On Wednesday morning, Todd went to see Sheila at her alterations shop. I’ve changed Sheila’s name but she’s a real person, a country woman with steel strong hands from years of wrestling difficult zippers and forcing sharp needles through tough upholstery fabrics.
Sheila’s the lady Todd goes to whenever he needs his trousers hemmed or a jacket taken in or has other mending needs that his sewing-proficient partner in life could do if she a) found the projects more interesting or b) wasn’t frightened by knits.
When Todd brought her his ripped cycling pants Wednesday morning, she was watching the news as she worked, shaking her head about the terrible events in Brussels. “It’s the Muslims again,” she said, taking his pants in hand. “Kill, kill, kill, kill. It’s what they do. It’s in their Quran, you know.”
Sheila is a Christian and freely talks about it. “But Sheila,” Todd said, “most Muslims are peaceful. I have friends who are Muslim. They’re not like that.”
“Sorry, but they’re exactly like that,” Sheila said. “They’re just hiding it. Look, I’ll show you.” She pulled a Quaran from a stack of books behind a sewing machine. “See that yellow?” she said, flipping pages to show the highlighting, “that’s all the killing verses.”
“But don’t you think we could do the same thing with our Old Testament?” Todd said. “There’s plenty of killing and destruction there. But it’s not the central message, is it?”
“Well, there’s only one solution as I see it, and that’s that we get rid of them before they get rid of us.” She looked up at the television and nodded at a certain presidential candidate who was being interviewed. “He’s the only one who’ll save us. He’s one of us, a believer. He might not know all the words- he can’t help if he wasn’t raised in a Bible believing church or not- but he says he loves Jesus and I believe him, and one thing that’s clear: the man understands power. That’s what we need. Power and somebody who isn’t pussyfooting around, trying to sound politically correct all the time. We need Jesus and we need power. Put them together and we have a chance at surviving.”
It’s clear that Todd’s cycling pants aren’t the only thing she’s trying to alter.
I realize of course that terrorism isn’t something we can love away, that it takes not only careful thought but serious action. But after tonight’s Good Friday service at church, I can’t help but bristle (or get physically sick) at Sheila’s coupling of Jesus Christ with a hunger for power.
Tonight we heard the stories of Jesus praying in the garden, of Judas betraying him, of Peter’s disowning him, of the guards mocking him, of the crown of thorns and the cross. Of Jesus telling Peter to put the sword away.
We were invited, if we felt led, to go forward and place our hands or heads on a cross that had been set prone on the floor of our chapel, to pray prayers of confession or thanksgiving.
I could not do it. I prayed from my pew. After a week swirling and brewing with more emotion than I could handle, I knew that if I laid my forehead on that cross, I would not be able to hold it in.
I had been altered.
I had been altered not by power but by the all-powerful love of God expressed in the meekness and humility of people I dearly loved and people I had never met.
By a mother and father who so loved their new son that they dared to ask us to walk beside them in an uncertain journey.
By a community brokenhearted by the murder of a much-loved police officer, some of whom were willing to reach out with messages of sorrow for the family of the killer as well.
By a father weeping in my office because he could identify with a child in pain in our congregation.
By a two year old smoothing lotion on the feet of her grandmother as she struggles with cancer, saying Iwanttohelp, Iwanttohelp.
By a parent refusing his pain medication after a recent surgery so that he could attend a meeting to show support for a family he loved.
By a friend who lost recently lost the love of her life who is bravely trusting God and letting other know that she needs help.
I’m so thankful for these people in my life, for the way they wrestle with and mend my corner of the world. The fabric is tough and the needles sharp, but I see them work the way Jesus did, prayerfully, courageously, putting others before themselves, altering those around them. May we all live into that kind of love!