I Was a Heathen

          That morning my mother signed the church school permission slip and left it on the kitchen table. I grabbed it and dashed out the door and down two flights of stairs. I was glad the walk to my elementary school was only two blocks. It was freezing!


             I was nervous about going to church school that afternoon. David Haskle’s daddy was the church pastor. They lived two houses down from the corner grocery where I traded bottles for candy.  David told me because I didn’t go to church I was a heathen. He was the only person I knew who smiled while he insulted you yet you still liked him anyway.  


         At one o’clock the class lined up by rows for church school. Ever since Kindergarten I was near the end of the line because my last name was Wilcox. This year in fifth grade I didn’t mind being at the rear since Jimmy Wilson was behind me and made me laugh. In class he would slowly rise like a helicopter out of his seat twirling a ruler on a pencil above his head.


          In line he did hilarious things as soon as the teacher disappeared around the far corner down the hallway. He had us all giggling but I told him he better stop because Miss Terwilliger had excellent hearing and eyes in the back of her head.


            The frosty wind made me hug my parka when we exited the school building. I was glad I had on leggings when it blew the bottom of my dress up. The class traipsed quietly over the blacktop playground toward the church like they were going to a funeral. When we got closer I suddenly remembered my friend Jill and I had tried smoking a cigarette behind this church. Remembering this as I descended the steps into the church basement I lowered my head. I realized David Haskle was right; I was a heathen.


            Reverend Haskle came out on the stage and started telling the Christmas story. He kept pushing up his thick glasses on his long nose. His low voice made me crane my neck to hear every word. Being the shortest kid in class I was having trouble seeing around the wiggly heads from the back row.


            When the pastor started sticking scenery and colorful paper characters on a large flannel graph board I perked up. I was amazed how the palm trees, Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus didn’t fall off the board and unto the floor. He was speaking much louder now and the board was practically full. I was disappointed when the Bible story ended.

            I wondered what happened to baby Jesus when the star, the manger, the shepherds and the wise men were all put back into the pastor's shoebox.


           After Christmas break Rev. Haskle told stories of Jesus as a man until the Thursday before Good Friday. He used colorful artist’s prints on an easel. One picture was of a twelve year old Jesus talking with several older men in the temple. At first I thought Jesus had talked back to his parents when he said to them, “Didn’t you know I would be about my Father’s business?” I wondered if Jesus got punished when he got back home in Nazareth. However, Rev. Haskle explained that Jesus never sinned.


            After the ten weeks of church school were over I missed hearing about Jesus. Every time the pastor had said Jesus my ears perked up. Something was beginning to stir deep in my heart. I didn't know what it was. All I knew was that hearing about Jesus made me feel happy and curious to hear more.


Has Jesus ever knocked or stirred at your heart's door? 

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