Reading Life Between the Lines, Spiritual Musings

jenny and the judges

What happened, when I was 14, to the family that lived behind our home and how my mother reacted to the whole drama taught me a lesson in Christian living.

The family consisted of a single mother and her two daughters, Mary and Jenny. Mary was quiet, complacent and obedient. Jenny was head-strong, opinionated, and a bit on the wild side. It seemed like almost every day Jenny got into trouble for something or the other . . . It wasn’t like she broke the law, but she’d be sassy with the young pastor, talk back to the elders in our community, sneak out of vespers, come home late at night, wear revealing dresses.

One summer whisperings began: What was up with the billowy dresses Jenny was wearing these days? How come she stopped playing volleyball with the rest of the girls? Why was she putting on so much weight around her waist? And the story quickly grew as speculations, fabrications and wild imaginations concocted all kinds of scenarios. Being 14, I thrived for the next episode of Jenny and Her Bastard Child. So I asked my mother, the community socialite, to mingle and bring home the dirt. My mother looked at me, eyes filled with pain and disappointment. She said It doesn’t matter what the story is. What matters is that we are Jenny’s friends no matter what. It’s not our place to judge.

A few weeks later, Jenny was in the hospital having her baby. There was no baby shower, no gifts, no visitors. The only people there, besides Jenny’s mother and her sister, was my mother and I. Awkwardly, I stood while my mother held the baby girl. And Jenny cried as told us her story: She said she was married to a guy from Mauritius, but that he had to leave because his visa ran out. And that he promised to return.

As we walked home I asked my mother if she believed that ridiculous story. She gave me the same look and said, Even if the human in us doesn’t believe the story, we should accept her story as the truth. It’s not our place to judge.

From then on came the righteous moral blows from the community—She was not allowed to participate in church; she was ignored at community events; she was used as an example of what happens to bad teens. She couldn’t even get a job! It seemed like everyone wanted her gone. That is, everyone, except my mother. She was always there for Jenny, to help her, to defend her, to be her friend unconditionally. On the sidelines, I watched my mother and recognized the essence of Christ-likeness.

A year went by, two years, and then three. And, of course, there was no sign of the mysterious Mauritian husband. Jenny continued to struggle, shunned by her community. Then one summer day, out of nowhere, the Mauritian arrived with his own bizarre story—a clerical mix-up in immigration had sent him to prison and there had been no way for him to contact Jenny.

The happy, reunited family left for Mauritius as quickly as they could. And they never returned home. I waited for someone in the community to admit they had been wrong. Instead they justified their actions: What else could we do with no proof of a husband?

My mother’s response: We could have chosen to be like Jesus!

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