messages to young people

Posted: October 29, 2020 in darcie friesen hossack
Tags: , , , ,

“You’ve wrinkled your new dress,” Daniel said, and Lizzy looked down at herself to find that he was right. She hadn’t been careful to arrange the pleats of her skirt so they’d lay neatly across her lap. Instead, when she’d climbed up into the passenger seat of her father’s truck, she’d plunked herself down and balled up two fistfuls of fabric in her hands.

            “I’ll be wearing a robe,” she said, trying to smooth out the creases. “It won’t matter.”

            Expecting silence to follow, Lizzy’s throat cinched up as though by purse strings, when her father took his hands off the steering wheel, flexed and clenched them a few times, and dropped them into his lap. He began to steer, instead, with his knee.

            “You don’t know how to take anything seriously, do you?” he said, but until he replaced one hand on the wheel, Lizzy was unable to speak.

            “I am. I am taking this seriously,” she said. “I took all the classes. I read the book.”

            The book, What Seventh-day Adventists Believe, was a heavy, hardcover, edition that itemized and explained each tenet of the Adventist faith. Any applicant for baptism was expected to read it, cover to cover, and be able to affirm they agreed with every principle, no matter how dryly written.

            “Tell me about the Investigative Judgment,” Daniel said.

            Lizzy, who had plunged in and out of sleep the night before, and whose mind felt as gritty as her eyes, flipped through the pages in her mind until she came to the one she was looking for.

            “The Investigative Judgement is the second part of Christ’s atonement,” she said, paraphrasing. “The first was His work on the cross. And then, on October 22, 1844, He moved from the first part of the heavenly sanctuary into the Holy of Holies, where He’s been going over the naughty and nice list ever since.”

            It was the wrong thing to say. Of course it was. Lizzy, however, was as bunched up on the inside as her dress was on the outside.

            “What do we know about the state of the dead?” Daniel said, bringing Lizzy’s mind back to the truck.

            Lizzy cleared her throat. She’d known all this before. Twelve years of religious classes at the academy had made sure of that.

            “The dead are asleep,” Lizzy said. “No one has gone to heaven yet, and immortality is conditional. There is no hell, and the wicked will be destroyed. We call this Annihilationism.” She brightened for a moment. “Annihilationism is an excellent word if you ask me. It’s not often you get to use seven syllables all at once. Unless you’re a scientist.” Which, Lizzy didn’t add, was what she intended to be.

            Annihilationism was also Lizzy’s favourite doctrine. It came from the books of Ecclesiastes and Thessalonians, and meant that if she was judged and found wanting when her name came up, she would simply cease to exist at the end of days, and her mother wouldn’t have to worry about her in hell, like she would if they were Mennonite.

            “Ellen G. White,” Daniel said next.

            “Is the spirit of prophesy. Her writings are authoritative as a source of truth. They provide us with guidance, correction and comfort. They are a lesser light shining towards the greater light of the Bible.” Lizzy paused and thought about swallowing her next words. “Which, if you ask me, doesn’t make any sense, because a larger light will eclipse a smaller one and you won’t even know the smaller one is on.

            “Also, the Archangel Michael and Jesus are the same,” Lizzy added, tacking on a bonus point. “Which, incidentally, is why Principal Borthwaithe said that the two Michaels in the academy should use their middle names.”

            And with that, the quiz was over.

Lizzy hadn’t been able to eat breakfast that morning, but now, with the church and her date with the baptismal tank getting closer, she pulled a nut bar, wrapped in waxed cotton, from one of the pockets she’d begged to have sewn into her baptism dress.

            Before she could eat, however, the church came into view and Daniel pulled into the parking lot. He shifted the truck into neutral, but didn’t turn off the ignition.

            “I have something for you,” Daniel said, but didn’t, at first, reach for whatever it might be. “It’s the copy someone gave me when I was about your age. It’s what led me to the church. Without it, I would’ve been as lost as your mother when I found her.”

            Lizzy’s gut went cold. She knew her mother’s secrets. She knew that Marie, when they’d still been in Kelowna, sometimes went to church on Sundays, in addition to Sabbaths. That she sometimes bought and ate ham and cheese sandwiches from the Zellers restaurant. That she drank real coffee when she could get it, and didn’t really believe that the Catholic Pope was the Beast from the book of Revelations.

            “Thank you,” Lizzy said, already certain what she’d find. “Should I open it?”

            “If you want to.”

            Unlike What Seventh-day Adventists Believe, Messages to Young People, written by Ellen G. White herself, wasn’t required reading before baptism.

            “While you remain in listless indifference, how can you tell what is the will of God concerning you? and how do you expect to be saved…” Lizzy quoted after she’d removed the wrapping paper and the book fell open to an underlined passage on a well-worn page. She closed the cover and felt every bit as listless as Ellen G. White had just accused her of being.

            In less than an hour, she’d be getting baptized. For now, though, she was still hungry, and while God’s word was supposed to be the bread of life, reading it had done nothing to fill her up.

            Looking around them, Lizzy counted the few other cars that were parked here and there around the lot.

            “There’s hardly anyone here yet,” Lizzy said, thinking how easy it would be to just drive away.

            “Don’t worry,” Daniel said, and patted Lizzy on the shoulder. “Soon it will be full.”

Darcie Friesen Hossack is the Commonwealth Prize-shortlisted, Danuta Gleed runner-up author of the short story collection, Mennonites Don’t Dance (Thistledown Press). The litter sent to her for this project inspired a chapter in her forthcoming novel, What Looks In. Darcie is the managing editor of WordCity Monthly, a global online journal for literary activism. 

♦♦♦

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“At the end of the dance, candies are flung into the circle for the children to gather.”

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