Beth’s figure cast a shadow over Lily’s chair. Lily looked up reluctantly, fluorescence glittering off Beth’s hands and earlobes. “Thank you,” Lily responded. Beth’s feinted welcome rang hollow to Lily.
“We’re a great class,” Beth said. “I’ve been here for years. I should promote up to the next age group, I suppose, but I just love Tim, and this class. Tim’s a great teacher, and we’re all such a close group. If you want, I could introduce you. I know everybody.” Lily’s stomach again turned.
“I work at Covenant, too” Beth said, “but I’m with administration. I’m a counselor. I help direct students in ways they ought to go.” For a moment, Lily felt she might vomit. “Oh,” said Lily. “I teach English—grammar and literature.” It didn’t appear to Lily that Beth had even heard her.
Behind Beth, Lily could see Tim making his way towards his lectern. “Guys, we’ll go ahead and get started this morning,” he said. “First, welcome to Lily. She teaches at Covenant. She moved from Rook last month. Please make her feel welcome. “
Tim and the others in class smiled at Lily. Beth, who had taken a seat opposite Lily, interjected: “Guys, this is Lily. Yes, she works with me at Covenant. But she just teaches English. We in administration are just so glad she came to Covenant and to our church, aren’t we?” Beth’s bracelets jangled. Lily felt acid in her throat.
Tim sat upon the stool, glanced down at the lectern, and addressed the class. “The passage this morning comes from Genesis. It’s the story of Jacob’s wrestling with God in chapter 32.
“Be thinking about what God is teaching about his own nature, and about Jacob’s nature. Then ask yourself how this episode in the life of the patriarch applies to us. Are we at all like Jacob? Then we’ll discuss these things, okay?” The class nodded. Tim read:
And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip on the sinew of the thigh.
Lily looked up from her Bible app, where she’d been following Tim’s reading. Tim looked out at the class. “Well,” he said, “did anyone notice the first sentence—and the crowd of people Jacob was with?”
Lily appreciated Tim’s method. Beth, unsurprisingly, spoke first. “Well, Tim, I know just how Jacob felt. I mean, when I’m with the Lord, I too want God to bless me, and I think it’s so important to listen to him like Jacob did.” Again, Lily felt her stomach turn.
Then Tim looked at Lily. “Lily,” he said, “you look like you wanted to say something.”
“Well,” Lily said, “Jacob was not with a crowd. He was alone when the Lord confronted him.”
“Oh,” Beth said, “well, I mean, of course, he was. We knew that. I was just saying how God blesses us.” Again, the feeling in Lily’s stomach.
“That’s right, Lily. Jacob was alone when he wrestled with the angel of the Lord,” Tim said. “Does anyone think that is significant?” Lily felt Beth’s glare.
“Well, Tim, we all know that Jacob was going to be used by God for something great,” Beth continued.
Then Beth looked down at her hands and began adjusting two of the rings on her right hand. Lily glanced at some of the faces in the semi-circled class to see if anyone’s thoughts were with hers. Several people nodded at her. Beth fondled her golden rings and avoided Lily’s eyes.
(To be continued)