When I was young and newly married, I made a deal with God. This is what I swore: if He would spare my husband’s foot, I would put Him foremost in everything. He didn’t promise me anything because it doesn’t work that way, but sure enough my husband’s foot healed up pretty good. If only the better to kick me with later on, but we all know that God works in mysterious ways. What I didn’t know then is that the deal would wind up saving my life.
The accident happened in 1971. My husband was just starting his shift at the bassinet factory when the kid driving the loader ran over his foot. The doctors wanted to amputate because it was in such bad shape. Not just crushed, but chewed up. One of them compared his torn flesh to the inside of a fig. I still remember that, because I had no idea what the inside of a fig looked like. A few months later, I thought to ask a manager at the Ultra Low Foods where the figs were, but he told me they didn’t carry those.
The doctors tried to put my husband’s foot back together, but they couldn’t guarantee anything. We’ll have to wait and see if blood will circulate, they said. That’s when I started talking to God about it. I remember it clear as day. I was sitting in one of those blue vinyl chairs next to the hospital bed. I squinted my eyes shut and whispered my proposition out loud.
What else could I do? If my husband lost his foot, he couldn’t work at the factory. Where would we get the money to pay rent and feed the children we were going to have? I barely finished high school. I might be able to get work as a part-time tailor at the cleaners, but anything that paid better, like a secretary job, would be a stretch. The future opened up to me like a black hole. I whispered again to God and my sleeping husband and the woman hacking up a lung on the other side of the curtain. If, then. I promise.
The next week my brother-in-law drove us home from the hospital. My husband was on crutches, but eventually he would walk almost normal. After eighteen long months on disability he went back to work.
I didn’t forget the deal. Before the accident, I used to go to church here and there, when it suited me. From then on I went regular. Every single week. I prayed in the mornings when I woke up, and at night before bed, and countless times between. Thank you for my many blessings on paydays and sunny days. Please help me do better on days when the babies wore my patience thin or when I made my husband mad enough to hit me.
I’d had to get my drivers license when my husband was on disability. I liked the freedom of driving around in our Chevy while my sister watched the kids. Of course, because of the embargo and the price of gas at that time I never drove without a destination in mind.
One day on my way to the post office I happened to drive by a church parking lot sale. I swung back around to take a look, since my sister was taking the kids to the swimming pool and there was no need to rush home. I walked by tables of small articles like candles and linens before I came to the bigger items. I was distracted by a table lamp when I practically walked right into Jesus’s arms.
Jesus had to be about seven feet tall. Flowing hair, outstretched arms, sublime smile, just like you always see. Pre-crucifixion, I mean. A few chips here and there but in pretty good shape overall. No question, I had to bring him home. The sticker on the back of his hand said $19, but I negotiated it down to $11. A teenage boy helped me put him the back of the car. Jesus was heavier than he looked.
As I drove home, forgetting all about my errand at the post office, I thought about God, and how sometimes He is subtle and sometimes He nearly smacks you in the face. I’d promised to put God foremost in my life, and here He was showing me how to do just that.
I set Jesus up in our front room facing out the big picture window, so that he could watch over the neighborhood. He’s been there ever since, forty years of unwavering beatitude. It makes me sad when parents clutch their children’s hands and hurry past, like we have a demon of the occult on display rather than Our Savior. But I have to admit, it makes me laugh when dogs bark at Him.
He always made me feel protected, and He’s the only reason I could sleep at all on days that ended with a bag of frozen peas on my face. That was a long time ago. My husband got tired of that nonsense after our kids were grown. He passed a few years ago, rest his soul.
Life is pretty quiet now, but on occasion something happens to shake things up. Now the gangs are taking up in our neighborhood. I don’t have much tolerance for their antics, except I suppose they’re driven to it by their own sort of desperation.
One evening last summer I was sitting in the front room, talking on the phone with my sister, when I heard a bunch of loud pops coming from the street. It sounded like the firecrackers people are always lighting off, but I knew straight off it was gunfire. Do gunshots resonate longer than firecrackers? That’s what I would have to guess. I don’t know how else to explain how I knew.
The noise startled me, to say the least. My poor sister, she didn’t know what was going on. I hung up on her and was going to call the police when there was another burst. This time the plate glass in our front window shattered. I froze like a deer in headlights. By all rights, that should’ve been the end of me, but it wasn’t. You know why? Yep, Jesus took that bullet for me. It went right into his thigh, or where his thigh should have been under those blue robes. If he hadn’t been there, it would’ve landed square on my temple where I was still set like a dumb animal on the sofa.
Later, after the police officer left, I cried a little. They weren’t tears of sadness or anger. They were tears of joy because God had never left me, during all those years. It might be a risky business, wheeling and dealing with the Supreme Being. He didn’t have to spare my husband’s foot, but He did. He didn’t have to take me by that church parking lot sale, but He did. I shudder to think what would have happened if I never spoke those words to Him in that hospital room. But it doesn’t keep me up nights.