Mirror Mirror: Chapter 16

By JD Rockel


Chapter Sixteen

Sunday morning was far from ordinary. Knowing things could be a bit unpredictable, Tony got everyone in the van fifteen minutes early and started out to the Weston’s house. Arriving there, Rosa and Ella got out and went to the door. Ella rang the bell and they waited.

And waited.

Rosa took the initiative and called John on the phone.

“Hello,” came the languid answer.

“John? This is Rosa. Are you guys awake?”

“Rosa? Oh no, what time is it? OMG, this could take a minute.”

Rosa left Ella on the porch and returned to the van. “Dad, what time did you tell Mr. Weston we were coming?”

“Oh no. I don’t remember giving him a time at all.”

“You didn’t give them a time?” Renata said with anger in her voice. Liam and the twins began to giggle in the back.

Rosa was indignant. “Well, I just woke John up. What do you think we should do, wait or come back next week?”

Just then, Tony’s phone rang. “Hello? Harold, I’m so sorry I wasn’t clear on the time… Yup, you’re right, I didn’t mention a time at all… Yes, I agree it is early… Really, I’m so sorry. Do you want to try this next week? Uh huh… uh huh… Sure, we can wait… OK, I’m so sorry.”

By now, Ella was back at the van listening in on the call. “So, what’s the story, Dad?”

“I’m so sorry… Uh, Harold says the boys are up and if we wait for them to throw some clothes on they will come with us.”

“Dad, did you give them any idea of what to wear?” Rosa was furious. Uh oh, I’m sorry Lord.

Tony’s anger was rising. “Girls, I know this is very important to you. Having Harold come to church is very important to me too. I really am sorry.” Catching himself, he brought his temper under control and continued with a more subdued voice. “Please wait patiently and we can welcome them when they do come out.”

Rosa spoke first in reply. “You’re right, Dad, we need to be Christ to our friends. I’m sorry about my tone of voice earlier.”

“It is early, and we are all hoping to make a good impression,” Tony offered. “Despite our horrible efforts, God’s grace will see us through. Please pray while you wait.”

Tony had a bad history of temper. When he first met Renata it put a wedge between them more than once. And Renata’s past provided an additional wedge that made civil discourse challenging. Since then, they worked together by reminding each other of the challenges when they arose. Through their mutual desire to serve God, they were able to focus on their one supernatural commonality, Jesus.

Rosa and Ella saw the effort their parents put into growing to be the people God desired them to be. Along with their younger brothers and sister, they saw the progress their parents made. Seeing less anger and hearing fewer arguments made a big impact on all their lives.

Suddenly the front door flew open. Jerry and John ran out. The garage door also opened, and Harold started his car.

Jerry grabbed Ella’s hand and pulled her into the garage. John was a bit more polite, but it was clear they were on a mission as he took Rosa by the hand. “Sorry for the miscommunication Rosa. We really are glad to be going with your family.”

“Dad told me the story of not communicating when we would be arriving. I’m very impressed with how quickly you guys got ready.”

All four squeezed into the back seat of Mr. Weston’s car. It reminded Rosa of her first date with John. Mr. Weston looked in the rear-view mirror and said, “Hang on.”

Tony backed out of the driveway and moved a bit down the road, waiting for Harold. When Harold bolted out of the garage, Tony was shocked and hit the accelerator. Harold stayed on Tony’s tail all through the subdivision. Once they turned onto the main road, Tony moved faster than Rosa had ever seen him drive.

“Woah, this is exciting, I think.” Ella had a bit of terror in her voice. Rosa just felt terror in silence.

Rosa saw Ella turn to look at Jerry. Her eyes went wide, and an ear-to-ear grin appeared on her face. She reached for his shirt. It was buttoned unevenly. She twisted like a pretzel, which was difficult in the cramped seat, and started re-buttoning from the top down. When she got to his pants she paused. Looking up at him she said, “Best I not unzip your pants right now. You can tuck the shirt back in when we get out.” Pulling his shirt out of the pants she completed the fix.

Rosa couldn’t understand how Ella would notice uneven buttons much less be able to fix them under these conditions. She moved her head to look straight ahead out the window while holding tightly to John’s leg.

“Rosa, your hand is turning red,” John announced looking down at Rosa’s hand. Rosa looked at him and their eyes met. She expected he could see the look of terror in her eyes. Looking down at John’s leg, she wondered if she might be bruising it.

