STEVE CRAIN: A Pale-Blue Coat for Easter
Mother bought me a pale-blue sports coat to wear on Easter Sunday when I was eight or nine years old, but she should have known better.
I lived with my father, mother and younger sister on Groce Meadow Road in upper Greenville County, S.C., when Mother purchased that light-blue, go-to-meeting garment for me in the 1950s.
Back then, radio stations aired songs about putting on "Easter bonnets" and writing sonnets about those bonnets. Most folk I knew seemed to celebrate Easter by donning new threads or wearing their best "spring is here" duds to church. I reckon Mother thought her son would look refined in a powder-blue jacket. I thought the color was a bit too "pretty," but I didn't say much.
Easter Sunday arrived, and before she attended to my sister and to getting into her own special outfit, Mother had me dress in a white shirt, tie, dark pants, white shoes and that light-blue sports coat.
"May I go outside?" I asked.
"Yes, but don't you go near that dog," Mother said.
"That dog" was Rinny, a long-legged, half-grown collie -- well, mostly collie mixed with "something else." (I named him after the German Shepherd dog that starred on "The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin," an ABC-aired children's TV program that ran from October 1954 until August 1959.) We, like many "country people" in those days, had our dog tied to his house because we didn't want him "to get run over." We planned to set Rinny loose after he matured.
Easter morning was bright and clear, but recent rain had left our ground and grass wet. Rinny saw me and began rearing up and stretching against his rope. I started running back and forth in front of him, staying just far enough away to avoid contact. Suddenly, Rinny's red mud-covered right paw extended mysteriously from his lanky body and flopped onto the right sleeve of my pale-blue coat. I jumped back and gawked at a mud glob between my wrist and elbow.
Mother scrubbed with soap and water but couldn't remove all of that orange-colored stain. I attended church that Sunday with an evident blotch on my Easter garment.
Playing near the edge can prove exciting, but regret may follow when a mud-covered paw leaves a stain on body, soul and spirit.
Conservative Christian theology holds that "the sinful nature" in each person is "pervasive," meaning sin is entwined in the core of each human's existence and "spreads through all parts of" every man, woman and child.
The evidence of such pervasive sin is often described as a "stain" in hymns and psalms I heard as a child.
The song "Jesus Paid It All," contains these words: "I hear the Savior say, 'Thy strength indeed is small! / Child of weakness, watch and pray, find in Me thine all in all.' / For nothing good have I whereby Thy grace to claim / I will wash my garments white in the blood of Calvary's Lamb / Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe / Sin had left a crimson stain / He washed it white as snow."
Israel's King David wrote, "Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness, according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity and cleanse me from my sinwash me, and I shall be whiter than snow" (from Psalm 51).
When hearing a reference to "the stain of sin" in a hymn or sermon, I usually think of my pale-blue sports coat and picture my mother scrubbing a muddied sleeve while trying not to say much about her disappointment in me.
Steve Crain works in the carpet manufacturing industry and lives in Southern Pines.
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