Thursday, February 14, 2013

Journey to sacrifice

By the time my straight places started curving we'd moved 24 times.  All in the same town.  Walking into another new classroom a pigeon-toed, buck-toothed, skinny, taller than all the boys new girl. The story is that Mama brought all six of us home to Wilson Street, but we moved into and out of that little cracker-box house, the one eventually eaten up by termites, three separate times.

Change is over-rated.

And, no, Daddy wasn't in the military.

Mama told me to see our moves as preparing me for the rest of life. Maybe I'd marry someone exotic and we'd travel the world! 

A plus side to being a vagabond of sorts - for a few days the three dresses bought out of the Montgomery Wards catalog back in August were as new as me. But it didn't last. Soon everyone knew I was like any other girl whose Daddy had changed jobs, or bought another too small for the six of us, run-down fixer upper, back before they called it 'flipping'. He called it grocery money.

Every time we moved Mama lined all the kitchen shelves with newspaper. She found a spot, in the living room, for the sofa with three legs and a stack of beige and green World Book encylopedias. We picked out a new church close to our house. I thought we kept starting over from being tired of people who were tired of us too.  I didn't know it was all about her trying to get Daddy to church, about trying to save a marriage and a family. Looking back across the years, I see the grace extended to a child in not knowing the whys of everything.

One move Mama picked a church different than any before. The man up front spoke a language I'd never heard, there was funny smelling smoke, and we didn't talk, except to read what was written in a little book. We dunked our fingers in metal bowls of cold water, and crossed ourselves. Picked a pew, dipped down beside it before sitting down. Such mystery!

Every Saturday I went to classes taught by wrinkled ladies wearing black and white, then tucked into a little closet and told the man with the nice voice and mesh face how I missed the mark that week. I'd slip back out of the closet, walk over to the flickering candles, put my pennies in the metal box and light a candle or two. Or three. Mama told me to light one but I'd never gotten to set anything on fire. Fresh out of the box and sinning so soon. 

What does God think of a little girl lighting too many candles instead of repenting smoking Patricia's Daddy's Marlboro cigarettes in the woods? Or slipping into a row boat with Pamela Costilla, snitched warm beer hidden under my shirt? Did He smile or shake His head or a little of both? The parent in me thinks both.

Easter season was coming. Mama and the black and white clad ladies told us about something called Lent, and sacrifice, and a dying Savior.  I needed to give up something for forty days. Then Easter with a new white dress, lacey thing for my head and jelly beans in a basket lined with plastic green grass.

We didn't have much to give up. 

I settled on dill pickles. Funny how as soon as you give something up you start missing it. That spring it seemed most everything would taste better with pickles, including Friday night fish sticks. All of this 'sacrifice' ended, 40 days later, with Easter. Mama came up with that new, pretty dress for me. My four brothers wore scrubbed faces and greased flat tops, white shirts with skinny black ties and scuffed up tennis shoes.

We moved again, and switched churches, in the same town. Eventually we moved far away, to never go back. This time we left behind relatives and memories Mama didn't care to take with us. We didn't go to church. Instead, Daddy made puffy pancakes, with vanilla flavoring in them, every Sunday morning and I thought that was a pretty good trade-off. Mama seemed fine with it; maybe she gave up trying to change Daddy, or maybe she got tired of walking in late every week, by herself except for the six of us lined up behind her like shoddy baby ducks.

Church wasn't a part of my life again til most everything else about it had changed too. The family I was the mama of picked one that didn't practice Lent. Nothing to give up. Nothing to sacrifice. We went straight to Easter celebration.

What's a grown up little girl to do about it now? Now that I get it? Maybe it's more about seeing what had to be sacrificed because of me. Even if it had been only me. Maybe it's about more than giving up pickles or chocolate or cursing or Pinterest, then what?

I see me all over the pages of scripture.

I'm doubting Thomas. I haven't buried a statue in our yard, to sell our house; I'm sure God CAN sell the house, but does He WANT to? And what if He doesn't? What if He has a different plan? (I like MY plan.)

I'm big-talking Peter, quick to boast, 'I'll be there, sticking up for you, God'.  Scared by a servant girl warming her hands at the fire. I'd likely be a pitiful stand-up sort too, if I can't muster up the courage to sit alone at Applebees and pray over lunch. And even if I do, does it count if I'm self-conscious?

I'm David's big brothers. The giants in my life loom big and bad, and I'm willing to wait for someone else to show up and grab a slingshot.

I'm the oh-so-thirsty woman at the well, ashamed of the dirty parts of my past that don't wash off. Maybe the outside, but the inside is a different story. What if anyone knew? What if everyone knew?

I'm Judas, hanging with the crowd, but sometimes greed gets in the way. Sure, so-and-so gives a lot but look at how much she has still! Why did he waste that, when he could have given.....?

I'm Paul, when he was still Saul. Standing and watching, holding everyone's coat while they mob the holy.

This season of Lent, rather than giving up pickles or chocolate or such, I'm looking in Scripture for all those who could be me. Different skin covering the same heart. One that needed Someone willing to pay everything for a little girl who, truth be told, would likely still cheat on the number of candles.

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5 comments:

LeAnne said...

all I can say is wow! you are so honest and real! thankyou for that. sometimes we need to be reminded that we really are the same underneath all the ugliness out there. it helps restore humanity. Have a beautiful weekend.

Sammy said...

Oh my. What a beautiful essay. And it's nice to get a glimpse into your past.

Toni said...

This is incredibly well expressed. And, I have to say, I can personally relate to much of what was shared. You seriously should write a book. Fiction. Or non-fiction. You've missed your calling there.

Anonymous said...

The wrinkled ladies wearing black and white are Nuns, their proper title. I assume the man with the nice voice is a priest. The water is blessed holy water and we genuflect before entering our pews.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure how I stumbled onto your blog or Sarahs, but I wanted to let you know how much I enjoy them both. And I also wanted you to know that you are reaching a total stranger in Ohio(me) who is slowly finding my way back to God with help from so many, including you.