When Tony pulled into the church parking lot, traffic attendants directed him off to the right towards the main entrance. Two aisles down and he was directed to the right again. Halfway down the aisles were several open spaces. Tony pulled into the first one and Harold pulled into the next. Everyone piled out.

“That was boss, Dad,” Liam exclaimed.

“You will never drive like that, hear me?” Tony replied.

“Nice driving, Tony,” Harold proffered as he came around the back of the DeLuca’s car and caught up with him. Everyone else remained in stunned silence.

John and Rosa walked hand in hand from the car. Rosa was still a bit shaken, but the warmth and strength of John’s hand calmed her soul. It was another sunny and warm November day.

“That’s a beautiful dress, Rosa.” It was a very light, cream-colored lace dress with a pure white lining. With a modest neckline and mid-length sleeves it came just above the knee. Rosa felt very beautiful indeed with John at her side.

“Thanks, John,” Rosa replied, looking down at the dress move with her legs. “I bought it for a special occasion, and I consider this a special occasion.”

She looked up at him with a soft smile and John smile back at her. John’s brown and tan button-down striped shirt set off his dark brown eyes and hair.

“It is special for me too,” John said in his quiet soothing voice. “Worshiping God with you will be a delightful treat.”

Jerry and Ella walked hand in hand next to them. Jerry’s button-down shirt, which still needed some tucking, was gray with dark brown sleeves, matching his brown wavy hair. Other than his bloodshot eyes, he looked amazing.

“Jerry, you look wasted.”

“I was up way too late.” Jerry reclaimed his hand and tried to tuck his shirt into his pants while they walked. “I lost track of time playing video games.”

“Would some coffee help? I can get you a cup and bring it to where we sit. Just go with the rest of the family.”

“Coffee would be great. You’re great, Ella.”

“I’m glad I can help you, Jerry. You have helped me so many times at school.” She stepped aside next to her mom as they entered the building.

“Mom, I’m getting Jerry a cup of coffee. Meet you all at the usual spot?”

“Sounds good, dear.”

As Ella split off, Renata leaned over to Rosa. “I think your sister is becoming responsible. Makes a mother proud.”

Rosa was happy Ella had Jerry. He seemed to treat Ella with the respect every woman deserves. Rosa knew she would give Jerry a piece of her mind if she ever heard differently. She hoped such a time would never come.

“Tony, I’ll take the twins to their class,” Renata said. “They like to see Johnny when he’s not on praise team.”

Tony led the Westons to the family’s normal seating spot, just right of center in the back of the front section of chairs. They arrived during the video announcements before the start of the service. The young adults chose to sit in the row in front of their parents and Liam. Jerry left the chair open on the aisle for Ella.

Harold left room for Renata on his left. Tony sat to his right. Rosa tried to eves drop on the conversations behind her. Tony said to Harold, “I expect you won’t know the songs we sing. Don’t worry about it. You can sit or stand with us as you wish. Just enjoy the music and watch the words that are projected on the screens.” Perhaps he had said it loud enough on purpose for John and Jerry to hear also.

As with many 21st century churches, Orchard Hill had a great deal of technology. One big video screen hung behind the praise band and two smaller screens were on either side of the stage. The theatrical lighting added to the worship experience but was never showy.

Renata arrived just behind Ella who had two cups of coffee. The worship leader was welcoming everyone to the service. Ella offered the first cup to Mr. Weston. Rosa turned around and saw her mom smile at the delightful surprise on Harold’s face as he accepted the cup. Moving into her own seat, Ella gave the second cup to Jerry.

The congregation was invited to stand, and the lights dimmed. The band began to play. Jerry chose to stand with Ella and fixed his attention on the stage and video screen. Rosa glanced back and saw Mr. Weston was standing also. The first song had a calypso beat and expressed great joy in praising Jesus. It spoke of Him coming to earth from heaven, dying on the cross and finally going back to heaven as the world’s Savior.

The song continued for some time and there was a genuine sense of joy in the auditorium. Most people stood still while singing but some swayed to the beat of the music, and some raised their hands in the air.

When the first song ended, it transitioned smoothly into another one, a bit slower but still very joyful. It spoke of the great separation between God and humanity. A chasm too deep to cross and a mountain too high to climb. Yet it provided hope that by God’s provision the barrier was bridged. The third song was much softer, slower and more reflective. It offered an invitation to surrender one’s life to the love of God through the sacrifice of Jesus.

When the music was done Pastor Andrew came up on stage and began to talk.

“Good morning everyone. What a wonderful time of worship.

