TITLE: The Cleansing Tide - March 28th 2016
By Catherine Craig
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Baffled, Peggy sat at her desk staring at the pencil in her hand with its chewed up eraser. “What am I doing wrong?” she asked. Her words seemed to resonate in the empty space.
From down the corridor when she heard laughter, Peggy frowned, wondering if she was the cause. “Such a social zero,” she grumbled, feeling inept. “Just like in school,” she added and dropped her face into her hands.
The day passed uneventfully as Peggy pecked numbers into the computer, her fingers sailing across the keyboard in the silence. Aside from mumbling a polite hello to a co-worker at the coffee machine while pouring herself a cup of over brewed coffee, she spoke to nobody and no one spoke to her.
With a start, Peggy glanced up at the clock and realized it was past quitting time. She cleared off her desk, tucked some work to take home into her briefcase, and pulled on her raincoat.
The hallway was empty. With her head ducked, Peggy scurried toward the stairway leading to the parking lot hoping to avoid any encounters. She hated small talk; such a waste of time!
Peggy squinted at the computer screen and then startled by the realization that dusk had fallen, looked at the clock. Feeling overwhelmed, she almost groaned at the sight of the table cluttered with stacks of yet-to-be-addressed paperwork.
Scanning the sterile white walls of the small studio apartment, she sighed again as her eyes rested on the old-fashioned rotary-style desk phone that never rang. Sometimes the dreariness of her lonely existence was more than Peggy could bear, though she tried to distract herself with work.
At 9:00 p.m. sharp, Peggy pulled on a soft cotton nightgown, brushed her teeth, and said prayers. Then the same as every other night, Peggy’s head hit the pillow at 9:15 p.m. and she fell into a fitful sleep.
Annoyed at being awoken from a pleasant dream by the rude buzzing of her alarm clock, Peggy reached toward the nightstand to turn it off. Afterward, grateful for the silence, she relaxed, basking in the silent solitude of early morning.
Finally, Peggy stretched and then sat up. While sticking a bare foot out to feel for her slipper in the semi-darkness, she was startled when an almost spoken phrase interrupted her sleepy thoughts.
“You reject yourself before your feet even hit the floor.” Since the words were gentle, sort of whispered, Peggy slipped from her bed to stand, thinking she’d imagined it. But then, another impression came, saying, “You compare yourself with others; it isn’t wise.”
Peggy shook her head trying to clear it and went to the bathroom mirror to examine her reflection. Eyes set too closely together, thin lips, and long angular nose spoke of her Syrian ancestry, features accentuated by straight black hair she wore cropped close to her head. Turning away, she prayed, “Lord, if this is you, then make clear what you are trying to say, please.”
Dumbfounded by how true these statements rang, Peggy pushed down the thoughts and feelings she wasn’t prepared to face. After pouring a cup of coffee, she grabbed her Bible from its perch on top of the refrigerator and shoved aside a stack of paperwork to clear a space for it.
Then, surprised by where the Bible fell open to, she read, “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.”
“Is this true?” she prayed and traced another passage with her finger, reading aloud, “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.”
Its truth slammed Peggy, penetrating the wall she’d built to protect herself and, as a dam of pent-up emotion broke, she sobbed, “They hate me, Lord!” Crying until there were no more tears, Peggy visualized the jeering faces as old wounds were ripped open, heard once again the whispers of those smearing her and re-experiencing the shame.
Finally spent, Peggy hiccuped and asked, “Where to now, Lord?” Feeling strangely refreshed by the cleansing tide she reaching for a Kleenex. Whispering, she nodded, saying, “You understand, don’t you Lord?”
Nothing further was whispered in the silence but Peggy had figured it out. It wasn’t about “them”; it was about her.
‘It appears I have some changing to do, don’t I Lord?” she asked and for the first time in a long while, Peggy felt the corners of her mouth tip up into a smile.
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