Marissa had always been jealous of “churchladies”, with their white Bibles and purses and gingham belted dresses and round rouged cheeks. She wanted to be one. She wanted the serenity they had.
But the truth was, she looked silly in gingham belted dresses. She was too thin, plus they added 30 years to her age. Her Bible was a dog-eared black one that her parents had given her for high school graduation. She didn’t own a white purse. Rouge did not become her. She was in no way a churchlady, no matter how hard she tried. She wondered if it was the gift of peace from the Lord that kept churchladies’ faces so smooth and serene. Or was it just the luck of the draw that they seemed to have nothing to worry about?
Marissa herself was a roiling and boiling cauldron of worries and anxieties. She had just come through a divorce (horror of horrors), she had a little girl, her finances were in a pitiful state, and her job made her nervous. It took too much out of her. She got home at night and was barely able to feed and bathe little Bailey, never mind giving her “quality” time. She would say a hurried prayer and tumble into bed herself, only to get up the next day and go through it all again.
One day in church she happened to sit behind a family where the husband had his arm wrapped lovingly around his wife’s shoulders. The thin elastic band that was holding her together snapped, and she started to cry out loud during the sermon. She was mortified and stood up to run away when she found herself surrounded by the churchladies. Plump hands helped her to sit back down, soft arms wrapped her in their embrace, and Bibles and purses were set aside as the ladies prayed. The pastor came and joined them, and Marissa was sorry she had lost control and interrupted the sermon, but also soothed as she was embraced and her hands were held and someone wiped her forehead with a Wet-Dry. She was embarrassed to be so needy.
After church, the ladies shepherded Marissa down the wooden stairs and into the Bible Study room, and helped her sit. A lady in a pink and white checked dress sat across from her and said,
“You young woman today have such hard lives. My heart goes out to you.”
Which made Marissa start to cry again.
Another lady said,
“Back in our day our husbands rarely left us. We didn’t move away from home so our Moms were around to help us with the little ones. Plus we didn’t work full-time.”
Marissa dug around in her purse for a clean tissue to wipe her nose.
An old old lady wearing a black hat with a red flower and smelling of mothballs said,
“The times that you live in are much harder than the times that we lived in.”
Marissa held her breath to try and stop the crying.
A younger churchlady leaned over and took her hand.
“I’m sure you’re doing the best you can under some pretty scary circumstances,” she said, and Marissa would have reached out and hugged her if she hadn’t still been a little bit embarrassed.
They all knelt on the cold linoleum floor and held hands and asked that the Lord walk with and talk with and care for Marissa all the days of her life.
And the gift of peace settled upon her.