TITLE: Because of a Bug
By Catherine Craig
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“Mommy!” I shrieked.
Something buzzed trapped in my long loose hair. Five sharp stings in my neck. In hysterics, I tore up the driveway and into the house, screeching, “Mommy!”
Low voices behind me – one my mother’s, the other a yellow-haired lady’s, but I barely heard them. Breakfast sat like a lead weight in my stomach. From my perch on a cracked green booster chair lodged solidly into a beauty shop chair, I stared into the mirror
Mom counted out the money into the beautician’s hand. “Here’s the money; please cut it short. I’ll be back soon.”
I fiddled with my long plastic smock.
Out came scissors, comb and a spray bottle. “Ouch,” I whispered. The beauty shop lady washed and combed, then clipped my wet mane with shiny silver clips.
Cold chills scampered up my back; water dripped down my neck. The sound of scissors against my hair set my teeth on edge. I hung my head, watching dark curls falling to the floor and didn’t dare look up for fear I’d cry.
Then Mom came back. I still hadn’t looked.
She squealed, “My God, what did you do? It’s way too short!”
“But m’am, you said ‘short’, so I cut it the way you asked…”
In the mirror, a stranger with big somber dark eyes in a skinny face, a big nose and cropped bangs looked back at me. I was truly ugly.
For me that was a defining moment.
My dad is Greek.
Devastated, fresh off a fishing boat in 1953 at nineteen, he sought solace and a new life by coming to the United States. Half the population of his beloved island in Northwestern Greece had been killed in an earthquake.
I didn’t like being different, but I was.
While growing up, seated at folding tables in cold metal chairs in the chilly basement of our Upstate New York Greek-Orthodox Church, I met twice each week with kids like myself to study Orthodoxy and Greek.
It wasn’t until years afterward I understand Dad’s sacrifices, what made him tick. I sobbed through the hit movie “The Big Fat Greek Wedding”, crying for him.
Even then I had a strong spiritual side.
Cloistered in the priest’s office in his comfortable leather chair, I’d devour books about angels, miracles, and stories of real people interacting with a God I read about and longed to know. They ignited a yearning that the church with its beautiful though empty rituals couldn’t meet.
Believe it or not, it too ended because of a bug!
One summer day, while engrossed in a book in his office, an enormous fly circled my chair, zapping the stained-glass window behind me.
“Stop it!” I cried swatting at him.
Poised for action, I grabbed a thick hymnal, smashed the fly, and smeared its squashed body parts across the glass. Feeling queasy I sat down wondering if I had the stomach to clean the mess but realized I couldn’t.
I fled the office.
My childhood fascination with spirituality dwindled by my early teens. Singing unintelligible Greek hymns and attending empty rituals didn’t help. That is, until my best friend, Joanne, invited me to church.
“Wanna come?” she asked between bites over the din in our junior high school cafeteria.
“I don’t think the folks will let me,” I answered, “but I’ll try.”
My parents released me from my regimented Orthodox regime of Catechism and Greek language classes to attend her Baptist Youth Group meeting - my first miracle from God.
The day we arrived at her little Baptist church, I watched a short slender man with a shock of brown hair – whom I’d shaken hands with earlier – climb onto the raised stage at the front of the large noisy room. The ruckus stopped.
“I was messed up,” he began as I listened intently. “I didn’t like myself; I didn’t think I mattered…I had no real purpose…but, one day it all changed….”
Mesmerized, I afterward answered his invitation to come up front. Here, in real life, was someone who, like others mentioned in the books I’d read from the priest’s library, had accepted Jesus Christ’s invitation to follow Him. Like a magnet, I felt drawn to him.
Theologically, I was ignorant.
My heart answered the call; something inside reached out and up to grasp what was being offered. I knew then that God cared, that He was speaking to me.
Years passed. In 2007 I developed cancer.
I thought everyone who got cancer died. So naturally, I announced to my shell-shocked husband, “I’m renting a place by the sea. When I’m ready to die, I’ll call you.”
He burst into tears, but my oldest daughter Maria didn’t take it so well. “Mom,” she screamed through the phone, (I thought the wires should have turned fiery.) “You aren’t giving up! Do you hear me?”
Anyways, I didn’t die, nor did I go to the sea - alone. Jeff and I both did. We traveled to California, turning the dreaded radiation treatments into a vacation trip.
Once there, I searched for a church.
More truthfully, I canvassed for one. I called almost every church in the yellow pages. Something in me was yearning, reaching out from deep inside to touch God. I needed Him in a way I hadn’t before coming that close to dying. I needed a special place to reach God, for Him to touch me.
Sunday morning came.
Jeff opened my car door, I got out. Glumly, hand tucked under his elbow, I tagged along with him, other latecomers trickling last minute into church.
In the vestibule, we were shoulder-to-shoulder with others going into the sanctuary. Silently, hoping for a shred of spiritual encouragement, I prayed, “Lord, give me back the joy I once had!”
Once seated, my heart dropped.
It was like any other church service. Nothing special. We sang a few songs led by a lively worship team. The pastor shared a good message. It was okay, but it didn’t satisfy the craving from deep inside I had.
“If anyone would like prayer, please step forward…” the pastor invited those of us brave enough to approach the platform.
After waiting until the last minute to decide, I slipped out from my aisle to join those in front. I wasn’t expecting much, but longed for something I couldn’t define.
My husband remained seated.
Being somewhat reticent, I positioned myself at the back fringe of the group huddled around the stage. From the corner of my eye, I saw movement.
Curious because it was after-the-fact, I watched as a heavy-set woman left her seat at the far left front, up her aisle toward the back of the church. Then, a few moments later, I almost jumped out of my skin.
Someone tapped my shoulder. Half turning, but unable to see the speaker, I listened.
“The Lord told me to tell you this, “He is going to restore your joy!”
I felt numb, shocked; God talked to me!
I think He tries to speak to everyone. We just don’t hear Him.
I’d invite you to ask, like I did.
Don’t be shocked when He does!
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