Regardless of how we spend them, the holidays draw up memories—some wonderful, some we’d rather forget and some that just keep getting funnier.
I don’t recall many details about the day I stole Jesus. But since I was in high school, it was probably like most winter days. I woke up to the sound of my mother’s voice, munched on toast in a fog then slipped on the ice en route to catch the bus. (Seeing icy streets gives me phantom aches to this day.) Come dusk, after more fogginess also known as classes, I went to my friend Andrea’s house to meet with my Odyssey of the Mind team. (If you’re unfamiliar with OM, think math team for creatives.) There, I woke up.
Beck’s “I’m a loser baby…” hummed from the stereo while we dined on doughnuts and M&Ms in preparation for the evening’s events. Tonight we’d do a scavenger hunt, Andrea explained. In OM, making practice activities as difficult as possible was key, particularly since our sights were set on state competition and beyond. Toward this end, baby Jesus appeared on my list.
Most of my teammates were atheists, which was equal to devil worship in the eyes of my grandparents—a strict Baptist pastor and missionary team. I’d spent the summer organizing benefit concerts to raise awareness about child abuse, for which I was made co-recipient of the Minnesota Peace Prize. In other words, I was a goody-goody supreme—not someone predictably comfy with Jesus-nabbing.
To toughen matters further, I couldn’t drive yet and the only Jesus in the neighborhood was real, and not in a second coming type way. Mary and Joseph’s breath made frozen white puffs in the air and the little tyke in the manger wasn’t plastic.
Crap, I thought, unable to even think cuss words yet, much less state them. Then I had an idea. I’d call a friend, hitch a ride to my house and borrow the plastic, lit-up Jesus from the nativity scene in the yard. My family was asleep, I figured; no one would miss him for a few hours. And besides, the little dude deserved some respite.
Once the mission was accomplished, I returned to Andrea’s house. The gang fell speechless as I presented every item on my list, including the mighty savior. Sure, I’d found a creative solution—one of the O.M. pillars. But far more remarkable was the fact that I, Ms. Goody Two Shoes, stole him, presumably from a stranger’s yard. And seemed fine with it. No, not just fine, pleased.
Hours later, exhausted and high from sugar, creative tricks and camaraderie, we called it a night and a teammate drove me home.
The next morning I woke to sounds best suited to nightmares. Muffled crying. Serious voices. Something terribly wrong. I jolted upright: Cora? Listening closer, I had no doubt. My youngest sister was upset. Really upset. Before I could rush downstairs to help soothe her, she said something I’ll never forget: “But Mom, why would someone steal Jesus?”
The word crap no longer seemed strong enough. @$%#! I forgot Jesus!
I snuck into my parents’ room and phoned Andrea, held my breath as she searched to no avail: Jesus wasn’t there. @#$@#$#&$#@$!!!
I sat paralyzed in my room, scrambling for what to do. I could still hear my parents’ voices, filled with angst and disappointment more due to Cora’s heartache than the missing figure. What my team didn’t know was that amidst my recent do-goodings, I’d also been picked up by the cops (for skipping class with a friend, leading our parents to believe we’d been abducted) and gotten in trouble for other…*clearing throat* …things. Seeing my sisters’ sad faces as the cop car pulled into the driveway had been too much. I couldn’t disappoint Cor, or any of them, again.
I spent the day working up the courage to tell my family the truth, while the term “finding Christ” took on a whole new meaning.
That night, still Jesus-less and lost for an alternate plan, I heard my mom and Cor praying for the bad person who took him. Tomorrow, I decided. I would tell them tomorrow.
I woke the next morning to brighter sounds. Sing song chatter. Laughter. Cora’s voice, this time chipper: “It’s a Christmas miracle!”
Tears filled my eyes once I realized what had happened. The teammate who’d driven me home from Andrea’s had tucked baby Jesus back in his bed. My sister’s joy almost made the ordeal worthwhile.
Deeming my shame and frustration punishment enough, and not wishing to taint my sister’s “miracle” or opinion of me, I kept the truth to myself until last year when my hubby outed me. I’m glad he did, as the laughter it’s brought up since is like a holiday in itself.
I suppose stealing Jesus taught me that although the truth does set us free and hurt stems from dishonesty, sometimes good things happen regardless. Just sometimes.
So, what about you? Steal any religious icons lately? What turns of events have gone from sour to miraculous? Have you reaped surprising benefits from simply keeping your mouth shut? Do tell. I always love hearing from you…HONEST.