Ramona eased herself into the well-worn but comfortable sofa as Becky went into the little kitchen. Ramona looked around at the sparse but comfortable surroundings. There was a small table covered with a plaid tablecloth and two chairs. Family photos occupied three wooden frames on the wall above the table. A floor lamp and end table with some unopened mail completed the furnishings. To the left, past the half open window she could see the door to the bedroom. Becky lived much more simply than Ramona was used to. By this time Phredy had settled down on his pillow next to the kitchen door. Just then Becky returned with some hot water, honey and lemon.
“Here. This should help you feel better. It’s what I have whenever my stomach gets grouchy, which is pretty often since I . . . well, I don’t need to talk anymore right now. I’ll get some blankets. You can sleep right there on the couch.”
“That sounds good. I guess I am exhausted. I do have to ask you something, though. Are you one of those . . . Christians? Are you being nice to me just to win some goodie, two shoes points?”
Becky smiled. “I have heard about that kind of Christian, in fact, I used to be one. Now I guess I see being a follower of Jesus a little differently. It’s not about doing good stuff to impress Him and other people. For me, it’s about being real and loving all of God’s creation, no matter how badly they have messed up. I don’t mean “let it all hang out real” but I mean genuine and truthful real. It is hard to do but that’s why I have to let Jesus help me be real and help me love people. Does that make any sense?”
Ramona’s forehead wrinkled up. “I need to think about . . . to process this, I guess. Most all the Christians I know seem to have a Sunday face or one they use around other Christians but they really aren’t very accepting of people who don’t go to their church.” Ramona realized she had raised the volume of her voice a little too much for the time of night. She continued more quietly but more intense. “They act pretty content to have Holy Club meetings when just across the street are some broken and messed up people. Why can’t they just walk outside and use some of their righteousness to fix the neighborhood?”
“Wow,” Becky exclaimed. “There was a bunch of hurt right there on the surface, wasn’t there my friend?”
Ramona laid back against the sofa. “I’m sorry, I’ve just been so angry for years that I just don’t buy it when Christians talk a good line about living perfect like Jesus but don’t do what Jesus did in the Bible. Am I wrong? Didn’t he go out and heal people and teach on the mountains and cast out demons and stuff?” Ramona shuddered at the visual that came into her mind of the naked guy in the Bible with demons hanging all over him. He probably got a group discount everywhere he went. But, she recalled, the next chapter in his life brought a huge, wonderful change that the whole town recognized.
Becky answered in a soft, confident voice that calmed Ramona down. “No, you are not wrong about that. I believe Jesus wants us to be like he was and is and be His hands and feet to all we meet. That mission might start in the church community but it really has to be carried out in the local, social contexts where we live, work and play.”
“That sounds different than how I was raised,” Ramona reflected. “I really did mean it when I said, Thank you. I’m sorry I raised my voice. It wasn’t against you.”
“I know. It’s OK. I should really let you get some rest. We can talk more tomorrow before I go to work. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight.” Ramona laid her head back. How different this evening had turned out. Could she dare hope to think that God would have had anything to do with it? Wasn’t God angry with her? After all, she went to that bar. God had nothing to do with that. She agreed to go with Paul, or whatever his name really was. She drank whatever it was that knocked her out and she got knocked up. It was all her fault, all her bad choices. God would be right to be angry. He had warned her plenty and now she was simply reaping what she had sown. Justice. She got what she deserved. It was no one else’s fault but hers.
She dreamed fitfully; dreams of demons dancing all over her pregnant tummy. They were laughing and screaming epithets and curses, telling her it was over, she might as well die, kill the baby and die. God hated her because he hated sin with a perfect hatred and she had sinned, therefore He hated her. Twisted dark demons with sulfur smells and glowing fingernails tried to tear at her body, all the while yelling foul words. She tried to run but her feet were rooted in the mucky mud and she sensed they were sinking, sinking and being pulled down by a senior demon with an upside down face of Pastor Marlowe. Then the ground started to move, slowly at first, then a full-scale earthquake moving.
“Wake up, Ramona, wake up. You were screaming in your sleep.” Ramona jerked awake realizing it was Becky shaking her that seemed like an earthquake.
“You were screaming. What in the world were you dreaming?”
“That’s just it,” Ramona retorted, “It wasn’t in this world.” She related what she remembered about the dream to Becky.
“That’s awful, Ramona, just awful. But the truth is, there are spiritual forces out there that are against you. They want you to be so discouraged that you give up; maybe even kill yourself. But you need to know that Jesus has good news for you. He loves you and wants to be part of your life.”
“I know that religious talk! Church has been most of my life all of my life,” Ramona said. “I was there all the time, every time they had church and music practice and I even got stuck cleaning the church with my dad way too often. I’m sick of church. Why do you think I’m in this mess? I’ll tell you, because I had to get away from all the church, church, church stuff. You can’t tell me Jesus loves me when he took so much of my life and forced me to run away from His rules and let me make choices that wound up with a baby I didn’t want. That’s not good news!”
Becky didn’t answer right away. She knew Ramona had to get it off her chest. Years of anger, pain, rules and her recent wrong choices had left her with hurts that deserved more than a hasty defense.
“I can’t possibly know how you feel, Ramona but I think I understand where your anger comes from. Life has taken a hard left turn for you after such disappointment from people you didn’t expect to hurt you so much. Maybe you can rest a little before morning.”
Dawn stole into the room. Ramona dressed quickly and waited for Becky to come into the room. A few minutes later she entered carrying her coat.
“Come with me,” Becky said cheerfully. “I have something I want to show you and then we can have some breakfast.”