June 7, 2007

True Colors

Just thinking about the Kelsey Smith murder and how we live among predators. The other day Sean was asking about heaven and death and wondering if God puts us right back on the earth after we die, like a friend of his had told him. I tried to explain to him the little I understand about heaven and God's plan for us after this dark world. How someday He'll return us to a place like earth only it'll be, and this is where I faltered a little...it'll be a good place.

When I said those words my eyes suddenly saw the road ahead of me, this little piece of the world, differently. Sean is five. He is excited about living. Even lugging around a heavy cast all day on his broken arm, life is good for Sean. Children love the world. But I'm 42 and I've read a lot of the Bible and I know that this isn't the world God wants for us. I know how our hearts are not pure and we really can't trust the hearts of others. What we see on the outside can be deceiving and children don't have enough experience to really understand this. So, at that moment when I was driving and trying to explain to Sean what I know about the earth and heaven without causing darkness and confusion to filter into his little heart, I felt like I was looking at the world through a filter myself. He was seeing color and light and I was seeing the same scene as through a slide of black and white, drab and bleak. In comparison to God's promises, sometimes the world feels like that.

When I was 12, I was at a secluded pond with my friend Cheri. We had ridden there on our bikes on this hot summer day and were wading around in the clear shallow water, picking up colorful stones, looking at the lilies growing on the side. I had the tiniest green frog that I'd ever seen snuggled into my palm. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, there was a car behind us pulling into the gravel driveway that came off the winding, tree-covered back road that led to the lake. A man stepped out in what looked to us like safari clothes, long shorts and a vest sort of thing over a short-sleeved shirt. He had round glasses. We stood looking at him and he said words that I'll never forget. "Hey girls, do you want to go for a ride?"

From that moment on I felt like I was watching myself from above. Every move I made is forever etched into my brain. I flung the frog into the pond while making a quick scan for my flip-flops. I picked them up, as I ran through the lilies and high weeds for my bike. I noticed a car across the pond and two figures in the front seat. I noticed that Cheri was casually walking around like she really didn't mind sharing this plot of the earth with this complete psychopath for a while. And it didn't feel right to leave her behind, but I wasn't going to stand around waiting for her to decide what she might do next...find her shoes somewhere...gather up her belongings...go get her bike...pick it up...get on it...Cheri was slow and plodding and usually remained unfazed by anything, except for Shaun Cassidy and Parker Stevenson, whose Tiger Beat pictures were plastered all over her bedroom walls. That always bemused me and her actions, or rather inaction, that day at the pond will forever baffle me.

I decided that the car across the pond was my only option. I briefly considered the possibility that the people in the car were in cahoots with the psychopath, but fleeing the area on the long lonely road with this monster following me seemed like more of a gamble. I rode like I'd never ridden before, with force and purpose, straight to the other side. My flip flops were still in my fingers that gripped the handlebars, the rounded spikes on the pedals of my ten-speed bike ground into the soles of my feet. Glancing back, I could still see Cheri there, milling around. The car was also still there, but I couldn't see the man. I guessed that he was in it, about to leave.

When I reached the other side, I pulled up to the window of the car. There was a man and a woman in the front seats and I asked if I could stand there with them for a minute and told them what happened. They said that they were wondering what the man had said to make us act like we did. Cheri was on her way over to us now. The psychopath had left. Driven off into the world in search of other victims to satisfy his sickness, I could only assume.

My memory of that day has many colors. The thick green trees hanging over the pond and roads, the sparkling stones under the water, the orange tiger lilies, the green frog. But oddly, the man, his car, and his clothes are all a bland mixture of beige and gray in my mind, a swipe of death over a palette of rich summer, teeming with life. Someday we won't have to worry about our children enjoying a delightful summer day wading in a pond, or running out to the store to gather things for a party. Someday we'll live in a place of true colors.


rosemary said...

No rides, just asked for directions that he said he couldn't hear...I walked up to the window and saw. Stupid man was in his work truck and I remembered the name. I told, line up, court, jail. Sad....all of it.

Paul said...

Kelsey Smith's family lives just a few blocks from us. She went to Hi School only a few blocks in the other direction. They go to church about a mile from here. We shop in that Target store. Our whole city is traumatized.

I posted about it on my blog. This is as haunting to me as your escape must still be for you.

It's not just "...the Kelsey Smith murder..." It's the terrorism of innocence, the demonic invasion of purity, the mocking of all that is good and blessed.

Sorry. You know I'm usually a little more up-beat than this, but this nightmare plays almost like it's family. God bless you and your family.