Today, I bring you another installment of Conversations with Ourselves, a series of posts in which every Thursday the author addresses the Past Self through the Present or vice versa (or sometimes totally not this, but something equally cool) concerning matters of Faith, specifically.
I share words with you today from Sarah. I number Sarah among one of the few geniuses I personally know. She makes my heart ache with the beauty of her words. She stands in fields and claps together pots and pans and calls people out to her table laid with grace. She is, truly, one of the most talented writers of our age.
I caught sight of her. And I loved her.
She is so much smaller than I remember, tall for her age, sure, but still, a child, every inch of her childish and lean and believing. She's in the front row of folding metal chairs at the community centre (of course she is), beside her little sister (of course she is). Her young mother delights, I know, in the small rituals, pressed matching sundresses, flossed teeth, curled hair, church. Her parents lavished happiness and routine, stability and joy, on their daughters, and it's Sunday morning so here we are, at the Regina Community Centre.
I know things about this small girl.
I know that she'll give her whole two-dollar bill to the offering plate, and she will love the high sacrifice of that moment, because self-denial and heroism appeals to her small soul, she's so anxious to please these ones that love God. I know she loves Jesus with her whole small heart, all four chambers of it already filled with songs and Bible verses and mystic made-up prayers and holy languages, and this motley crew of believers, clapping in the community centre, singing loud and off-key, the blood of it all carrying oxygen everywhere ahead. I know she feels like she belongs.
I know that she loves to play Boys Chase The Girls at school. I know she discovered there was no Santa Claus after months of practicing her handwriting at the kitchen table, copying her mother's neat cursive, and then, on Christmas morning with one glance at the tag signed Love Santa, knew. I know she reads in the spare room closet, sitting in her old white bucket car-seat, lost and found all at once. I know she bats clean-up in softball, and I know the aching release of blood flowing that comes to her cold feet when she finally takes off her white figure skates after a night on the outdoor rink, her lungs full of cold pure snow air, I know she whispers to her sister-friend across the expanse between their matching white twin beds, I know she dances in the basement to the old record player, prides herself on colouring in the lines so well, swims with her eyes open under the cold lake water. I know she's happy.
And I know what is ahead.
So I stand in the back, and behold that small and faithful little sprite in the front row. I have come here with a long list of warnings and admonishments, even a few rules, written in such lovely cursive handwriting. I was planning on telling her, gently of course, a few things about all of those boys chasing after, a few things about her parents, a few things about school, a few things about marriage and mothering, about friendship and community, a lot of things about people pleasing, a few more about church and church-people and God and prayer, maybe a bit about forgiveness, her own gaping needs.
I'd tell her not to dye her hair black in university, and I'd tell her that cheap Charlie perfume from Shoppers Drug Mart does not, in fact, cover up cigarette smoke. I was planning on telling her to travel after university, to slow down, to stop trying to be a grown-up all the time when she's just barely out of childhood. I was planning on telling her to marry that tall boy from Nebraska a bit sooner than she did, and I wrote down a few things about being present, living in the moments of her life, about grief, about stories, about anger, about paying attention, being a know-it-all, and how a clove of garlic is actually one piece of the garlic bulb, not the whole bulb. I wrote down that I wanted to tell her that God is enough, always has been enough, always would be enough, through it all. I wanted to tell her that it was all real, all of it, it was always real, it still is.
I forgot how tan she used to get in the summers, she's brown as a bean, her tiny nose sprinkled over with pinpoint freckles. She's beautiful. My tinies look a bit like her. Bless her.
I stood up. I caught sight of her there in the front row, I caught sight of myself - and I loved, and I understood.
I left without a word, just slipped out the back doors.
Sarah Bessey writes at www.sarahbessey.com, whereupon she has become an accidental grassroots voice for postmodern and emerging women in the Church on issues from mothering to politics, theology to activism. Sarah also works part-time with Mercy Ministries of Canada, a non-profit residential home for women seeking freedom from life-controlling issues. She is a happy-clappy follower of Jesus and social justice wannabe. Sarah lives in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada with her husband, Brian, and their three tinies: Anne, Joseph and Evelynn Joan.