I will choose to remember this day when Miss Pratt told me her story, what church-going folks would call her testimonial.
Sauntering along the empty rows of booths and bookcases that make up the Manor Mart flea market on a day mid-week when shops were not open, I walked up behind Miss Pratt. With a can of black spray paint in one hand and a Bible in her back pocket, she was redecorating as if her life depended on it. Not wanting to sneak up on her and scare her to death, I cleared my throat and sang out a friendly greeting.
From the first word Miss Pratt uttered, I knew I was in for an earful. She stopped her work of painting the bamboo style end tables from tan to glossy black, and turned to face me with a wide grin. And then she commenced to preaching. She told me the forlorn tale of her triple bypass back in 2011 and how the Lord had spared her life and set about straightening her out. She recited scriptures with the fervor of a woman on a mission, hands waving and perspiration beading up on her face. I nodded my head and listened, mostly because I couldn’t get a word in edgewise.
Taking a breath and setting her hands on her hips, Miss Pratt continued on to her present day walk with the Lord. Just the other day, she whipped into the lane to turn into her home, neglecting to use her turn signal. While waiting at the light to make her turn, a car pulled alongside her. The driver motioned for her to roll down her window. “Next time, you need to use your turn signal,” the lady cautioned. Well, Miss Pratt did not take kindly to the woman’s advice and told her to mind her own business. But Miss Pratt got to thinking and decided maybe her behavior wasn’t in keeping with the Lord’s will. In her own words, she was feeling mightily convicted. She came to view the lady as an angel sent to protect and teach her. She said God’s word stuck in her throat because pride is hard to swallow.
I wanted to take Miss Pratt’s portrait . . . but there was something so sincere about her, so honest and imperfect. I wasn’t sure I could do her justice. Or maybe I was just afraid of breaking the spell where I knew for certain that small conversations and chance meetings are God’s work.
Within this joy, I believe there is a hidden hope for what is yet to come. It is a striving and a foretaste of our full identity, and we are given just enough of a taste to make us follow after it. –Rebecca Parker Payne