I pick at the beads sliding along the cord wrapped around my wrist, scratching at the letters embossed in the glossy plastic coating. They’re cheap, the kind where the black lettering rubs off as I run fingers across them, tracing each of the letters slowly like a poor man’s braille.
We made them in Sunday school. The teacher is old and smells like the cleaner we use to scrub the toilets, but she’s nice to me. She talks about how much this Jesus guy – the “J” on these cheap bracelets we wear – loves us, and how his dad sent him to die on that cross for our sins. She tells us we should be like him. I keep my head down when she talks like that because I know the words aren’t meant for someone like me. He’s clean, pure, someone worth loving.
She asks us if the devil had a face, what would he look like? The kids laugh as they make up words to describe this horn wearing, tail wagging, pitchfork wielding creature. A monster. Someone to be hated and feared without question, recognizable on site for the evil he is.
But, I know the truth.
See, the bible tells us the devil used to be an angel; that he loved God with everything he had, but he grew jealous and was cast out. It tells us he speaks in half-truths, lying and manipulating those closest to God so that they fall, too. So, you see, I know what the devil looks like. I see his face every time I close my eyes. I feel the devil’s hands on my skin, even now as I pick at these God-forsaken beads. Remembering the feel of his hot breath on my cheek as he filled my head with half-truths and lies, I watch as the devil’s face slides over my own, staring back in the mirror. And I ask myself…
Why Would Jesus Die?
Why? For someone like me? The words to the hymnal reach under the door, a heart wrenching harmony belted out by the congregation, each member fighting off their own devils with the Blood of the Lamb. The beads bounce along the tile, a perpetual rattle raining in my head. I stare at my fingers, bleached white between each wrap of the cord.
I listen to the sermon from the bathroom floor, trying to fill in the blanks, those empty holes in my heart. He talks more about the love of Jesus as I gather up the fallen beads. He fills his flock with hope, so much I can see them floating toward the clouds, telling them how it’ll all be okay. How their sins can be washed away, clean. I clutch the beads to my chest, wiping at the tears streaking down my cheeks with the scratchy single-ply tissue, a mumbled prayer said in time with the choir’s tune.
There’s Power in the Blood.