“Here’s a quick quiz. What is the most well-known Bible verse in the world? I think you would say it is John 3:16. Well I heard recently that it is Genesis 1:1, ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth’. So not wanting to share any untruth with you, I did a thorough Internet search. What I found were a lot of good and important verses. But Genesis 1:1 was not among them. To my surprise, John 3:16 didn’t even show up on some lists.

“Regardless of how well known it might be, I want to spend some time today looking at John 3:16, ‘For God so loved the world that he sent his only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life’”. The verse appeared on the side screens as he read them. “What most people don’t know is that John 3:16 follows verses one through fifteen of John chapter three. Surprise!”

Pastor Andrew told the story of the Jewish religious leader Nicodemus. While many religious leaders who encountered Jesus were very negative towards him, Nicodemus seemed genuinely interested in what Jesus was telling the people. He even acknowledged that Jesus must be from God to be able to perform his amazing miracles.

Jesus told Nicodemus that to enter the kingdom of heaven, one had to be born from above by God’s spirit. It was not possible for a person to simply be good enough and make the grade. Pastor Andrew showed the connection between a story from the Old Testament and what Jesus would do for mankind. It was trust in Jesus alone that provided a way into heaven.

Paster Andrew continued, “It is at this point that Jesus tells Nicodemus, in the words of our famous Bible verse, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.’  The people of the world must believe that Jesus gave his life as a sacrifice on the cross and then rose from the dead. Only this belief will save them.

“Jesus said later in John chapter fourteen, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ Don’t believe the deception of Satan. There is only one way to heaven. There is only one way to have eternal life with God. It is in Jesus alone.”

After pastor Andrew finished, the praise band returned to the stage to close the service. The song they sang invited people to trust in Jesus and accept His gift of salvation and eternal life. When they were done, the auditorium was reflectively quiet for a moment. Then the praise leader invited everyone to take time and greet one another as they left.

Rosa turned to look at John. He was wiping a tear off his face. His face was showing a peaceful assurance that he agreed with everything that was said. Turning to Ella and Jerry, she saw what may have been bewilderment on their faces. She couldn’t discern what the two of them were thinking.

When Ella began to lead the four of them out into the aisle, Rosa noticed a similar look on Mr. Weston’s face. His mind must have been racing trying to digest everything he had just heard. Holy Spirit, you have softened their hearts. Please take hold of them and give them understanding.

“Tony turned to Harold and softly said, “I won’t ask what you think. Just let it all sink in. It is a lot to process.” Harold looked at Tony and just nodded. Tony noticed Harold had been holding onto his coffee cup the whole time. “Let me take that for you, Harold.” Harold handed him the cup and smiled.

“I’ll take your cup, Jerry and get rid of it for you,” Ella offered. “I can take Mr. Weston’s too, Dad.”

Rosa reached behind her and took John’s hand. She was just in front of her mom.

“Wasn’t that a moving message, Rosa?” Renata asked with a thoughtful smile on her face.

“I agree, Mrs. DeLuca,” John said. “He did a great job of bringing the larger passage to life.” Looking at Rosa, he finished, “I’m so glad I was able to be here with all of you.”

“Let’s go to the atrium and catch our breath before discussing what to do for lunch, Harold.” Tony held out his hand to direct Harold towards the back. Walking beside him, he kept talking but was too quiet for Rosa to hear.

Liam spoke up saying, “I agree with Mom. That was interesting to see how everything is connected. I’m going to read all of John chapter three when I get home to see if the section ends there.”

“I think you will find it goes on for a while yet, Liam,” Renata added. “It is a very powerful section of the Bible. I’ll find you once I get the twins.”

John remained quiet as they left the auditorium. The space seemed quieter than most Sundays. As they approached the atrium the atmosphere changed with much more conversation. Tony led everyone to a somewhat out of the way spot near a potted fern. As there was one more service to go, half the people were coming, and half were going.

Tony started the conversation, “Don’t worry guys, we won’t ask you any probing questions. We are glad you came and could experience what we enjoy every week. One thing about the Bible, it speaks to different people in different ways. What I experienced is probably very different from what you experienced. That’s OK. That’s how God works.”

“I think we all have questions that we will ask in due time,” Harold replied. “While the story was quite simple in the words that were said, the implications are beyond my understanding. I appreciate you giving us time to decompress. Now you mentioned lunch? I don’t suppose you know anywhere good, Tony?”

“Between all of us, we might be able to think of somewhere good to eat.”

Everyone laughed.