Jen Jeffrey: A Momentary Church Tantrum

Monday, January 21, 2013 - by Jen Jeffrey
Jen Jeffrey
Jen Jeffrey

“I won’t do it and you can’t make me!”

When I was a little girl, I may have been curious and gotten into things that I was curious about, but I pretty much minded my p’s and q’s. I did not back talk my parents and I rarely threw a tantrum. In fact, I can only remember one and I was so ashamed.

“Little Jenny did it…” seemed to be the theme at our house.

My curiosity and wanting to explore somehow lands me in trouble because it usually means that I bite off more than I can chew.

I guess the first ‘little Jenny story’ was one I don’t remember but my family told it to people … a lot. I was two years old and wandered into the guest room at my grandparent’s home. My aunt and uncle had their things in the room and I was curious.

I guess I had opened up my aunt’s attaché case and found chocolate figuring she would not mind if I helped myself. It was chocolate Ex-Lax. I must have eaten the whole package.

Mama said I came ‘trailing down the stairs’ saying, “Mama, I’m sick”. Everyone in the family laughed when they told this story on me, but Mama always said, “Poor thing, I thought she was going to die; she was so sick!”

The next thing I was curious about was baby powder. I remembered doing this ‘little Jenny’ as I was about four years old. I loved how the big bottle of baby powder whooshed out of the little holes on top. I loved how it felt slickery. It made pretty pictures on the floor and I could write my name. I also found that I could sock-skate on the hardwood floors better!

After a few of my episodes, it became easy for my older sisters to get away with stuff. All they had to do to get out of trouble was to say, “Little Jenny did it.” I started to not like my nickname after that.

It seems I was always trying to show everyone that I was a big girl and that I didn’t always get into messes. I may have been curious and I may have had to figure out consequences for my actions but I wasn’t a child who argued if I was told no or told to do something.

Little Jenny didn’t like getting into trouble so I did my best to behave when I wasn’t busy being curious.

I behaved in restaurants and colored quietly when we were at Frisch’s Big Boy. When Mama and Daddy were talking I did not interrupt. When I was told ‘no’ at the store, I accepted the answer even if I really wanted something. I did not kick and scream and embarrass my mother.

The only time I remember ever throwing a tantrum was privately in my room. I don’t remember what it was that got me so mad, but I went to my room in a huff and threw myself on my bed to cry.

When crying didn’t solve anything, I was angry. Lying on my bed, I kicked my feet against the wall a few times and listened for a reaction. Nothing. Maybe Mama didn’t hear me.  I put on my little black Sunday school shoes and tried to kick a little louder to let her know I was very upset.

Yes, the little black shoes left little black marks all across the wall. Little Jenny did it… again. Darn it. I didn’t like who I was that day. It is one thing to accidently walk into something and to find yourself in a mess - I learn that way; but to deliberately act out in anger and throw a tantrum was ‘ugly’ to me. I never did that again.

Fast forward 40 plus years later; I threw a tantrum yesterday. I kicked and screamed and looked for my little Jenny Sunday school shoes to kick louder while I was in church yesterday. I wanted God to hear me.

It started during Sunday school (I guess I did have my Sunday school shoes on) and I took my new eyeglasses out from my purse. I almost felt as if I were putting on HUGE and sparkly Elton John glasses! It felt so obvious and noticeable. But I could see the speaker down front!

First Pres is having six weeks session with Rev. Joey Stewart on the ‘Essentials of the Christian Faith’ located in the fellowship hall. He is so animated and fun! It is a large group who participates; many being several of our Sunday school classes joining together. It is more intimate of a setting than church, but large enough that I needed my glasses.

I had decided that all I would wear my glasses for was to drive and to see Pastor Tim and the choir during church. I followed along with the lesson enjoying the clarity and sharpness of 20/20 vision. Joey asked us to follow along in our Bibles… oops, it was blurry.

I took my glasses off and followed along. When I looked back up at Joey… oops he was blurry. Hmmph! I had to master the skill of donning and ‘un-donning’ my glasses at the needed times. I tried to be slick with this but I felt as if I were the one on stage instead of Joey. I had a disappearing act with my glasses, “Now you see them! …Now you don’t!”

In reality, I am sure no one noticed me because Joey can hold an audience’s attention. Sometimes we feel as if people really care about the stupid minute things we are so focused on in ourselves. The ‘devil’s distractions’ are what I call those moments.

