The Avon Witness
The other day I was explaining to Brother Bill, him being our preacher, my personal belief in the importance of prostrating oneself before God. He said he didn't see as how prostration was really necessary, said how maybe just kneeling down by the bed would be sufficient but I don't know that Christians are called upon to be sufficient that being what I'd call lukewarm and the last thing I want happening to me on Judgement Day is being spit out of God's mouth. I said all this to Brother Bill while we were standing on the church steps after morning services last week but he made as how he had to hurry off to Sunday dinner with the folks and I pointed out to him that he'd be better to be about the business of the Lord. I reminded him of how the disciples just dropped everything and lit out when Jesus came calling. Let the dead bury the dead I yelled, but he just yelled back Got to go, Blondell and slammed the door real quick and cranked up his car, that being a Cadillac which is not a proper car for a man of God. Let me tell ya'll how he's always telling me that I shouldn't take everything in the good book so literally. Now I'd just like to know how else to take the Bible being that it was written by God's will moving through men's fingers. But back to this shiny Cadillac. Now me, I drive a Pinto that I've been driving for going on fifteen years now--it's almost always real dependable and has plenty of room in the hatchback for all my Tupperware and Avon supplies and samples, the selling of which is how I support myself simply and humbly as a Good Christian should. I don't know but what Jesus would drive a Pinto himself if he where around today and there's no need to worry about so called safety concerns when God is your copilot, which is what I always say when busy bodies around here take it upon themselves to tell me my car's going to go off and blow me up.
But back to prostrating. It is my personal feeling, which I of course base on direct information from the Lord, that one must be prostrated before the Holy Ghost and when I feel him moving over the face of the valley don't you know I get down on the floor of my trailer in the living room, face down on the carpet sort of spread eagled like I'm on a cross myself. This is the way I pray when the spirit of the Lord is close and moving over my house and then I can feel him enter my body and fill me up. Now certain people who shall remain nameless, tell me that Brother Paul in the Epistles was not describing being filled with the Holy Spirit at all in the way I experience it, but that's just something I don't pay much of a mind to cause I know that they are terrible sinners in their hearts and do not see the ere of their ways. Lord, they know not what they do, they don't know what goes on between me and the Lord when he fills me up like he's been doing ever since I was a young girl just about eleven years old and I've told everybody in the church time and again, this being one of the ways I witness for Jesus, as how I was in the woods one day picking flowers to set in the middle of the dining room table 'cause we were having company and Mama always liked fresh flowers on the table. And there I was in a little patch of bluebells and all of sudden the Lord was there and telling me prostrate yourself, Blondell, for you are standing on Holy Ground and don't you know I fell down in those flowers as soon as I heard his voice. I laid there with my face pressing into the grass and I let him take me and fill me up. It was like the inside of me was all light and ecstasy and I couldn't move for quite some time. I was stricken with the Lord and was made to cry out I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine, You have made my heart beat faster, how beautiful is your love. That was the first time it happened, just like it was with the Virgin Mary, but her particular situation, of course, resulted in the birth of sweet Baby Jesus, praise his name.
I think back to that first day with the Lord every day and when I'm making my weekly Avon calls on all the ladies in the community and I tell the Lord in my heart that I would like nothing more than to spend each and ever day being all filled up with his spirit but I know that I, like Martha in the Good Book, have to work for a living 'cause I wasn't chosen to sit at the feet of Jesus all day and just drink him in. Sometimes I almost feel bitter about that but then I remember to prostrate myself wherever I am and pray and pray for forgiveness right quick. I am so blessed that I get to witness for the Lord every day and that I have the opportunity to devote almost all of my waking moments to sharing God's message, especially when I'm conducting Tupperware demonstrations and parties, which is as good a place as any to spread the good Gospel. And I know of no more opportune time to witness to a female unbeliever than when I'm doing a makeover on her face with all the latest summer colors in my Avon makeover kit. Not to mention how much time I don't have to spend waiting hand and foot on some man. I am ever so thankful that the Lord did not fashion me as a helpmeet for a man. Some folks ask me how I know that God didn't intend for me to get married and have little ones and I always tell them that it's plain as day that if the Lord had intended for me to be with a man in holy matrimony then he would have seen to it that I was married. But He never did send any man my way and although my Mama and Daddy, good rest their souls, did worry a good bit about my unmarried state before they passed on in that automobile accident that Jesus sent their way ten years ago, I have never for one minute wished I had a man around. Even when I was a little girl I had no use for any man in the world 'cept my Daddy. We used to spend Sunday afternoons down the road at Grama's house and I used to crawl up in his lap when I was real little and crying because I'd had such a hard time trying to play outside and he would always make me feel safe and loved. At Grama's I was always trying to run away from all my boy cousins who would run me down so they could pull up my dress and pull down my Sunday panties or steal my dolls and tear their arms off. Once they locked me up in the root cellar and left me there during dinner and it was my own Daddy who found me crying all curled up in the corner with the apples and potatoes on that cold dirt floor and don't you know they all got walloped for that. No, I've never had no use for any man except my own Daddy--and Jesus, of course. Yes, I'm right pleased with how things have turned out what with all my time filled up with praising God without ceasing, spreading the word ever where I go, and working to live on the small proceeds of my private business concern that I run out of the back of my car and Him seeing to all my needs, praise be.
