PATHWAY TO HIS PRESENCE
I was around nine when one of our neighbors physically abused me. A couple of years older than me, she had already become a “bully.” I felt safe, however, when my sister was around. My older sister, my only sibling, always looked out for me. I had never been more grateful for her protective nature than when this neighbor tied me to a chair and left me inside her humid playhouse.
I could not escape. Not only did she tie me in the chair, but she turned the chair backward at the door, pulled my long ponytail through the door, and then closed the door on my hair. I could not reach the doorknob to open the door. In fact, I could not reach anything. I simply sat there as a prisoner, my head aching from having a door slammed tightly on my hair. If anyone had passed by, they would have seen a long, brown ponytail hanging out of a playhouse door. It certainly would have caused interest. But no one saw. No one came.
I was terrified that I wouldn’t be found. Never had I felt so helpless, so trapped, and so vulnerable to another’s unkind act. This girl often came to our home, and we went to hers. I remember many nights playing in her yard until after dark, chasing each other and catching lightning bugs, of which there was always an abundance.
But, why would she do this to me? One other time, she took great delight in telling me there was no Santa Claus. I was crushed. I went in my home and told my mother and sister what I had just learned.
“Who told you that?” my sister, Beverly Ann, asked.
When I said my neighbor’s name, Beverly Ann was furious! I don’t know what my sister said to her, but I am sure it wasn’t pretty! I remember feeling lost inside, aching over the terrible discovery that Santa didn’t exist. Even today, I can remember that feeling. Santa’s name had been associated with so much happiness and fun. I lost something that day, and I was devastated.
Being held captive in that playhouse seemed like forever, but it was likely only 30 minutes or so before I heard Beverly Ann calling my name. Fortunately, my mouth was not taped, so I quickly began answering her. Soon, I was set free. We walked home through the backyard of another neighbor, leaving a remnant of my loud sobs on every blade of grass.
What do I remember most? Besides the fear and helplessness, I remember my loud tears and my sister’s comforting arm around me, taking me home.
This neighbor never apologized, and I don’t know if my parents ever confronted her or her parents. All I remember is how safe it felt to walk back into my home.
In the many years that have passed since then, I have lost touch with that neighbor. Eventually, I grew up, and the disappointment over the non-existence of Santa was replaced with something much more valuable. The love and loyalty of family made Christmas swirl in my heart 12 months out of the year. Laughter at our home overshadowed a neighborhood bully. And, Grace whispered a timeless message into my heart that I never wanted to hear.
“You have the possibility of being just that mean to someone else.”
I was stunned! The pain of hearing those words was much larger than the pain of hearing there was no Santa Claus.
Me? I could actually do that to someone else? Me?
But Grace said … the same seed of sin is in you that is in your neighbor. Yes, you are capable of that. In fact, quite capable.
I wanted to argue, to defend myself, to say that I never ever would do that to another person.
But, with age I have learned the horrifying truth. I can hurt others, too. I have hurt others, too. The nature of the beast of sin is that we are all capable of hurting each other. I didn’t want to hear it then, and I don’t want to hear it now.
But, it is true. Sometimes, I am so close to the reality of sin that I can almost smell the fruit tree in the Garden of Eden. I am so close to sin that I can hear the snake’s giggle when I choose wrong over right. I am painfully aware that my thoughts can bring criticism of another. I am horrifyingly aware that I sometimes choose the prettiest friend over the homely friend. I ache inside with the reality of Adam’s sin which is also my sin. I abhor this sin nature that I received from Adam!
However, I’ve heard that on a hill far away stood an old rugged cross, and I am beautifully aware that this cross was erected for my sin. Jesus hung on it and died for my sin. He was resurrected for my redemption and eternal life. And, He crushed the head of the serpent and thereby claimed that sin does not have to hold me captive! I don’t have to give in to the pull of sin on my life. There is another choice. It is the choice of Resurrection Power and Redemptive Release from captivity.
Hallelujah! What a mighty God we do serve! There truly is victory in Jesus!
When I stand at the foot of the cross, I stand side by side with other sinners, each of us thankful that He would allow us the awesome privilege of coming near Him at all.
Indeed, one day I will stand side by side with that bothersome bully, that terrifying neighbor girl.
And, I will take her hand.
I will love her.
And together we will kneel before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
Such is the awesome power of what He did for us at the cross. Sinners repent. Families get back together. Love flows between those torn apart through disagreements and heartaches.
And Jesus will smile as two mean girls hold hands in grateful praise that love covers all our sin.
The Rev. B.J. Funk is associate pastor of Central UMC in Fitzgerald. Email her at email@example.com.