Joyce had left earlier to help prepare things for the birthday party that would come after the Bible Study, so I hadn’t seen her leave and she wasn’t home when Rey drove up to fetch me. I was dressed in my favorite church dress, a bright orange material that had a layer of fine lace mellowing the orange color a bit. Normally, I chose between a white lace prayer scarf or one of those little circular lace doilie-like head coverings, unless I was wearing something dark for winter, in which case my head coverings for Mass were black lace. But what did people wear when the meeting was in someone’s home and not the church? I wasn’t sure; but, wanting to be prepared, I stuffed the little round, white doilie-like lace head covering in my dress pocket. I would whip it out before going in if I saw anyone else with one.
“Wow, you’re lookin’ good there, Sojourner. Ready to go?” So far, so good. At least, he didn’t frown when he saw my chosen attire.
“Yeah, I guess I’m ready. Just remember, Rey, I’m not going to say anything at this meeting and I‘m only going because it’s your birthday. You’ll stop asking me to go to this Bible Study after tonight, right? That was the deal.” Ready? What was I saying; did I need to go to confession before Sunday for that kind of lie? Maybe I could just tack it on to the fact that I came here at all without talking with my priest.
“Yes, I know that’s the deal. Okay, then, let’s go!” Rey shut my door and nearly ran around to his. How sweet was his victory to him. Well, it was just a couple of hours and I’d be coming back home; I could do this.
Fingering the little head covering in my pocket, I stepped over the back door threshold and into the home of the young couple who were leading the Study. My grip clenched the lace in my pocket, my jaw tightened and I just wanted to bolt. Let’s just say I was more than a bit over-dressed. The closer I got to the living room and raucous chatter emanating from same, the bigger grew the cannonball in my stomach. God, help me not throw up, I prayed silently.
“Bob. Linn. I want you to meet my friend. Sojourner, this is Bob and Linn. We meet in their house.” Standing before me was a smiling pair, clad in casual summer clothing. I nodded and shook their hands. “She’s coming because it’s my birthday and, well, she’s never been to a Bible Study so I told her it’s okay if she just watches tonight. That’s okay, right?” Eagerly bobbing heads from the couple and a lot of conformational kinds of phrases assured me nothing would be expected of me at this meeting. I could be a silent observer.
The four of us migrated into the living room, as stragglers followed suit. All around the periphery of this room were kids in my age group, dressed in jeans or shorts and tee shirts. Some sat on chairs and some on the carpeted floor. Joyce indicated the empty seat next to her was waiting for me. I looked around but didn’t see a priest or someone who looked like a minister so I assumed he was a bit late.
“Okay, let’s get started,” Bob said, circling the room with his eyes and wide grin. “We have a guest today for Rey’s birthday. Her name is Sojourner and we want to make her feel welcome. She’s never been to a Bible Study so we told her she could just watch and listen this time.”
Welcome’s and glad-you’re-here’s echoed around the room, answered by my nervous smile and head nod. I didn’t really listen to the announcements; I was still expecting an older man to come through that door to lead us.
“Everyone, please, stick around a while afterwards to help celebrate Rey’s birthday. We’ve got ice cream and cake.” Linn was a Registered Nurse and I found out that she was actually engaged to Bob; they would be married soon. Bob was a Captain in the Army, stationed at Fort Carson. This was his house; Linn didn’t live here yet.
“It won’t be hard to get this bunch to stay, as long as you feed them.” Bob was laughing along with everyone else, but even I knew it was likely the truth. “Okay, anyone have any praise reports to share?”
A palpable excitement filled the room as several of the kids indicated they did. I figured this was the way they bought more time for the minister, who had yet to appear. However, I was soon caught up in the group’s excitement. Each of the young adults told of a need that he or she had brought before the group on some past occasion. Each time they recounted the story, the fact that the group had prayed with the speaker was reiterated. Then, a most wonderful, conclusion to each story was the marvelous way in which the Lord had answered their prayers. Sometimes, it was an obvious, total miracle, with no other way to explain the answer to the prayers. At other times, I wondered if the person had not left out some part of the story where they might have manipulated things to get the answer to their need. Joyce assured me that this was not the case and the stories were all true as told. I just couldn’t imagine it. The Almighty God of the universe was hearing the prayers of these kids and answering them? I just had to know more. Maybe I could ask my priest at the end of my confession next Saturday, or should I make a special appointment? My head was just reeling; I had to know.
