Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Outbreak (04/07/11)
TITLE: The Words of Two Fathers
By Debbie Roome
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It’s what you deserve, Cassie. My father’s words echo from the grave. Look at you - no ambition, no brains, nothing to look at.
I haul myself off the couch and peer into a mirror. My skin is sallow, eyes bloodshot and dark hair hangs in oily strings. I look a decade older than my thirty years and I know Dad was right.
You’ll never make it in this world, he said. You need personality and drive to succeed. You’ll end up as a waitress in some greasy cafe.
Six out of seven days a week, I drag myself to the Hazy-Star Diner. My uniform is black, the lighting is dim and customers are sleaze-balls. Insults flow freely and hands grope and touch as I serve fatty steaks and cholesterol-laden fries.
Don’t even waste your time applying for college, Dad said. The day you leave high school, you’re out of here and on your own.
I still had dreams at that stage. I wanted to be a photographer who covered top news stories and flew around the world. I wanted to capture emotion through a lens and create colour and drama with my pictures. I wanted to produce photographs that brought joy into people’s hearts. But now the colour has drained from my life, drop by painful drop, leaving me with the dark shadows of reality.
I slump down on a chair and wonder if I should go to church. I’ve been several times recently and feel welcome there. A sigh eases out. It’s so much effort to go out ... and yet ... The thought of the hot lunch they serve afterwards prods me into action. After a quick shower, I drag a comb through wet hair and apply a slash of lipstick.
The service has started and the pastor is preaching when I get there. I listen half-heartedly to the Bible verses. My dad was religious and used to attend church every Sunday. That was one of the reasons I never went near a church until six months ago. This one is different to his, though. The people are relaxed and kind, and sometimes, just for a moment, I catch a glimpse of hope.
Worthless, that’s what you are. You’ll never marry, never have children, never have a career. I don’t know why God gave us a child like you. You certainly didn’t inherit anything from my gene pool.
I’m sunk in a pit of memories when the pastor’s words penetrate the fog of pain. “God has plans for you. Plans to prosper you and give you a hope for your future. Some of you had dreams when you were younger and you’ve lost them along the way. God wants to give them back to you today. You are unique, made in His image. His word says that he knit you together in your mother’s womb, that you are fearfully and wonderfully made.”
I leave after a bowl of beef soup laden with vegetables and served with buttered rolls. It warmed my body as the sermon warmed my soul. On the way home I pray – the first time I’ve spoken to God in years. “Is all that stuff true, God? Do You really have a plan for me?”
It’s midnight when I awake and pad over to the window. Sounds ricochet from the street but my attention is drawn to the building opposite. I’ve never noticed before that someone has placed a cross in one of the windows. It glows golden warm, radiating light into the darkness. As I gaze across at it, something ruptures in my soul. The pain and confusion and rejection and hopelessness of the last three decades burst out as I fall to my knees and sob. “It’s not true is it God? I’m not worthless, I’m not stupid, I’m not ugly.” The outbreak of emotion is cathartic and as sorrow streams, an incredible sense of joy and hope and acceptance well up. I feel free for the first time in my life and revel in it.
Much later, as I snuggle into bed, I realize I have the words of a different Father filling my mind ... You are fearfully and wonderfully made, Cassie. I have hopes and plans for your future.
A smile crosses my lip as I relax into the arms of a loving Father.
Sermon based on Psalm 139 and Jeremiah 29.
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