All too quickly, sacrament meeting had ended. My mother hugs me fiercely, stifling my futile pleas for home. With a whisper of support and a kiss on the cheek, she sends me on my way, like a lamb to the slaughter.
I enter the menacing hall. It overflows with saints searching for class. I look to the shrinking figure of my mother. She seems so far away and with each passing second, I feel more alone and forgotten. Fighting back my fervent tears, I lift my chin and gulp back a cry of despair. Not this time, I tell myself. Not this time. As the reality of my decision sinks in, I quickly glance to a nearby window and assess my swollen, puffy eyes. Scrubbing them with shaking hands, I turn to face the throngs of searching people.
Like a piece of driftwood carried by the current, I am born by endless ebbs and flows of the river of people. Disoriented and frightened, I struggle in vain. I am carried to a door: the door of my class. With a sigh of submission, I glance inside to the room that haunts my Sundays. Sheer horror fights for control of my body. I want to run and never look back. Scarring memories of Sundays past seep to the surface and I struggle to maintain composure. Others push past me, unaware of the turmoil that rages behind my blue eyes. It takes all of my courage to step into that room- courage that drains me dry.
I stagger into the room as the clock rings twelve. Its chimes echo in my skull. A picture frame hangs alone. Nailed to the wall, the Savior’s eyes stare down at me, searching my very soul. I look away, ashamed of myself.
Amongst the flawless faces, my own smeared makeup and runny nose stick out like a sore thumb. My heart begins to sink. Why did I come? I demand of myself. Deeper into the pits of despair I plunge and wallow in self-pity. My lips quiver traitorously, but as I look around at the faces that surround me I realize I’ve assembled an audience. Aware of others’ eyes, I meekly smooth my dress and gather my disarrayed hair. Desperate to be ignored once again, I maneuver myself through the plethora of chairs and sit myself down far in the back.
My eyes return to the picture of the Savior. If He knew the thoughts that lie behind my weary eyes… he would not be so willing to atone for my sins.
The door shuts abruptly, releasing me from my thoughts. A pink vision has entered into the room.
“Good morning, my beautiful young women!” gushes the radiant being. Outfit styled meticulously and hair pinned to perfection, she exudes confidence. I shrink mournfully into my seat, fiddling with my frizzy mop of hair. Surely she doesn’t mean me. I’m no beauty. She looks eagerly upon the young faces that shine back at her. “Our lesson today is about…” She pauses for effect. “Individual Worth!” she cries, throwing her arms elegantly into the air.
Excited voices ring throughout the room, like silver bells on a winter’s day. Inviting words float to my ears but I keep to myself, unwilling to comply. Like an ugly duckling, I sit awkwardly amongst the beautiful swans. The giddiness continues to amplify and though I worried my silence would be sensed, I am quickly ignored.
A question is asked, but I am deep within myself, too downtrodden to notice. My cruel mind degrades myself further and further as deeper and deeper I sink. In the pits of despair, my happiness is silenced and I sit quietly, defenseless against my own thoughts.
Playful banter continues to erupt from the young women throughout the lesson, their smiles gleaming on their faces. My head falls forward and I tuck my body in tight. No one must see my tears.
“Remember, the worth of souls is great in the sight of our Lord,” answers a nearby miamaid. Tears form in the corner of my eyes as I count the minutes until my deliverance.
I am worthless. I am worthless. I am worthless. The thought echoes cruelly in my soul. God does not watch me. He doesn’t even know I exist.
The teacher comments upon how we must look at ourselves through God’s eyes. “Imagine God’s eye.” she sweetly hums. My eyes mist over as I enter the realms of my imagination.
Imagine God’s eye.
In a flash, my thought would transcend the heavens to rest upon the ear of my Father. With care and compassion, His watchful eye would turn to seek me.
With a blink, our universe would come into view. The size simply inconceivable to even my imagination, it gently swells and billows, forever extending its reach. The supernovas scorch, the black holes devour and all abides as it should. There it sits, peacefully tended by an omnipotent observer.
The benevolent figure would then focus upon a single galaxy. Our Galaxy. A particular spinning mass then catches the eye of the omniscient being- Earth. Our giant blueberry suspended in space. Inhabited by 6,697,254,041 people and counting, my Father would lovingly search for just one.
The observer then zooms in and rests his eye upon America, the Land of the Brave. With a gentle smile, He watches the workings of the young nation. Great battles, strong men and blessed land, he savors the growth of the people.
The mighty observer would not stray from his task, though, for he is needed elsewhere. With love, he continues in his search. His watchful eye soars through hills and plains. Ever vigilant, the Heavenly Being seeks.
Buried in the chapel, he enters the Young Women’s room. He passes the rows of faithful daughters and finds the doubting soul seated at the very back. His quite, gentle voice whispers softly in her ear, “You are mine, never doubt your worth.”
With a start, I blink into awareness. The girl seated next to me held out a handout tied with ribbons and bows. Her caring eyes ponder my silence as her hand gestures again.
“You okay?” she asks, sincerity and true concern touching her voice. I mumble a fitting response and grasp the handout. I am a bit shaken by my imaginings. It seemed all too real.
A prayer is quickly said and the girls begin to stand. Class had ended. I can go home. Relief floods my system and I hurry to find my mother. As I gather my things, I look down at the ornate piece of paper.
As my eyes glance at the paper, my heart leaps in recognition at the words written near the bottom. Etched in simple black letterings were the tender whisperings of my Savior; You Are Mine. Tears form in my eyes. These are different from the sorrowful tears before, though. These are tears of joy.
The teacher, seeing my state, comes to my side and wraps her arms around me. “Lauren,” she whispers, “I had a strong feeling I needed to give that lesson today. I’m not sure why, but I think somebody special needed to hear how much they’re worth.”
I manage a simple ‘thank you’ and turn to look into the eyes of my teacher. For a brief second I am transported back into my imaginings. My teacher’s eyes now become the eyes of my Savior, gentle and loving. In a flash, the vision is gone and I am looking again into the youthful face of my Sunday school teacher. She gives me a hug goodbye and as I watch her go, I feel her arms around me still: a vestige of her warmth.
With tears cascading down my cheeks, I turn to the picture on the wall— the picture of Christ. He smiles at me sweetly and seems to whisper, “You are mine.” For a blessed moment, I seem to be enveloped in his arms. Nothing can harm me when I am held by my Savior.