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Sunday, October 21, 2018

9: Always the Thorn?

 “Now flee from youthful lusts
and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace,
with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart”
(2 Timothy 2:22) 

            “Is it an insult?”  Until now, Jasmine had forgotten the surprising whisper.  “It is, My Child.”  “Why?” she asked.  “Centuries of misunderstanding.”  Sitting on her bed after the Sunday school lesson when Abraham stood up to God, eleven year old Jasmine wondered what it meant that Mr. C thought she was “just like Eve.”  To herself, she thought, she asked if the comparison was an insult.  At that time, she should not have been too surprised.  In childhood, whispers of mystery came to her from time to time, but by the time she was eleven, they were quite rare, and by her teens, they had disappeared completely.  In adulthood, Jasmine could think of only one: when a whisper nudged her out of her position as a high school English and drama teacher.  It wasn’t until then that Jasmine even remembered she had received any such whispers in childhood.  Now, she had merely a faint memory that they had come, but she couldn’t recall more than one or two, nor was she sure whether any were to be trusted.  Mysteriously, the memory of this one had just suddenly returned.
            When she had received the whisper as an eleven year old, the only part Jasmine took seriously was the affirmation of the insult. Much of Jasmine’s fifth grade year was a battle between the numerous questions overtaking her mind and her commitment to prove the insult wrong.  Today, Jasmine muddled over the “centuries of misunderstanding” part.  At eleven, Jasmine wished to disprove the comparison.  Now, at thirty-one, she wondered whether she should disprove the insult itself.
Racing through Jasmine’s head now was Head Elder John Prager’s “prayer.”  It sounded so biblical, but felt so wrong, and repeated in her mind like an ad jingle refusing to go away.
“Our Father in Heaven, thank You for bringing this young lady to us.
We pray You will forgive her.  In the Name of Your Son, cleanse her heart, purify her mind, transform her by the renewing of her mind, and help her to flee youthful lusts.  Thank You for your great mercy upon this repentant sinner, Lord.  Amen.”
The biblical references were clear: “cleanse her heart,” “transform her by the renewing of her mind,” flee youthful lusts.”  One at a time, she entered each of them into her Bible reference software.  Psalm 51:10 popped up: “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”  Jasmine prayed the verse, repeated it, and prayed it again.  Next, the program presented Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  Jasmine prayed and repeated that one too, and sighed.  Hadn’t she already been trying to do that? 
The complete verse for the next reference stopped her in her tracks: “Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).  Jasmine stared at the scripture, astonished.  Could the full verse really say that?  Jasmine had heard the first part of 2 Timothy 2:22 many times, but she didn’t know the scripture had a second part.  Shaking her head, stunned, she pulled out her own Bible, looked it up, and confirmed the full verse said exactly that.  Nothing could describe better what she had been trying to do than “flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness . . . with those who call on the Lord with a pure heart.” 
            The elder’s order was the opposite.  It forbid contact between those who call on the Lord with a pure heart.  Jasmine wondered whether the elders had ever seen the full verse.  Were they, like her, only familiar with the first part?  Or, if they did know the full version, did they think she and Davie were not calling on the Lord with a pure heart?  They must not have, she reasoned, as they had ordered no contact between them, the opposite of the scripture’s command.
Then the elder’s final words to her also re-emerged: “Women.  Always the thorn.  Always the tempters.”  Always.  Jasmine’s heart stopped with the revelation: the church elders trusted Davie was calling on the Lord with a pure heart, but they did not trust the she was.  They had not paused to hear her story.  They had asked no questions.  They had never fact checked their assumptions.
“Always.”  Definitively black and white.  Eve.  Also definitively black and white.  Or, more to the point, black.  But why?  The elders were not alone in seeing Eve as black.  Even her beloved teacher, Mr. C., had perceived Eve as black.  She liked him so much that it pierced her heart and troubled her deeply when she let him down, which, given her persistent questions, was often.  Still, Jasmine reflected, she had had the courage to ask Mr. Casey her questions.  If her question was pressing upon her too doggedly, she asked him in spite of his likely reproach.  And she was only eleven.  What happened?  Where had her courage gone?  Why was she now such a wimp that she lacked the courage to ask the elder her questions.  The list was growing:  Does a beer do anything to tempt a guy?  Did the elders know the second part of 2 Tim 2:22?  If so, why not find out if she’s living it?  Do they not wish to hear her story? 
Then, of course, she still had her biblical questions.  Even now, two decades later, Jasmine still wanted to know why Noah let God drown the world, why God commanded Joshua to commit genocide, and why God would harden a king’s heart and then punish the king’s people for what was between the king and God.  And now, she added another truly personal question: Who, really, is Eve?  What does it mean to be just like her?
Suddenly the second whisper of mystery of Jasmine’s adulthood’s arrived: Find out.   What was that?  Find out.  Who is Eve?  What does it mean to be just like Eve?  Search out your questions, and I’ll guide you.”  
 © 2018 by karina.  All rights reserved.  Please use with permission or a citation that links to this blog.
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