A Little White Church Lent
When the cold of winter turns into the bleakness of mud season, hope is hard to find. Yet beneath the hard ground and in the midst of life’s muddiness, there is always new life waiting to bloom. Join Pastor Donna as she reflects on the transforming power of Lent and takes you on a 40-day journey of discovering God’s message of hope and renewal that she discovered in a little white church and in the hearts of the people who call that church “home.”
Day 2: A Snag in the Fabric
I was worried, perhaps even a tad bit apprehensive. Okay. Truth be told, I was being overprotective of my big brother.
Even though there were many months to go before my summer wedding, I was already dreading what the reaction might be to my brother from the children of the little white church—as well as from the rural village I served as pastor—whom were all going to be participating in “Pastor Donna’s big day.” I was marrying one of the village’s hometown boys and so this wedding was going to be a community celebration—one in which my brother would be coming to.
Growing up I was always told my brother was “different,” which didn’t help me understand why other kids were being mean of the very things that made my brother “different.”
“Don’t worry about him,” my parents tried to tell me whenever I dared to broach the subject of my brother at my wedding.
Still I worried—a selfish kind of worry. While I didn’t want to see my brother hurt by remarks or stares, I didn’t want the pain of witnessing those remarks and stares. I learned early in life when you truly love someone you can’t help but to feel the pain they feel and shed the tears they shed. So I was bracing myself for what might come.
“Something wrong, pastor?” I heard being asked as I sat at one of the church’s big old folding tables that, if dropped on your foot, would probably take off a toe or two. The table was set up for a meeting in the sunny chapel that did double duty as the fellowship hall/meeting room.
“No,” I said as I pretended to organize papers for the meeting that was to start in 15 more minutes. The person asking the question, a man who I could see was clearly on some spiritual journey, didn’t buy my answer.
“Come on, I know something’s up. What’s going on?” he prodded some more.
Not one to hide my emotions very well, I fessed up about my worry, apprehension and overprotectiveness of my brother and the upcoming wedding. I even fessed up that all of this was rooted in my own selfishness because I was the one who didn’t want to hurt.
With one huge smile and warm laugh, this man wiped away all my selfish worrying. He then went on to tell me how his wife and him took in special needs kids years ago and how everyone in the village welcomed and watched out for those kids as one of their own. He then told me of this person and that person who had either a special needs child or knew of someone who did.
“Your brother is going to be welcomed by us with opened arms. And these kids in this church, these kids in this village…they are not going to make fun of your brother or stare at him or be afraid. That’s not who we are around here. We look out for one another and try to care for one another the best we can,” he said.
Tears filled my eyes and soon my smile was just as huge as his.
The following day I made a not so quick trip to one of those big box stores that carried everything. I needed some fabric for a Lenten prayer table I wanted to create for our prayer circle. I found the fabric in the store and stood waiting and waiting for someone to come along to measure out the yardage I needed. A manager whizzed by assuring me, “Someone will be over to help shortly.”
Shortly became not so shortly and before long there were three more women standing behind me with bolts of fabric needing to be cut.
Finally that long-awaited someone came.
Even though I was first in line I could see the eye rolls happening among the women behind me. The someone who came to help was a young man who was “different.” His coke bottle glasses and slow speech didn’t incite confidence in the others. But it was his deformed hand that really made the women behind me wonder if this young man was capable of unfolding, measuring and cutting the bolts of fabric. They watched closely to see what he would do to my fabric.
I handed over the bolt of purple fabric (perfect for the season of Lent we were in) and told him what I needed. With some struggle he unfolded the fabric and began slowing measuring it out. The eye rolls turned into huffs and puffs. It was then I knew this young man was not suffering from hearing loss. His body language told me he was taking in every hurtful huff and every painful puff. And I took them in with him.
Still he continued on with unfolding the fabric to the correct yardage I wanted. All of a sudden he stopped. There in the middle of the fabric was a huge snag. He looked at me and said, “This will ruin what you are making. Let me cut this off and start over again.”
Another hurtful huff.
Another painful puff.
“You don’t have to do that. The snag is okay,” I assured him.
“But it’s ugly and totally different from the rest of the fabric,” he said.
“I think it’s pretty. Not everything in life is perfect, right?” I smiled at him, not telling him how the snag made this fabric even more special for the draping of our Lenten prayer table.
What a reminder this will be for us as we pray, I thought. Jesus, who walked to the cross for us, also taught us that along the way to take time to embrace the beauty in the imperfect. Jesus, who taught us to love one another, meant for us to love even the snags that we are so quick to disregard.
“Yep. This fabric is perfect,” I reaffirmed, thinking about that Lenten prayer table.
With a shrug of his shoulders, the young man went back to painstakingly measuring and cutting and folding the fabric before finally handing it over to me.
I turned to leave and did my best not to glare at the women who huffed and puffed behind me. It was then I noticed a manager of the store staring at what just took place. As our eyes met she said to me, “You must not be from around here.”
I just nodded.
She was absolutely right.
I’m from a little rural village an hour away from this big store. It’s a place where our wilderness journeys are not journeyed alone. We reach out to one another.
I’m from a place where those who have “snags” are not cut out but are incorporated into the fabric of community.
I’m from a place where a little white church taught my heart not to worry or be apprehensive or be selfishly overprotective about what others might think of my brother who is “different.”
I’m from a place where when someone cries, we all cry.
When someone hurts, we all hurt.
That’s just what happens when you truly love as Jesus wanted us to love.
This Way of Life Lenten Challenge: Snags in the fabric can be beautiful. Today open your eyes to that in which the world is so quick to throw out or toss aside or make fun of and see God’s beauty and purpose.