Previous Challenge Entry
Topic: Power (05/10/04)
TITLE: The Power of the Tongue
By Leslie Norton
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Millie took one last look in her full-length mirror. The black sundress couldn’t hide the fact that she was entering the third trimester of her pregnancy. She sighed heavily and once again fought off the urge to stay home. She grabbed her purse and keys and headed to the car before she had another moment to contemplate the unknown.
Questions buzzed through her brain like busy little bees as Millie made the fifteen-minute commute across town to the church. What if they just assume I’m married and ask about my husband? What if they find out that I’m not married? What will they think? What will they say?’ Millie parked in the visitor’s parking near the entryway and realized she was breathing rapidly. ‘ I’ve been reading too many birthing books’, she told herself as she turned off the ignition. The thought made her smile and eased her anxiety. She consoled herself with the fact that her car was parked close to the building just in case she needed a speedy get-away.
Millie made her way to the front door where she was greeted by a large, round man in a navy suit. “Good morning!” he said with a smile as he opened the door for her. His big brown eyes sparkled with warmth and immediately helped ease Millie’s tension. Once inside, an elderly couple standing just outside the sanctuary greeted Millie. The silver-haired lady extended a small, freckled hand toward Millie, and said, “Good morning.”
Millie shook her hand and replied, “Good morning.”
“Welcome to the Lord’s house,” the lady said as she handed Millie a church bulletin. Relieved to have a lady to ask, Millie smiled, “Thank you, where is the nearest ladies’ room?” The silver-haired lady looked down at Millie’s bulging belly, smiled knowingly, and directed her, “down the hall, third door on the left.” Millie thanked her and made her way down the corridor.
Once inside the small bathroom, Millie selected a vacant stall and locked the door behind her. A few seconds later she heard two women enter the room.
“Did you hear about the pastor’s daughter?” the first voice asked.
“No, what?” the second voice inquired.
“She’s pregnant!” the first voice exclaimed.
“No!” the second woman gasped. “But she’s only seventeen!” the second woman exclaimed sounding horrified.
“Yep, seventeen and too stupid to use birth control!” the first woman retorted.
“But she doesn’t even have a steady boyfriend. Who’s the baby’s father?” the second woman asked.
“Some guy in the Marines. Rumor has it that ‘Little Miss Perfect’ went to a party last month, got really drunk, and took him straight to the master bedroom. Of course some of these naďve church folks are saying that she got pregnant the same night she lost her virginity. But, Rachel Dawson’s daughter, Crystal, told her that she saw the pastor’s daughter hanging all over some surfer guy at the beach a few weeks ago. A-n-d she was wearing a bikini that was way too small up top. I think the pastor’s daughter is nothing more than a Jezebel in sheep’s clothing.” The first woman concluded.
Millie sat in the stall motionless and numb with a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. She heard the women exit the room as tears involuntarily streamed down her face. Her situation was much too similar to the pastor’s daughters. For Millie herself had conceived during a wild night of partying and a one-night-stand. Now, her doubts and fears were confirmed. Millie made her way to the sink and decided that church really was a bad idea. These people would not or could not understand. Millie opened the door, started down the corridor, and commanded herself, ‘just get to the car!’
As Millie approached the entryway, she rounded the corner and saw Ruth coming through the door. Ruth was a counselor with the Crisis Pregnancy Center and the person who’d invited her to this particular church. Ruth spotted Millie immediately. But her smile of delight quickly turned to one of concern as she saw Millie’s tear-stained face. “Let’s get some fresh air”, Ruth said as she took Millie’s arm and headed back out the door.
Ruth led Millie to a picnic area away from the church entrance. There, Millie burst into sobs and shared the details of everything she’d just heard. Ruth listened intently as she patted Millie’s hand. Once Millie finished her story, Ruth began, “Millie, I’m so sorry that you overheard two of our ladies speaking so viciously. It saddens me that anyone in our congregation would speak so cruelly. However, I want you to understand that not everyone in this church feels as they do. I dare say that they are the minority. In fact, the pastor is preparing to address the congregation this morning about his daughter’s situation. I know overhearing these two women has hurt you. The truth is that it hurts me too. But, as a personal favor to me, I need for you to put that incident behind you and come inside with me. I want you to hear what out pastor says. And I want you to see how the rest of the congregation responds to the news. Otherwise, you’ll leave here today only knowing the reaction of two people.”
Millie weighed Ruth’s words carefully as she composed herself. Finally, she concluded that Ruth was right. Millie needed a glimpse of the big picture. She had come this far and felt there was nothing else to loose. So, she took a deep breath and walked into the church with Ruth.
After worship and announcements, the pastor stood behind the podium and announced his teenage daughter’s pregnancy to a somewhat stunned congregation. He then began to speak of a Heavenly Father’s love, forgiveness, and grace. At the close of the service, Millie was amazed to see the majority of the congregation line up to hug the pastor and his family. Millie was glad she had stayed.