Continue and dive into this story, Renewing Hope. Friend, embrace hope in this hard season.
God is not done with any of our stories.
Look up at Him and refuse to glance at the ground!
Enjoy meeting a new character, whose sense of humor is endearing! Let yourself be immersed in the simplicity of this story. In it you may notice parts of yourself, you’ve never seen before.
“Hope, ten minutes until church! Be ready!”
What? My head jolted up. I rubbed my eyes open. Church? Where are we going this time? Sitting up, groaning, and attempting to rub my stiff neck, I crawled out from beneath my blanket.
The drawing on my desk seemed to taunt me. Dad. I gulped against the tears that threatened to spill from my eyes and clog my throat. There would be no crying!
I stumbled to my closet and reached for my favorite yellow sundress. Why Mom made me attend church, I’d never know.
What was faith? My confidence in God had practically turned into ashes after my parents divorced. My normal had become crying in the bathroom and avoiding all conversations about the other kid’s fantastic dads; believing in a faithful, loving God seemed ridiculous. With bitter and sorrowful tears, I had decided long ago that if ruining my life was God’s way of expressing His love for me, I wanted no part of it.
I applied makeup, surveyed myself in the mirror, and nodded. I’m doing great.
“Hope! We’re going to be late!” Mom called in a worried voice.
My thoughts skidded to a halt. “I’m coming!” Spying a pair of white heels, I snatched them up…and my purse.
Mom met me at the front door.
Mom’s hair was curled, and it lay in cascading waves down her shoulders. She wore a black skirt with a pale pink blouse and heels.
She looks pretty. I wish I looked more like her.
“You don’t even have your shoes on yet?” Mom asked, not uttering a word about last night and how I had stormed from the table.
My eyes drew to the frown creasing Mom’s forehead. She must have thought me childish.
“What? Oh that.” I glanced down at my toes, and looked back at her. Warmth climbed up my neck. “I just woke up, when you called me.”
“Oh. Sorry. I thought you would have been awake.”
Why would she think that? I frowned. “Well, it’s not like church is something I look forward to.” And I don’t plan on it.
Sadness crept into Mom’s eyes. “Well, let’s get going. We don’t want to be any later than we already are.”
My gaze dropped to the ground. I didn’t miss the slight rasp in her voice.
The car ride to church was silent. As Mom drove I glanced at her unreadable profile. The urge to apologize arose, but I couldn’t find the words. Guilt from my lack of respect burned in my chest and I pressed my cheek against the passenger window.
Mom turned into the church parking lot, packed with cars. “We’re here.” A smile brightened her face.
Yay. I tried not to frown. Our car stopped.
As we approached the building, I stared. It was beautiful (despite being a “church”). Bursts of color glowed from the stained glass windows, and it seemed to brighten the white brick structure. It looked like something out of a book.
“Are you coming?” Mom looked back at me from a couple feet ahead.
Oh. I quickened my pace. “Sorry, I was distracted.”
She gave a pointed look at the building. “Pretty, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, it’s like a painting.”
Mom nodded as we came to the church’s front doors. She opened one with a creak, and held it for me.
I hope the pastor isn’t praying or anything. That is the worst time to come in. Experience gave me this wisdom.
We walked down the hallway- Mom with purposeful, confident strides. How does Mom know where to go? Has she been here before? We stopped at an open doorway.
Great. In front of me there were people standing with their heads bowed. A loud voice came from the front, obviously praying. I clenched my teeth together.
Mom grabbed my hand and dragged me into the room.
She could wait until they are done praying!
To my horror she went to the front row; ironically two seats begged us to occupy them. After arguing with hand gestures and head shaking, I was forced to go in first. I had to stand next to a stranger.
This is just great. I put my purse on the ground with a little bit of noise. Who cared if I drew attention.
As I glanced to the right, my gaze was drawn to the person next to me–a boy. To my surprise, he was young and cute. He had blonde hair with a slight curl to it, and he was even taller than me. Since his eyes were closed, I couldn’t see their color. But I imagined them to be blue. A sparkling blue.
Suddenly his eyes opened. Oh great. Rich brown eyes collided with mine, seeming to peer into my heart and mind at the same time. They drew me in.
He gave me an amused smile, like he wanted to laugh. Then, he winked and closed his eyes again.
My gaze directed itself elsewhere. Hope, you are so dumb. Why were you staring at him? It’s not like you haven’t seen a boy before! They weren’t from Mars, despite what people claimed.
When the long prayer ended, I stiffened. Mom peered at me, but I refused to look her way. Disappearing sounded nice.
I could feel the boy’s eyes on me, and looked straight ahead. Just don’t look at him.
The worship team came on stage, and everyone stood up. I mouthed the words to Blessed Be Your name. The next thing I knew, the pastor was back on stage.
“The title of the sermon for today is Forgiveness,” proclaimed the Pastor.
The pastor looked over the congregation. “Isn’t forgiving people hard? I mean somebody wrongs you in some way and you are expected to forgive them? What? That doesn’t make sense.”
My thoughts exactly.
“But God forgives us all the time and we don’t deserve it. So, why shouldn’t we forgive others?”
My hands fidgeted in my lap. Why does he have to go ahead and say that? Forgiveness–it seemed crazy…Why couldn’t the sermon be about patience or something?
The pastor bowed his head and said,“Let’s pray.”
“Okay. So, if you’ll turn with me to Matthew 6:14-15 we’ll look at this more…”
The sound of pages turning filled the room. The boy next to me quickly flipped through the chapters of Matthew. Sunlight warmed my back as it streamed in through the tall windows.
“Matthew 6, verses 14 and 15: For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” He looked up, “Do you see what this is saying? If we don’t forgive others then God won’t forgive us. It’s simple. Hard to do, but simple…”
He kept talking, but I blocked him out. This wasn’t for me. Dad didn’t count.
Before I knew it, the service was over. Yes! I almost did a fist pump right there in church. Now I can get out of here.
I turned to Mom, but she blocked my path. She was talking to a redheaded woman.
Brushing a lock of hair behind my ear, I wondered about the woman. Who is she and how does she know Mom? Mom must have come here before. I sighed. And I suppose I’m going to have to meet her friend…
“What is the sigh for?” A deep voice asked.
Ah! I turned around, coming face to face with him– the guy who’d caught me gawking at him.
Even though he wasn’t rude or forward, I answered back curtly, “Excuse me?”
My hands almost went to my hips, but I dropped them back down to my sides. He was a complete stranger; why would he want to talk to me?
His eyes widened. He tried to clear his throat, attempting a smile. “I said, ‘What is the sigh for’?”
I noted his nice clothes—dress pants and tie.
“What if I don’t want to tell you? You’re a stranger. I don’t know you.”
“Oh well, let me introduce myself.” He offered me his hand, “I’m Stephen Crane. What is your name, my lady?” He arched his eyebrows and tried a bow.
My lady? I frowned. “Um.”
The smile left Stephen’s face, replaced with a look of embarrassment. He shuffled his feet. “Sorry, I was trying to be charming. It came across as really weird didn’t it?”
“Yes. It did.” I almost wanted to smile at his discomfort. Almost.
He glanced down at his shoes. “Sorry.”
He looked up, seeming to notice someone motioning towards him. He focused on me. “Well, bye. It was nice to, almost, meet you.” He gave me an awkward grin, and hurried away.
I stared after him. What just happened?
[The rest of Chapter 2 will be continued]
What do you think of this story? Did it make you laugh or smile…just a little?
How are you embracing hope in this season?
Keep pressing forward. God holds you SO close.