I'm telling ya'll this so ya'll understand how I am afflicted in every way but not crushed. I am perplexed, but I do not despair although the Lord has lately seen fit to send me a terrible burden to bear up under ever since the other night when Brother Bill came over to my house in his shiny car and interrupted my protestations after I'd just come home from Wednesday night Bible study and the Lord had placed the need on my heart to pray for all the lost souls there who don't realize how they're headed for hell. I was gripping the shag carpet and holding on while the Lord did his will unto me when I heard knocking on my storm door and I had to haul myself up off the floor and let Brother Bill in and him coming in and telling me how I couldn't teach my Sunday School class no more. I'd been filling in for the last month while the regular teacher was away at summer camp, her being little Lisa Sue Barlett, just a teenager and in no way called upon by the Lord to preach the word, her untrue calling being made clear on a regular basis what with that string of boys following her round after church and her riding off in their cars, waving bye to her mama, up to no good as plain as day. I'd been praying for years that the Lord would see fit to give me a Sunday School class and then long 'bout a month ago there was Brother Bill asking me to take over Lisa Sue's class of little third graders and I started into preaching the plain truth and instructing those children in the ways of the Lord. I was righteously angered when I found out how Lisa Sue'd been having those kids studying the Bicentennial, it being 1976, and just exactly what that has to do with the Lord's Gospel I'd like to know and I asked Brother Bill on that first Sunday when I found out exactly what that Lisa Sue'd been up to and then Brother Bill explaining to me that women are not called upon to preach but to teach, to nurture, to show by the example of their Christian living the ways of Jesus, which he says is the best way to influence little children, and him telling me as how the Christian history of our country and the ongoing battle to stick to our Christian roots was something those children sure needed to know and pray over and how I told him that the ways of God and the ways of the government are surely separate, render unto Caesar just as Jesus said, and then him making up some excuse to go on over and shake hands with folks leaving the church like that was the most important thing on his mind when he should've been attending to the things of the spirit.
And then just the other night Brother Bill telling me as how he would have to ask me to stop teaching the Sunday School class, how he would be taking over himself until Lisa Sue got back and me asking him why when I was obviously the most qualified person, truly called upon by the Lord and then him telling me that I'd been making the children so scared that they cried at night with the spirit of the Lord upon them and I said as how that was just the Good Lord working away inside 'em but he just kept talking right over me and 'llowed as how my Bible drills seemed excessive and all the memorizing of the scripture and the recitations of sins just didn't fit in with more modern methods of teaching Sunday School and I told him as how those young 'uns need to pick up their personal crosses, they need to know that the Lord didn't make the Christian life out for ease and leisure and that the reward in heaven will be great, praise be. Our time on this earth is short, blessed be to God, but fraught with strife as the flames fly upward. Then the Lord moved over me and I just lit into Brother Bill just as righteously as the Lord did clean out the temple when those money changers were about their evil doings, just lit into him with the full force of the holy spirit that was upon me, instructing him in the ere of his ways, telling him how the Lord would do with him as he saw fit on Judgment Day. Remember the sheep on his right hand, Preacher. Remember the goats. You come on, Brother, come back into the fold, invite sweet Jesus back into your heart. Get down right now and prostrate yourself before the Lord God Almighty. But him just getting up then and not saying a word. I could tell that his heart was hardened, that he'd backslid and was trying not to hear me revealing God's Truth and then me following him out to his car, preaching the Gospel with ever step, explaining to him how I had to reach the children, how there was a burden on my heart, how God was calling me to do his will. I told him that if I couldn't teach that Sunday class then I'd go door to door. I said as how I'd bring the Gospel to the community, how I'd reach out to the children through my very effective Avon and Tupperware witnessing time. I told him how I'd be spreading the word ever where I went. I was still preaching when he pulled down my driveway, rolling up the windows though it was hot as his coming hell outside. I'll be praying for you, Brother Bill, praying you'll come back to the Lord. Remember that no creature is hidden from his sight, all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him. I will pray that your hardened heart melts in the love of Sweet Jesus. Praise be to God.
After he was gone, I went back in my house and prostrated myself again, letting God in deep so I'd have the strength to go on, so I'd be back to church ever Sunday, preaching the Gospel ever day, always reaching out to the unbelievers heading for damnation. I have fought the good fight, I have kept the faith, the future is laid up for me with the crown of the righteous that the Lord will award unto me, praise be his name. My ears are open to His voce. I am his chosen mouthpiece, the speaker of his Truth. I am the helpmeet of my Lord.
* * *Rebecca Cook grew up on a farm in North Georgia with her family and lots of chickens, cats, cows, and land. Now she lives in Chattanooga, TN with her husband, two sons, and two cats. Her writing, nominated for the 2002 and 2003 Pushcart Prize, has been published in many literary journals including Northwest Review, Carve, Exquisite Corpse, The New Orleans Review, and Rock Salt Plum. She is a contributing editor for Pierian Springs and co-founder of the Chattanooga Writers Guild.
"The Avon Witness" copyright 2004 by Rebecca Cook.