It was the 1970’s in southeast Texas.
The church in our swamp water town was full of female prayer warriors. They were tough. They had to be. These women
- fed the hungry,
- clothed the naked
- and made the best gumbo stew this side of New Orleans.
Most importantly, they kept the pastor’s kids in line.
No, my dad did not enlist them for this task. He’d rather they leave well enough alone. But, seriously, have you ever tried to hold back the wind with your bare hands?
Not an easy task.
“Look at your fingernails,” we were told, “Go home and scrub them clean.”
“Stop whispering in church” was followed by a poke in the back.
Not so fun. That’s why I avoided any church gathering that did not require that kids attend.
Not my youngest sister.
She would have made a great employee at Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. To her the world was full of wonder and sweet as an everlasting gobstopper.
My sister saw
- visions of sparkles and soft lights
- snowflakes and candy canes
in a household of hand-me down toys and second hand clothes.
Even the old cinder-block church shimmered with promise and hope in her eyes. Perhaps that’s what prompted her to interrupt the weekly ladies bible study with one simple request.
“I want a damnation dog,” she announced.
If gasps had been coins, I could have collected enough to retire at the age of 15. These women were beyond shocked. They were horrified.
“Wash her mouth out with soap,” one pious church member said.
My sister stared. Her brown eyes widened. I’m not sure if she even understood that the words Dalmatian and damnation were from two very different worlds. But, she knew she had done something wrong.
That was over 30 years ago.
But, I still wonder how such seasoned saints were able to justify their rage. Maybe they thought she was sliding down the slippery slope of moral decline.
Unfortunately, some did not see her eagerness to be around the church, the hunger for acceptance in her big brown eyes.
Bottom line – Kids are not just noisy clutter. They were not created just to be swept out of the sanctuary when it’s time for Sunday school.
- Kids are people.
- They have fears and hopes like you and me.
- There is no age frame to their eternal soul.
Jesus said, “Suffer the children to come unto me and forbid them not, for such is the kingdom of heaven.”
They belong. In the church. With the rest of us.