She looked at the building from her mother's car, and for a moment Melody was scared. The invitation to attend church and Bible School that week came from Teresa, a new friend. This was a new experience. She'd never been to church before.
Every summer she made the rounds of Vacation Bible Schools. That was all the "church" she ever had. Her parents didn't go. Since the divorce, Sundays were quiet and lonely. That's why Melody was delighted at Teresa's invitation. She wasn't so sure now.
"Go on, honey," her mother said, "I've got things to do. Your Dad will pick you up afterward and take you home."
"Goodbye," Melody replied, closing the door. What was she supposed to do? Where was she to go? Where was Teresa? She started to panic... Then she saw her new friend running toward her. "Come on, let's go, it's this way."
Melody enjoyed Sunday School. The teacher was nice. Melody felt welcome. There was an extra book, and a Bible, with paper and pencil for her. It was like she was expected. After class, Melody asked Teresa about it.
"She always has extra stuff, and tells us to invite our friends. That's why I asked you."
With Teresa's parents they went into the sanctuary. It felt good when someone shook her hand at the door, asking her name. It was like she was somebody.
The service was Okay, but it wasn't like Sunday morning cartoons. In fact, it was boring. The preacher talked. They sang some songs, none she recognized. "I bet they don't make music videos of these," she thought.
At one point everybody greeted each other. Down the pew was this older man who didn't smile. She was almost afraid to shake his hand, but she did. He gave her a big grin.
"Welcome there, little girl."
Melody sat through the service next to Teresa. On the other side sat her parents with her little brother between them. Teresa called him "the Brat." Every now and then, "the Brat" would turn and make an ugly face.
As she watched Teresa's family, Melody felt jealous. She hated living between two homes. Why couldn't she have parents who got along? Going from Mom's home one week to Dad's the next, she didn't really feel a part of either one.
Yes, she had her own room in both places. She could play her parents against each other to get what she wanted. What she desired most, though, was something she couldn't have: to belong somewhere. She loved her mother and father, and knew they loved her. However, she felt out of place in their lives.
Looking at Teresa's family, she felt sad about her own. While she was thinking, the preacher spoke of Jesus as God's only son. When Jesus died for our sins and rose from the grave, he made it possible for us to be God's sons.
Melody looked over at the man with the frowning face beside her. His head was tilted down. She heard a slight snore. His wife nudged him, and he awoke with a start. Melody almost laughed, but thought better. So she wondered what it meant to be a "son of God."
"What does that have to do with me? I'm a girl. Do I have to be a boy to be a son of God?"...
Soon the service was over, and she said goodbye to Teresa and her family. "I wish I could go home with them," she thought as she got into her Dad's car.
* * * * *
The next day, Melody got up quickly, ready for Bible School. Once there, she saw Teresa, and together they got into the registration line. After that, they went to sit in front of a stage. There was a lot of singing, and these were fun songs. Somebody read from the Bible, and prayed.
Then everybody split into different age groups. Melody liked her's. The teachers were nice, though she wasn't sure about the boys. She could put up with them for a week.
Later, they returned to the stage for a magic show. The magician said he was also a minister. While performing tricks, he talked about God. It was really something. The day was pretty good, all in all.
She brought home a box full of soil with a tree planted in it. The week's offering was for planting trees in poor countries around the world, where they were needed. Melody put hers by the window.
The next day was just as fun. The magician invited Melody and some other children to come up for a card trick. On a poster board he'd written some words, like "God, Jesus, Love, Forgiveness, Church."
One at a time, each kid spelled out a word. With every letter, the magician flipped a card in a big deck. When finished, the last card was turned over, and that word was magically on it. It worked this way until Melody's turn. When she spelled out "Love," up came the word "chicken." They all laughed. "You must be thinking about a chicken," he told her.
Every time it was her turn, up came the "chicken" card. It was funny. On her last turn, the magician said, "let me spell it first, and then you try." This time, he got the chicken card, and she got the word "Family." She must've had a funny look on her face, because after it was over, a nice older lady came up to Melody, asking if she was Okay.
They talked while the others left. This woman seemed interested in her, like it mattered that Melody was there. The woman asked her name and said she remembered her from church last Sunday. Melody replied that Teresa had invited her, and that she was glad she went. She didn't mention being scared, jealous, or sad. Excusing herself, Melody went back to her group. She had a new friend, Mrs. Cranston. It was a pretty good day.
That night was awful. Dad brought home his "girlfriend." Melody didn't like her at all. She was polite throughout supper, but afterwards went back to the safety of her room. She didn't belong here. She didn't belong anywhere.
* * * * *
The next day at Bible School started out terrible, for Melody was in a bad mood. Furthermore, Teresa wasn't there. Melody felt very alone. The puppets, the crafts, the snacks, nothing seemed right. She must've had another one of those looks on her face, because Mrs. Cranston asked, "What's the matter, dear?"
At first Melody didn't want to talk, but how can you say "no" to a kind, old lady? Rather than speak about what was really bugging her, she reached for something else.
"Mrs. Cranston, what does being a 'son of God' mean? The preacher talked about it last Sunday, remember?"
"Why sure," Emily replied. "That's a big question for a young girl. Why do you ask?" Mrs. Cranston looked as if she knew something else was the matter.
"That's just it. I'm a girl. How can I be a 'son of God?'"
Emily let out a laugh, and then covered her mouth. "Excuse me, it's just that I remember saying the same thing myself, a long time ago. I was once a girl, too. If I remember right, I started wondering that right after my mother died."
"You lost your mother?"
"Yes, I was about your age. I was the oldest of six children. Do you have any brothers or sisters, Melody?"
"No, Mrs. Cranston."
"Well, back then, most of the responsibility for running our family fell on my shoulders. Father tried hard, but he really didn't take charge like he should've. I became the real head of the house. It wasn't easy. I missed Mother so much. I missed the way things were.
"I realize now that was an awful lot of responsibility for a young girl to carry. Somehow, though, God helped me do it. Like those seeds we planted Monday, God grew me into a tree that could stand tall, and become what he intended me to be. That's what I understand a 'son of God' is.
"Whenever I hear the word 'son,' the word 'daughter' comes to mind. Because of Jesus, I'm an important part of God's big family, and God knows me by name. I'm his daughter, and that's something very special. Nobody can take that away from me. Because God makes me who I am, I can make it through anything."
Mrs. Cranston rubbed a tear from her eyes. "Melody, that's a promise from God for everyone."
"Especially you! 'Melody' is a special name. I pray that God will make a beautiful song out of your life: 'God's melody.' Say, did Teresa invite you to church this Sunday? I heard she has the flu and probably won't be able to come. Could George and I pick you up and bring you? You can sit with us."
After Melody told her "Yes," she went back to class. The day wasn't terrible after all.
* * * * *
That Sunday, Melody sat between Emily and George, who was the man with the frown that became a smile. She liked him. For the first time in a long while she felt like she belonged somewhere.
"This is my home," she thought. "I'm part of God's family, I want to be one of God's daughters. Like Mrs. Cranston."
The congregation stood and sang a final hymn, "...this is my story, this is my song..." As she joined all the others on these words, she prayed, "God, make me your Melody."
©1996Peter L. Haynes