I’ve been having more and more flashbacks lately. No, not the kind you get from war nor from too many blows to the head. They come about when an occurring incident takes me back through time to one similar. It’s not like deja vu. The same people, places or things aren’t part of the experience. It’s more like a flow chart where a “no” response takes you back to an earlier choice.
Today on the microbus to Chalchuapa, a pretty highschool girl in her physical education shirt and sweats sat next to me.
Suddenly I recalled how a younger me would have responded to the change in my environment. I would have quickly found something to say to her that would be witty but not obvious. Something that would invite her response rather than offend her sensitivities. I smiled to myself thinking that I don’t have that skill in Spanish anyway. Whatever I might think in English just wouldn’t have a local Spanish equivalent that would open us to dialog. I continued looking out the window.
Recently my daughter Adriana didn’t win the local Miss Chiquitita contest. She and five of the six other girls eight to ten-years of age cried even though they were given princess tiaras and an armload of gifts. I was videoing the pageant and had closed in on my little girl and caught the shock and disappointment on her face. I wanted to run up on the stage and just hold her. It took a while before she came down through a crowd of waiting parents and siblings wanting to console their little girls as well. Her mother got to her first followed by her older sister. I had to wait until we got inside the changing area before I could even touch her. That’s when I had a flashback.
It was 1967. My daughter Karen was also eight-years old. The scene wasn’t a small town in El Salvador but Palisades Amusement Park in the great state of New Jersey. Her mother and I had split up and weren’t on the best of terms but she invited me to come and see Karen in the Little Miss America contest. I don’t remember all the details other than Karen finished as the first runner-up. I think the judges saw her as looking bored from all the prancing with a number in her hands. I also don’t remember how she took being this close to winning. If her mom reads this, she’ll fill me in I’m sure. We’re good friends now. But I remember feeling so out of the picture because Karen’s mom had custody and I was just a visitation father. So when Adriana clung to her mother and I couldn’t get my arms around her, I had the whole flashback.
I was on the tiny stage at the Dog House Bar in New Brunswick, NJ. Smitty was on my right, Harvey on my left. Richie was crunched between his drums and the back wall. Old Frankie squeezed in with his steel guitar. As the Texas Troubadour got to the chorus it all came back. My aging voice was light and clear, “Waltz across Texas with you in my arms. Waltz across Texas with you…” My reverie was broken when I began a coughing fit.
A young couple in our (now) former church disgraced themselves and blemished the name of the church by executing a coup de eglise on Sunday. They’ve been making fiscal and program decisions without authorization or approval of the church. They even stacked the church with near and distant relatives to control any votes. Their goal was to assure a continuance of their ripping off the treasury, making un-churchly decisions, removing the voices of dissenters, and ultimately firing a humble, eloquent, honest, and godly pastor. Like a political party, they preceded the meeting with a boisterous rally. They further embarrassed themselves by having police at the church door when the dissenters arrived with our children and armed with our Bibles. There were moderators from the Baptist Association of El Salvador but this couple and its gang were not interested in mediation or reconciliation. Having raped the church and the more than 300 children served by its Center for Whole Development, they were determined to kill it and hide the evidence. They won the vote. They have the freedom to steal and pillage and no man will stop them. But in time they’ll come to realize that it wasn’t worth it. Losing one’s soul is worse than losing your children and family.
The flashback: As a foolish and stubborn young man I went through a divorce that cost me my children. I now had the freedom to do as I pleased and answer to no woman. But my house and my heart became empty realizing this was not what I really wanted nor would anything good come of it. That feeling of desolation is what I feel now in seeing God co-opted for personal gain and glory while a large number of long-time members are looking to Him for guidance in restarting their spiritual lives.