained light, she thought of this, her years of isolation, of what she had gained, and what she had lost.
Over the years, her church had changed, too. Mellowed, in fact. Its elders learning indeed, there is nothing new under the sun, and their enthused visage had left many hearts hardened, Ruth’s included.
In sincere contriteness, they had asked her re-join them. And, each time she had said, no.
They had asked to buy back the sacred window as a symbol of their penitence and each time she had said, no.
That is until this evening in the glow of the colored window and the diagnosis in her hand, something changed. Bathed in the stained light, her thoughts carried her back to her own baptism.
Her hand went to her mouth in a quiet gasp, shocked to remember the same hardness in her heart now was the same stiffness she had felt as a nine year-old before coming to Christ.
She remembered the surrender, the washing clean. The water of forgiveness flowing over and through her very soul, filling the crevasse, smoothing the edges. Softening the hardened clay to be molded in the hands of the Maker. She remembered the joy.
She remembered the lightness of her spirit and her heart ached for that buoyancy to return. She remembered the pastor’s words that she was forever Sealed with God and by grace been given entry into the place where He ruled.
Her face flushed, tears welled as she scrunched the letter in her hand and let it fall. A floodgate opened and the scripture “give and it shall be given to you” eddied in iridescent swirls in her soul. A grace for whosoever will.
She moved back into the house, still damp from the pool of light from the stained glass. She picked up the phone and dialed. The pastor of her church answered.
“Pastor Roberts, I have been such a fool, “she began. “Please, forgive me.”
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