Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.Psalm 32:1-2
The treasure I had coveted and snatched the day before was dead weight in the bottom of my Strawberry Shortcake backpack. My best friend Jackie, the girl who was like a sister to me, showed me her prized pewter brush, comb, and mirror set in the girl’s bathroom during morning recess a couple of days prior and I immediately knew I had to have them. It didn’t matter that the brush frizzed my hair when I tried running it through my curls. It didn’t matter that my klutziness would probably crack that mirror within days of owning it. And most poignantly, it didn’t matter that Jackie would be crushed when she discovered it missing. All that mattered was the set’s beauty and the weight I felt in my hand when I held them. It felt solid and steady, like an anchor.
I waited until Jackie and I were on the school bus for home and when she turned to talk to the boy sitting across the aisle, I slipped the items from her book bag. They were now mine. I hadn’t noticed the watchful eye of the bus driver in the long mirror above.
The funny thing about stealing is that the result is never how you imagine. The euphoria attached to the act of taking and owning something taboo quickly plummets to despair and shame. Items designed for beauty suddenly made me feel the ugliest I had ever felt. When I got home from school, I took them out of my bag in the secret confines of my locked bedroom, only to quickly bury them again in my backpack. They felt heavy and burdensome, like an anchor.
The next day, I awoke, refused breakfast, said goodbye to my dad as he dropped me off for school, and slinked into Mrs. Schuiteman’s 3rd grade classroom, my Strawberry Shortcake backpack weighing low on my little shoulders. I avoided Jackie, keeping my eyes trained on the back of the boy’s head seated in front of me. The morning seemed to never end. When the bell finally rang for recess, the entire class shrieked and ran for the door. As I got up to join them, Mrs. Schuiteman’s honey sweet voice stopped me.
“Beth, dear, I need to talk to you about something before you go to recess.”
If God had chosen 1981 as the year to send Jesus to earth, Jesus’s name would have been Margaret Schuiteman. Mrs. Schuiteman was the most gracious, kind, and encouraging woman I had ever met. It was because of her that I came to believe that smile lines around the eyes are some of the most beautiful features an older woman could possess. Mrs. Schuiteman, bent down to meet my gaze, gently put her hand on my shoulder and said “Beth, you are a precious child of God. Your intelligence, humor, and politeness are a blessing to our class. I need to share with you a phone call I had both with the transportation department and with Jackie’s mom.”
Before she could continue, I collapsed into a ball on the floor. I sobbed the cry of the deepest pain known to my 9 year old self and poured out my shameful confession. Mrs. Schuiteman embraced me, gave me a box of tissues and a sucker from the treat drawer, before leaving to call in Jackie from recess.
My best friend Jackie, the girl who was like a sister to me, walked in the classroom door. Her hand was red from cold and clasped firmly in Mrs. Schuiteman’s wrinkled palm. She walked over to me, standing inches away from my face, her eyes shyly darting from my gaze to the cracks in the floor tile.
“I’m sorry, Jackie. I did a mean and bad thing.” I took the shiny albatross from my Strawberry Shortcake pack and placed the set in her hands. “Can you forgive me?”
“Of course I can, Beth. Your stealing made me sad but not being friends any more would be even sadder.”
Jackie hugged me and healed my broken soul. The bell rang and our other classmates began trickling in from recess.
“Want to come over after school? My mom said we could bake cupcakes!” I nodded yes, as I wiped my tear stained face.
Mrs. Schuiteman squeezed my shoulder again before sitting back down at her desk, smiling her eye crinkling smile at her beloved class.