|General Fiction posted March 15, 2023||Chapters:||-1- 2...|
1,930 words. Part 1, That Awful Day ~ Part 2, School
A chapter in the book Describing Jesus
Describing Jesus ~ A novella
Religious persecution starts at an early age. It creeps into our classrooms through parents who have chosen not to believe there is a God, and their views are taught to their children.
Part~1 That Awful Day.
Saturday, March 13th. The slow, steady rain falls on a small group gathered at Oaklawn Cemetery. They are laying to rest Doug Noble, a beloved husband to Diane and a dedicated father to ten-year-old Sean. His sudden death of a heart attack at age thirty-three shocked the small community of Lavina, Tennessee.
Under the large black umbrella, Sean looks at his mother. She has this glazed look, and he wonders what she's thinking. Sean slowly slides his hand into hers and, with a gentle squeeze, says, "I love you, Mom."
For the first time in days, she smiles at Sean and then replies, "Love you, too."
Sean has made sure to notice everything he can today. It's one of the lessons taught by his Father, watch the eyes and know the person. He's seen the grief in Grandma's eyes after losing her husband at sixty and then her son in his early thirties. Sean has seen the hurt on all the faces today and heard several people say, "It was too soon for Doug. He had so much life ahead of him."
Now, it's late afternoon, and all the people who brought food finally left. Sean had never seen so many casseroles, and he knew his Dad would've had a field day. He loved one-pot cooking and was the self-professed master of the Frittata.
Sean's mind is full of mixed emotions while walking into his room and closing the door behind him. They range from anger to grief. He has this sense that his Father is still here somehow, even though Mom says he's in heaven, but the Pastor says he's asleep in his grave until Jesus returns. Sean wonders who's right.
He glances at last year's Christmas picture with the family acting silly in front of the tree, which will be the last one with his Dad. He always made Christmas special. Suddenly, the flood of tears returns, and Sean falls onto his bed, grabs his pillow, and buries his face.
Gentle fingers begin to stroke Sean's brown hair, and there's a warmth of love in his room. He sees that his Luke Skywalker pillow is no longer under him but a thick white cloth with blue trim. Sean slowly raises his head to see a man sitting on his bed, dressed in that white robe with that blue trim on the edges. His brown hair and beard have streaks of gray, and he has a gentle smile that glows, and the man's big brown eyes shine brightly.
Sean asks, "Who are you?"
"A loving friend who heard your cry. I know your questions, and they all start with why," The man sighs and then continues. "There are many mysteries in life, and only My Father knows the answer. You have no idea how much He loves you, Sean?"
"Yes, your Father and My Father. It's also a love that never stops, even after death."
"Will my Mom be okay?"
"Yes, but it will take time. She'll need you to be her strength. Would you give a message to your Mother for Me?"
"Tell your mother it wasn't her fault. It was just Doug's time. Her guilt won't bring him back, and she needs to quit blaming herself."
Sean briefly studies the man and asks, "What's your name?"
The man smiles and replies, "I answer to many names, but most of the world knows Me as Jesus."
"I knew it," Sean's tears return. "You came from heaven to see me. Oh, thank you, Lord." He falls weeping into Jesus' arms again.
"Sean, remember that I will always be with you."
He catches a sob and slowly opens his eyes. He's clutching his Star Wars pillow again and says, "It was too real not to be true, and I need to tell Mom."
Aunt Mary smiles at Sean when he walks into the living room and says, "Hi, sweetie." Auntie is dressed in jeans and a green tee shirt with her red hair pulled back.
"Hi, I need to talk to Mom."
"Sure, she's right there on the couch. I'll be in the kitchen."
Sean climbs beside her on the couch, and there's that glazed look again. He says, "Mom, I had a visitor to my room."
"That's nice, honey," but she never takes her eyes from the flatscreen. Her dark green eyes look so sad, and there are lines on her pretty face Sean has never seen before. Mom is watching her favorite movie, Sleepless in Seattle, but I don't think she sees it.
"Mom, Jesus came to my room."
She blinks her eyes, then turns towards him, asking, "What did you say, Sean?"
"I said that Jesus came to see me. He wants me to give you a message. He said it was Dad's time to go, and you should stop blaming yourself. Your guilt won't bring Dad back."
Her lower lip quivers when she asks, "Who said that, Sean?"
A red curl falls over her face, and she looks deep into his eyes, then asks, "How could anybody know that? I've never mentioned it to anyone, but it's eating me alive."
"Let it go, Mom."
"I don't think I can, Sean."
"Jesus also said that He will always be with us," Sean wraps his arms around her neck, and she wraps her arms around him. He can feel the Lord's love engulf them both.
Monday, March 15th. Since Sean was out of school the previous week for the funeral, Mom thought he should go back today. He's bouncing along on the bus while the other kids scream about the past weekend. Nobody seems to notice Sean sitting in his usual spot, which is fine by him.
