When Mama Was Born Again

(For the prompt “Hope” and in honor of Mother’s Day.)

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Shirley pulled back her light brown hair and laced up her boots. Her new-found dog whined and paced on the little porch.

“I’m a’coming, Sport,” she said.

They set out together on the one lane dirt road to go see brother Bill, who recently bought a piece of land further down Sprouse.

She noticed everything as she walked to reach the road. She was made that way. She knew the names of every tree and remembered each flower and bird as she looked it up in a book or asked someone.

This was a good bit of earth. Hadn’t she told Dave that when they first saw it?
“Your crazy if you don’t buy this piece.” she had said.

And so he did. He bought it for the both of them. Neither one had ever had a place of their own and now they did. Shirley turned to look back as she neared the road. Her land.

She had hoped it would satisfy her hunger and fill that craving she had always known. But it had not. Her uprootedness and homelessness was over, yes, but nothing had really changed.

The deep loneliness was still there. Even with Dave. Oh, yes, she thought for sure getting married would be the thing… that would bring the fullness. But again, her hope was misplaced. Dave was a good husband, but nothing had really changed. Well, she had stopped biting her fingernails, but inside she was the same.

Sport followed close behind. She reached back and patted the brown, smooth head.

So, here I am. Shirley thought. 25 years old: a land owner, well employed, happily married. And empty as can be.

She stepped out onto the road. It was straight and narrow. She breathed in sharp to see the light coming through the trees. Oh, how beautiful, Sport.

For the last few months her craving had grown almost unbearable. She needed something she didn’t have. Something just ahead and beyond her reach. So she started reading the Bible. Then she went to the church- the little white church, with the arched windows and hardwood floor that slanted downwards (towards the pulpit) and there she heard the Gospel, again and again, week after week.

She had been overwhelmed… everything she was reading and hearing, meeting inside with every experience of Christianity and every Christian she had ever known…. and these things wrestled or rested or just waited for some clarity. What was the deal with the commandments? How come some Christians don’t live that way? You mean our bodies are actually going to rise again? You think God cares about every little thing? He sees me all the time? How could he forgive my sin? Why would he do that? And over and over again.

A cardinal flew by low and Shirley laughed in delight.

“Did you see that, girl?” she asked the mutt.

As her eyes settled back on the road, she wondered- Now, why was I going to see Bill?

She couldn’t remember. Maybe there was no reason.

Maybe there’s a loving God.  It was painful in it’s pressing.

Yes. She knew it to be true.

But was it a question or a demand?

Standing there on the road, Shirley’s heart broke right open.

Was it while she was looking at the bird? Or was it last Sunday in church? She would never know, at least in this life, for sure. But here on the dirt road surrounded by trees, she confessed and opened her mouth for all to hear. She sang:
“I have decided to follow Jesus
I have decided to follow Jesus
I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back, no turning back
Though none go with me, still I will follow
Though none go with me, still I will follow
Though none go with me, still I will follow
No turning back, no turning back.”

Never were those words sung in such truth and earnestness as they were that day, by my mother.

Everything she had ever hoped in had failed her. But no more. No more would she feel that God-shaped hole, churning and craving a fulfillment. No more would she cry out with no one to hear or despair in life or death.

She is still on that road. No, she hasn’t turned back.

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