I was 10 years old… too old for a babysitter (I thought) but too young to be left alone in the evening, (so my parents thought.) They went to dinner parties at least three times a week, leaving me with our senior border collie, Shep, who barked at nothing and emitted gross smells of which he seemed to delight.
Our Long Island home was sprawling; my parents bedroom was at the end of a wing, and mine the end of another. Not only did our house make creepy noises, but there was a door to the outside right next to my bedroom. While Shep farted and snored, I imagined burglars in the bushes jarring open the feeble lock. I would pull the covers over my head and lay as flat as possible. I tried once to fit under my bed, but was afraid I’d get stuck and I also feared my parents would not notice my absence until days later.
So when my mother suggested a babysitter, I agreed begrudgingly. It would be embarrassing for sure but I was growing sick of trying to be Flat Stanley and devising ways of escaping burglars. This was well before Home Alone and there was no Macaulay Culkin to emulate.
So one Wednesday evening Barbara, age 18, came over. I remember two events of the evening. Watching F Troop on TV and Barbara teaching me a song. It turns out she attended a Bible College and was a follower of Jesus. The song lyric went something like this,
In my heart there rings a melody.
For Jesus died for me. And rose again for me.
Now he lives…
That’s where my 60 plus year old memory fails me. But two words have permeated my mind ever since.
Was that true? He died for me? A scaredy-cat, an awkward kid who was terrified of the dark?
Barbara told me that if I was the only person on earth, Jesus still would have gone to the cross FOR ME. To take the punishment of sin….for me.
I never saw Barbara after that as we moved to Florida and I decided babysitters were for babies and I would just have to get flatter. (I was now concerned about gators and rattlesnakes versus burgers,)
But as I lay flat I felt a love that I had never known before and that has stuck with me ever since.
The gospel message is simple and yet incomprehensible. And personal.
He died and rose again for you.
And for me.
I can hear Shep snorting in agreement.