He's seen our bus driver, Crazy Charlie, sneaking a peek at him. When Sean got on the bus this morning, he shook his hand and said he was praying for his family. Sean couldn't help but smile and thank him. It's incredible to think about the people who secretly care for others. Maybe, a bunch of people have prayed for his family.
Nobody noticed Sean much walking into his homeroom but Miss Carol. She saw him putting my backpack under his seat, then walked over with a pleasant smile and asked, "How are you feeling, Sean?"
"I'm fine, Miss Carol."
"If you need to talk about what happened, I'm here. Don't forget Miss Crystal in Guidance. Her door is always open."
"Thank you, ma'am."
Sean thinks, will this day ever end? It felt like an eternity until lunchtime, and it was finally the last snack break before packing up to go home. Most of the kids have been quiet around him, and he understands. What do you say to someone who lost their Dad?
Tiny was the first to break the silence. His nickname is not because he's tiny, just the opposite. He's a foot taller and outweighs Sean by a hundred pounds. His scraggly brown hair and green eyes always make him want to laugh, but he doesn't dare.
Tiny takes a bite of his chocolate-covered cereal bar and says, "It's a shame your Dad is rotting in that cemetery. He was a nice guy."
"Thank you, I think, but my Dad will soon be in heaven with Jesus."
"Oh, we have one of those Jesus lovers, and I suppose you know Him personally?"
"Yes, I do. Jesus came to visit me the other day," Sean's heart fell to the floor when he said it, even though it was true.
"Get this guy's," Tiny turns to the rest of the class. "Sean says that Jesus came to visit him." The class bursts into laughter. "Don't you know, there ain't no God? It's a crutch for gullible people like you to get through life dreaming. What an idiot!"
"That's your opinion, Tiny."
"No, it's the truth," bits of cereal bar spray out. "My Dad said so. If Jesus was in your room, describe Him, or was He an invisible angel?" Tiny's grating remark got the class snickering.
"He was a man dressed in a white robe with blue trim. He had long hair, a beard, big brown eyes, and was very real. He even hugged me."
Tiny almost choked on his chocolate milk, then cracked up laughing. "Ah, Sean got a hug from Jesus. That's so sweet. You're insane, Sean! I can't wait to tell the whole school."
Sean can hear the names he'll be called tomorrow; Jesus freak, wierdo, idiot, stupid Christian. He's seen them assault others with those names for stating their faith, and he just joined the list.
Laughter filled the room until Miss Carol popped her head in the door, and there was complete silence. With her sinister smile, she says, "I seem to have a class that's forgotten rules when I'm away for a moment. Since it's just twenty minutes until dismissal, the whole class will write fifty times; I will be quiet when the teacher is out of the room! No one gets dismissed until they do. Please don't miss the bus. Tiny, I want to talk to you when you finish since I heard your loudmouth over everyone at the end of the hall!"
The rest of the class moans and groans while Sean starts his tenth line.
At four o'clock that afternoon, Principal Donavon Wiley hangs the phone up from the fifth parent that's called to ask what kind of school he's running and how they can let that boy say he's met, Jesus. Many think it's blasphemy, and that kind of religion shouldn't be allowed in schools. Mr. Wiley rises from behind his mahogany desk, straightens his impeccable tan coat and matching tie, then steps into the hall and asks, "Miss Alison can you bring me the file on Sean Noble?"
"Yes, sir, right away." She turns to the cabinets, wondering why he wants Sean's file. Allison has known Diane since college, and Doug's death was a blow for all. She made sure to hug Diane and Sean before leaving the funeral Saturday. Allison straightens her dark brown hair before walking into his office, saying, "Here you go, Mr. Wiley."
"Thank you. What do you know about Sean?"
"I know he's a good kid, but he's going through a tough time."
"In what way, Miss Allison?"
"They buried his father the other day, and I was at the funeral."
"Yes, I remember now. Mr. Noble had a sudden heart attack, which might explain it."
"Explain what, Mr. Wiley?"
"Sean's sudden radicalism."
"Sean is the least radical child I know. He's a sweet, loving, and polite young man that's a joy to be around. What's this all about?"
"Your wonderful young man is spreading a rumor that he met Jesus. We can't have that kind of religious jargon spreading throughout the school. Talk like that will bring the State, ACLU, and too many other organizations down on our heads. I think he needs to see the school psychiatrist."
"Mr. Wiley, I know it's your first year as a principal. But this is just a crazy rumor one of Sean's classmates started, and it will disappear by tomorrow."
"It might, but we must be sure before letting him back into class. I'll call Miss Crystal and set it up through her, and he's to report to her office until further notice."
"But Mr. Wiley..."
He looks at her sternly, then says, "There is nothing else to discuss, Miss Allison."
"Yes, sir," Allison storms out of his office with a huff.
I was a Janitor at an elementary school for the last six years I worked before retiring, and the kids act differently around us than the teachers. You hear little quips meant for hurt said by students in passing though they would completely deny saying it. The battle lines have been drawn.
I thought it was disturbing to hear an 8-year-old in the third grade say she was an atheist. She hasn't lived enough life to have that view; her parents taught her those views.
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