As I was outside watering this morning, preparing my drought-resistant plants for an onslaught of high temperatures for the holiday weekend and beyond, I discovered acorns all over the back yard. As I picked up the acorns and the dog poo of a medium dog and a small dog and some neighborhood cats as well, I had trouble gripping one of the acorns with my tongs.
“Jesus!” I said out loud after three failed attempts. I immediately thought of Pat, a round-faced boy with dark hair and brown eyes.
Twenty years ago, when I was the teacher helper one Sunday in the 1st grade room, the head teacher told me that I needed to go around to the kids, one at a time, and to ask them to accept Jesus Christ into their heart as their personal lord and savior.
This was way above my pay grade. I only helped at Sunday school because I got wrangled into it. I could pass out crayons and sing songs and do puzzles of baby Jesus, but not this. This was big. This was scary.
My own daughter was off with a group of kids having fun, so I approached a boy sitting alone at a table, minding his own business as he glued popsicle sticks into the shape of a cross onto a piece of paper.
His nametag said Pat.
“Pat,” I said,” I have something to ask you.”
Pat didn’t look up as he wiped the extra glue from his cross.
I took a big breath and then forced out the question. “Will you accept Jesus Christ into your heart as your personal lord and savior?”
“Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!” Pat shouted. “Is that all anybody can talk about around here?”
After my initial shock, I broke into a belly laugh, so surprised to hear it in a church.
I let Pat go back to his art project and wandered away to find my next victim. Now, two decades later, I think of Pat every time I say the Lord’s name in vain.
Another observation I have made over the years is this. The rest of my family that day sat through the sermon in the big sanctuary, the very place that I wanted to be. Those three are not believers today, so the irony stings a bit.
I thought I needed those weekly sermons. That’s why I was willing to help in the classroom once a month. What I really needed was the music, the hymns sung before, during, and after the service.
I’ve since found my music in a large chorus run by a Christian woman. I no longer go to church, because — too many reasons to go into here. Let’s just say my priorities shifted once the family grew up and the divorce happened.
Whenever I yell out “Jesus,” and believe me, I’ve done it a lot this year, I often think of brown-eyed Pat and how he told me where to stuff it that Sunday morning back in 2000.