“Okay, some really marvelous testimonies there; isn’t our God great!” Lots of hoots and howls from the group as Bob took up his Bible. Sounded more like a sports event than a Bible Study. Where was that minister? He was going to miss the whole meeting, if he didn’t get here soon. “Tonight I wanted to share a few Scriptures that the Lord has been laying on my heart this week. We can resume our regular study next week; but, with Rey’s birthday celebration happening, I wanted to be sure we didn’t keep you away from your books or beds too long tonight. Take your Bibles and turn to…” Joyce held her Bible so that I could read along as each passage was called out. It was only a few minutes of Bible reading without much commenting. We were to think on the words ourselves during the week.
Next, Linn stood, grabbed some little slips of white paper, and passed them around the room. “Go ahead and write your prayer requests for this week on the slips. You can put your name on or not, as you like. Fold it in half and put it in the bowl when it comes around.”
I let the little pile of paper slips pass me, shaking my head when Joyce offered me one. How I wanted to write something on the paper. I did need prayer but I didn’t know what to write. I couldn’t just write “Help me! I don’t know what you’re doing here and I want to see God answer my prayers like that, too!” So I just sat, arms tightly folded across my chest, and watched. The bowl was passed around and all the papers tossed in. Then, the bowl was passed around a second time, and everyone was supposed to take out a slip of paper, at random. I didn’t, of course, since I had put none in.
“Okay, everyone got a slip of paper? This is the person you will pray for during this week. You can add other things as the Lord leads you but on the slip of paper are the specific prayer requests of your person, so don’t forget those items. We’ll see what God will do!”
A couple of kids had things they wanted the group to pray with them about but it only took a few minutes. It was time for cake and the prayer for Rey, as well as thanking God for the food. The older guy never did show up. (I learned later that there was no older minister expected. Bob was like thirty and he was the leader of the group. Their minister didn’t come to the meetings of this group. Bob was on the church leadership team.)
Well, let me say this, when that “Amen!” resounded around that circle of hungry twenty-something’s, I was ready to flee the scene. I wanted to go home… no cake, no ice cream. I wanted one thing… to go home. My head was swimming with confusion and being with others was the last thing I wanted right now. I just needed to be alone and try to sort things out.
Rey agreed to take me home, finally, giving up his pleading for me to stay for the party. I just couldn’t; I needed to be alone. Something had happened to me in that meeting and I didn’t understand it at all. I felt like I’d entered the whirling winds of a hurricane, being twisted and bounced around in all directions at once.
Turning the key in our apartment door, barreling through the doorway, I ran into the room that was both bedroom and living room to us. I threw the little head covering down on my bed and turned to the fireplace. My crucifix hung on the wall next to the mantel. Just the sight of it started the flood of tears. Slowly, I knelt under the crucifix and cried into my hands. All I could say was, “God, oh God. Did I do something wrong in going there?” More tears. “I only wanted to make Rey stop asking me and it was his birthday and if I was wrong to go, I’m sorry. But, God, those kids… those kids seemed to know you. I want to know you, too!” The torrent of tears increased until anything I wanted to say to God would have to be a communication of thoughts; I couldn’t speak at all. Funnily enough, it felt like the flow of tears was coming from the deepest reaches of my insides, not my eyes. It was as if my eyes were only a passageway but the origin was much deeper inside my abdomen.
As I sobbed uncontrollably, I became aware of God’s thoughts streaming through my mind. Things about forgiveness and acceptance. It seemed like all of the sins of my past from my earliest beginnings were being forgiven right there and then. I thanked the Lord in my thoughts, still weeping too hard for speech. I asked God to come into my life as He had done for those kids who had shared. I gave my life to God and asked Him to help me do just whatever it was He wanted me to do.
I can honestly tell you, dear Reader, when I stood up from that special encounter, I had the most unbelievable peace flowing out of my innermost being. I never ever felt so good, so clean and totally new. I didn’t know what had happened to me there on my knees, but I do know that it changed my entire life. I would never be the same again!
****A New Door Opens, Reflections…. Next Post