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A Change of Heart
“That charlatan church session is starting up again!! I don’t understand why they can’t close down that place!!”, Mary Jones said angrily to her husband, Rev. John Jones.
“Just the devil’s people! Blaspheming God and trying to belittle his power! Soon God will strike them down and reveal them all!!” Rev. John Jones said to his wife, shaking his fist in the air in a gesture of self -righteousness.
Zarah Dovell watched her parents in the living room of the house as she climbed the stairs to her bedroom. She entered her room, closed the door and locked it. She gave a deep sigh as she crossed the room to the French doors that led out to a small balcony that faced the back yard and gave her a view of the small church on the corner that her parents were complaining about. The early evening sky was a picture of Nature’s perfection as she took a seat in a chair on the balcony. She smiled as she could hear the service beginning at the church. She could even see a part of the pulpit of the church through the long narrow windows on the side of the building. She could see the young minister in the pulpit as he led the congregation in song. He was the antithesis of her father and her brother-in-law, Rev. Mark Preston, who were ministers at one of the largest churches of their denomination in the city. Where her father and brother-in-law wore immaculate custom fitted suits and were always well groomed, the young minister at the little church on the corner, wore blue jeans; tee shirts; sandals; had tattoos on his arms and wore his hair in a ponytail. Yet the little church was filled at every service and even spilled out into the front area of the church. Her father’s church was seldom more than three quarters full even on sacred holidays.
She listened eagerly as the young minister began to speak. This talk was about being one with God. The talk called for acceptance of all peoples as a part of God. Her father called the young minister a voice for the devil, yet she had listened to his sermons long enough to know that the young minister didn’t believe in the devil. Through the opened door of the dining room, she could hear her father’s booming voice.
“God is within!! How dare he tell people that they’re equal to God and God is small enough to fit inside them!! The man should be locked up!”, Rev. Jones screamed to the family sitting with him in the dining room.
“Only deluded people, drug addicts and criminals listen to him,” she heard her brother-in-law, Rev. Preston reply rather pompously. Zarah wondered how her sister, Jennifer, put up with him.
Zarah decided that she wasn’t deluded or a drug addict or a criminal. She never told anyone that she sat on the balcony purposely to listen to the young minister’s messages. Her family could hear the sermons from the small church in the dining room and her father spent the entire time ranting in anger at what was said. She could understand why he had such a huge congregation. He spoke of everyone being God’s children, not just certain chosen people. He told his congregation that God guided them from within themselves and they had only to pray and listen for that guidance. He even told them that God gave them the choice to follow the guidance or choose not to listen to it. He never spoke of God as a punishing God as her father did in his sermons. He spoke of God as a loving Spirit and that everyone was a part of Spirit, an individualization of everything that Spirit is. Listening to him, she had come to peace about the death of her own husband at such a young age. She had married her husband at the age of 20. Marriage at 20 was the last thing that she had wanted to do, but their religious denomination believed in early marriage even in this day and age. Her father had arranged her marriage to James Dovell. James had been a good husband and provider. He had also been a fanatic follower of their religious denomination and as domineering as her father. She had tried to be a good wife, but she had never been able to fall in love with him. She had felt a calling to be more than just a wife. She wouldn’t have minded being a mother because she loved children, but she had felt that there was more for her beyond marriage and motherhood.
James hadn’t particularly cared for modern technology, but his job called for knowledge of it and for him to have a computer at home. Her own job had also called for the use of a computer at home. She had used it as an opportunity to complete her education without the knowledge of James or her family. She had felt both guilty and angry about secretly educating herself, but she knew that James and her family would not have approved. Five years later at the age of twenty-five, she had her degree in sociology, but her marriage was deteriorating. James had wanted children, but even without birth control, she had not become pregnant. Both James and her family had been angry at her. Her sister, Jennifer who was just a year older than her already had three children by age twenty-three. She had been hurt and confused by their anger at her over something over which she had no control. She had felt ashamed, humiliated and worthless as a woman. Then James had died suddenly of a genetic health defect that they hadn’t known about because their religious denomination didn’t really care for doctors.
She had been forced through financial circumstances to move back with her family. Though it seemed the worse thing possible that could have happened to her, it had been the most fortunate thing for her. She had become familiar with the new little church and the young minister through word of mouth from the neighbors, many of whom attended her father’s church. At first, she was skeptical. After all, her father was a fourth-generation minister and he believed fanatically in the word of God as written in the bible. Yet, she had been curious enough to go out on the upper balcony and listen to the young minister’s sermons. His words bothered her at first; they were against everything that she had been taught throughout her entire life. The God that he spoke about was not the same God that she had been taught about her whole life. The God that he talked about had no judgment of people and thus wasn’t a punishing God. His God loved you despite your mistakes. His God didn’t want people to feel ashamed, humiliated or worthless as a person. His God was Love and people were a part of the Love as a part of God.
At first, she had been afraid to believe what the young minister was teaching. When she met him by accident, despite his attire, his eyes were kind and gentle. It was as if he looked clear into her soul.
“The Mother-Father God loves you. Don’t doubt it, embrace it,” he had said to her.
She had been stunned; he had seen her pain. She remembered his words about God’s non-judgement. She decided to continue to listen to his sermons. The more she listened, the more she began to believe his words. She had always prayed so she decided to begin praying the way the he instructed his congregation to do.
The service at the little church ended and she watched as the happily smiling congregation left the church. With a smile, she rose from her seat and re-entered her bedroom. Despite her reservation, her prayers had been answered. She would be starting a new job that would be using her degree and allowing her to work with children. The salary would allow her to move from her family’s house and be fully self-sufficient. Even more, she had decided that she would become a congregant at the little church to listen in person to the words that had raised her consciousness and made her life into a positive experience of goodness and love.