The Theology of Rose
The birds twittered in the trees, and Rose could tell they were happy. They jumped from branch to branch in a joyous little dance that spoke of delight in the day to come, of harvesting little twigs, and scooping up pink, juicy worms, and all the other small things that caused a bird’s feathered body to leap about with pleasure.
How different their morning to the one that she must face, Rose thought to herself. Her face was downcast, and anyone looking (though there was no one at present) would have thought it was an expression that did not belong on an elfish, rosy cheeked little girl. The cause of this unfamiliar expression that spread itself as thick as clotted cream across her face was the fact that she had to go to church today. For it was Sunday morning, and it was the day she had dreaded since coming to visit her grandmother a whole Monday before.
It was not that Rose did not believe in God; she did believe in Him! She had spoken to Him that very morning, and asked with an abandoned hope if she might be saved from the excruciating pain of going to church. Perhaps an earthquake—not big enough to cause any real damage to anyone, just enough to make everyone too nervous to be in such a big stone building. Or maybe God could send a plague. A very little plague; not one that actually killed anyone. But a couple of well-placed stomach aches could go a long way toward giving her the reprieve she desired. In the minister’s belly, for example, and any other belly that might replace him. Too, she would not turn up her nose at a broken leg. For herself, not the minister.
Rose brushed her hand against the stems of a bush that threatened to burst into new leaves at any moment. The soft, supple branch caressed her hand, and inspired a sudden burst within that made her sprint the next thirty or so feet before slowing down with heavy breath. How wonderful the outside world was! Couldn’t her church simply be out here, basking in the glow of creation? Why did it have to be in that stuffy building, with all the ladies staring at her, and then turning to their neighbors to discuss what they had seen? They seemed to be always staring. She knew that they thought her dress too faded, and her shoes too shabby. And they didn’t seem to care much for her person either.
Rose knew it because she had over heard it once when she was playing in the church garden the last time she visited grandmother. She was well hidden by shrubs when she heard her name.
‘Rose is such an odd child,’ one had said.
‘Fancy letting her roam around as she does. Her clothes get poor by the minute,’ said the other.
And if Rose had thought they might be discussing another Rose, that hope was quickly dashed. ‘It’s the whole Garnet family,’ said the first.
‘You know what I heard…’
But by then they had moved away, and Rose was smarting so badly her face was as crimson as her name.
But today she was not solely dreading the pointed stares. There were the sermons, too. Rose thought of them as she sat on a tree stump. To put it as bluntly as Rose’s mind, most of the time they were boring and lifeless. And the other times, they were at best disconcerting, at worst terrifying; painting a picture of everything she thought that God was not. Filled with all kinds of expectations that she was sure God did not have. For example, she thought to herself logically, it did not seem right that God would want her to give up stories. If that were true, why would the whole scripture book be chock full of them? She also did not think it likely that God wanted her to give up sitting idly. After all, that was the only time she had to think, and she always seemed to meet God when she stopped and sat and had a good think. And once she had heard the minister say that God did not like flesh. She took issue with this: if she had no flesh, she’d be a ghost, and she was pretty certain God did not like ghosts. She certainly didn’t like ghosts.
These sermons, however, were not to be especially dreaded. Not like the other ones. Like the one when the minister had spoken about ‘wives being subject to their husbands;’ that had given her a fright for days thinking that some man might come to boss her around someday. It took the joy right out of dreaming of the future. Until one day she thought of a way around it. It was so simple, Rose could not believe how long it took her to think of it: she simply would never marry. She had stood up after thinking it, and brushed of her hands. That was the end of that.
Yes, Rose dreaded very much the minister’s sermon. But perhaps the most dreaded of all was the prayer. Every time grandmother sent her to church, she prayed the prayer would never happen. But it always did. The scary part came when the minister prayed for all the heathens everywhere, that they would become Christians. That was when Rose would wonder where the heathens were, and if she had ever seen one. She wondered sometimes if she was one, but didn’t know it. She had overheard one of the ladies say, ‘Oh, that Rose Garnet! She’s almost a little heathen.’ That had given Rose pause. She had gone home and asked grandmother what a heathen was, receiving the information that it was someone who didn’t know God. Rose had breathed a sigh of relief. She knew God. She had just seen Him that day in the fields behind grandmother’s house, talking to her through the beauty of a stalk of wheat that bounced in the wind like a dancing fairy. But, still, she never breathed easy when the prayer came.
She sat down on the ground, and crossed her legs, propping her chin up on her hand, and prayed. Perhaps the church would fall down before she got there. Feeling much better, Rose hopped up, and walked the dewy path to the church. The churchyard would probably be full of stones any minute… and if it wasn’t, she could always think of Mondays.