I decided to not follow along in my Bible and just keep the glasses on my face while listening to him read. As Joey moved around the stage talking and demonstrating, my eyes darted left and right and I lost focus. The panel of ‘distance vision’ is when I look straight ahead. No matter, I practiced learning to turn my head instead of my eyes to follow him.

When class was over, I made the glasses disappear again. As the group dispersed, I walked slowly out the door and the people on ahead of me were fuzzy. That was okay, I’d see what I needed to see when I got there.

I was beginning to hate this middle-aged- eyesight fiasco. My self-pity party was slowly about to start. “I think I liked it better when the whole world was fuzzy and I didn’t know what I was missing!” I hollered in my head this conversation to God.

“At least then, everything was consistent!” I wonder when God may tell this little Jenny story; if He would be on the laughing side or the feeling sorry for me side.

Sitting down in the sanctuary next to my buddy ‘Papa Joe’, I made my glasses re-appear and I could see the choir  ….as long as I didn’t veer my eyes left or right (or if I turned my head as I looked left and right). Frustrating!

It seems I have gotten down pat, the up and downs of the service (when we sit and when we stand) and have gotten used to following along with the responsive reading. I even worked out a system where I grab the hymnal before we begin service and dog-ear the page (sorry Kelly) that we are going to sing, so that I am not fiddling to find it and having to catch up. “All systems go” now when I worship.

As a newcomer tries to learn the formalities of a church and to get a rhythm flowing so they can pay attention to the important stuff – it takes time. After attending FPC since last spring; I felt I finally had it down.

Now …I had to deal with which way to turn my head! Glasses on! Glasses off! Sit down! Stand up! You forgot to dog-ear the page! Oh there it is, turned right to it – thank you Lord… Glasses on! Forget trying to follow along in your Bible …Ahhhh! “I can’t keep up! I don’t like this, God!”

As I concentrated on what Pastor Tim was saying, (he holds your attention too – IF you aren’t trying to get used to bi-focals) I got misty-eyed at some truths he preached. I always do. But this time, I could not discreetly wipe a tear from the corner of my eye.

I had to lift up my glasses and wipe my eye as it watered. Do you know how many times I cry in church? Nothing like when I began visiting churches and felt alone or out of place – I am ‘home’ at this church and there are many songs, prayers or truths that touch me to tears. After the pity-party got started; my focus on the message and my focus of my aging eyes, played tennis back and forth. I got mad.

Not angry-mad but ‘little Jenny tantrum-mad’. I sat in my pew having a tantrum in my head for God to hear.

“I don’t like this! If I must grow old like everyone else at least make it consistent! I don’t like my eyes anymore!”

After being able to see with glasses sometimes; I want to see like that all the time. I don’t like seeing parts of things and working my head to see them or taking off my glasses each time I look at something close!

I can see close up but when I have my ‘for distance’ glasses on, I see worse up close than if I were not wearing glasses at all! What’s that about?

I didn’t quite kick my feet against the wall but I did fuss with God in between paying attention. I didn’t like that Holy Communion Sunday was “about me”. Thankfully, we pray for forgiveness of our sins before we go to the Lord’s Table and we can earnestly tell Him we are sorry (but God, we are talking more about this when we get home…).

After service, I saw my buddy Roy leaving and I gave him a hug to say hello. Now, Roy likes to get up close when he talks and I always smell his cigar but I ignore it because it is a joy to see my friend; only I couldn’t see my friend!

I was still wearing my ‘for distance’ glasses and he was a big blur. “Consistency! That is all I’m asking!”

Being a light sleeper, I turn a little fan on before going to bed because it drowns out dogs barking, sirens or traffic with its constant hum. I would rather have the noise of the fan that is consistent than an ‘out of place’ noise that wakes me abruptly to where I can’t fall back asleep. And, that is how I want to see. If I had never seen how clearly I see with the glasses (sometimes) then I would just forget the glasses, but I enjoy seeing when I drive.

Like the consistent hum of my fan, I want my glasses to be the same. I want to avoid the abrupt distractions of bi-focals. When I put on glasses I want to see everything.

I think I will start saving up for Lasix right now… to avoid any more church tantrums.

Little Jenny Jeffrey
Little Jenny Jeffrey

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