Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Death & Resurrection of Faith #2

(To appreciate this story, you need to read Part 1, before continuing with this conclusion)

Come Take a Portion of Faith – Pt. 2

Now Bible Camp and in particular, The Tabernacle, is a place of revelations where unseen occupants of heaven descend and commune and touch those within. It is a place of revelations through miracles, faith, healing, tongue-speaking, and soul-changing blessings. Normally, that is, but the shavings on the floor have told me a different story.

The adults at Camp assumed they had a monopoly on these messages, visions, and all other forms of heavenly contact. They assumed children were excluded. But that was just not so. I received a message. The message contained within the ‘Parable of the Shavings’. I wanted desperately to tell them ‘my message’ but unfortunately, I had not the courage or opportunity to do so.

And so, I remained silent as the Minister concluded his sermon with an announcement that he had a special surprise for us. And with that, he nodded toward a dim corner at the side of the platform. Shavings rustled softly as a tiny woman moved to the side of the platform and made her way slowly and unsteadily up three steps with an old cane as crooked and bent as she. The crowd applauded with delight at a figure familiar, and so well-known to all of us.

It was Mrs. Rett, with her bright little eyes that always twinkled and her precious mouth that only smiled. Mrs. Rett was a black woman. Black as midnight. But in Bible-Camp circles, she was a camp-celeb – renowned for her grace and goodness, renowned for her unshakable faith. Faith sufficient to part the sea, or move mountains if she chose to. And if the color of her skin made a difference, the only difference was the keen awareness we all had of her special gift of faith and unwavering goodness.

Now this particular day was Mrs. Rett’s ninetieth birthday. And what you need to realize about that is we are talking about a time when life expectancy was probably no more than sixty-four years. And so now the Minister left the podium and Mrs. Rett steadied herself with feet spread and both hands on her cane in front of her.

“Friends, I am soon going to be moving to another place,” she said in a feeble voice, “and I wanted to say a special good-bye to all of you before I left.”

Here the pianist rippled a few soft notes, and Mrs. Rett began to sing.

“Some day the silver chord will break,
And I no more, as now shall sing…”

The chord, if there was one was already broken. And we truly hoped that she ‘no more, as now would sing.’ Her voice was squawky, raspy, pitchy, cracked, and brittle. In a way that made even I, though just a child, feel the embarrassment and concern we so often have when another human being is in a situation that perhaps it would be best for them not to be in. But then Mrs. Rett raised her head towards the orange-colored canvas overhead, where the golden sunlight was filtering through, and continued her song.

“…but oh the joy, when I shall wake,
Within the palace of the King…”

And suddenly the melody was sweet and pure – her voice steady and unwavering. The sound as silken as the smooth warbling of a nightingale. And all the time we saw, in the midnight blackness of her countenance, her bright eyes and warm smile.

“…and I shall see him face-to-face…”

And that is when the most uncanny thing happened. I know others saw it too. Mrs. Rett’s charcoal-colored face suddenly turned silver –as silver as a radiant crystal with an inner glowing light. And those bright eyes were no longer fixed on us. They were fixed on something else that broadened her smile even more.

And that’s when all that I had lost from within my longing, vacant, empty soul, came rushing back with a force that made my knees weaken. I looked around me, and I could feel it in the room. Hope and faith and unwavering belief flooded the tent with a force that loudly rippled the canvas.

And I knew in that moment that everyone in that room, every single solitary person – sinner, agnostic, atheist, or believer, seized hold of a portion of Mrs. Rett’s faith. And in that moment, every one of us had faith that could part seas or move mountains – if that is what we chose to do. I believe at that moment we had enough collective faith to even turn the shavings on the floor into tightly-spliced floorboards.

And so this is where my story concludes. There is nothing more to tell you except that bit which is simply a matter of fact.

Mrs. Rett died a couple months later. And who knows? There may or may not be a heaven, there may or may not be a hell, there may or may not be a God. But if faith can do all it promises to do, of one thing I am certain – whether the foregoing questions are answered ‘yea’ or ‘nay’.

The thing I am certain of (no matter how barren the fact, science, or truth) is that there is one wee mansion with one lone wee occupant straight up, overhead, right up there – beyond the sky!


Anonymous said...

This is a lovely story, Roberta. It's taken me days to know how to comment on it. I think you perfectly captured how it is for people who aren't quite sure about these weighty matters, Heaven, Hell, God, etc., that they can come very close to the answers through the beautiful soul and unwavering faith of another person. And, the writing, of course...


Roberta S said...

I guess it is a story that doesn't leave much to be said. I so much appreciate that you pushed past that to let me know that you enjoyed and understood what I attempted to convey.

Pauline said...

It is those small moments that loom larger than life that convince us of things we might have been a bit shaky about. I love that the ending is so personal you don't doubt it and yet large enough to encompass all of us.

Roberta S said...

Thank you for that comment, Pauline. The all-encompassing theory works for me. And now that you mention it, it would seem that the reigning and arrogant attitude of camp instructors about unproved principles is what led me to contemplate the Parable of the Shavings on the floor.

joared said...

I think you are quite correct that many children are especially impacted and emotionally sensitive to experiences adults presume to be
beyond their understanding. In fact, they may be very insightful and open to the unknown. I think you described your personal experience very well.

Roberta S said...

You are so right, joared. Adults so often fail to realize that for some things kids have their own context to form an understanding, and so the cloning is imperfect -- often in ways, they could not hope to realize, or even understand.

Thank you for acknowledging a particularly astute understanding.