The little girl skipped out of the house into the yard. She wore a new dress, a white Easter dress. In her curly hair was a white ribbon. On her feet were white knee-high socks and polished white Mary Jane's with the slightest heel that tapped when she walked on hard floors, which is why she was sent outside.
"Stay clean," Mama directed. "No hanging upside down from the cherry tree!"
Trying to be obedient, she tap-tapped her way down the paved driveway and onto the sidewalk. She twirled, enjoying how her beautiful new dress flared open like a flower blooming.
Suddenly, she was pushed from behind. She hadn't seen the bully approach. He always seemed to take pleasure in tormenting her and she didn't know why. She was off balance from twirling when he shoved her, so she landed hard, right in a mud puddle beside the sidewalk. Thick brown water climbed onto her lap.
"Why?!" she demanded.
He shrugged his shoulders and smirked an ugly grin. "I like it," was all he would say.
"Well, I don't!" she retorted.
"So, I'm bigger and I like it!" He laughed and walked away.
There was no tap-tapping as she shuffled back home. She knew Mama would be angry. Her new dress was ruined. She knew she would be the one to be punished, and he would not.
Opening the door, she slowly tip-toed to the kitchen where Mama was busy slicking back the rooster tail above her brother's pouting face. Mama turned to look at her.
"We're not quite ready to go yet, honey. Go back outside for a bit more."
Mama didn't notice the ugly stains? She looked down at herself, confirming the mud did show. But all Mama did was give her a hug and steer her gently back outside. Outside where the bully was.
He was still there, standing beside another mud puddle. Where had the mud come from? Before she had only noticed blue sky, birds singing in the trees, the green grass, and the start of Spring flowers in Mama’s garden. But sure enough, muddy water rested in pools throughout the neighbourhood.
She watched as he jumped in one, glorying at how the mud sprayed up around him. He hadn't noticed her yet, but his splashing threw up more mud; this time it reached her face and hair ribbon.
He seemed to be having so much fun jumping in the mud, and Mama had not even noticed the stains on her, she thought. "And he's just going to push me into the mud again anyway," she reasoned.
She stepped into the nearest puddle and sat down. She gathered mud around her, bathing in the dirt to cover herself before he threw more at her. She knew it was wrong. She knew she was ruining her pretty Easter dress. Yet somehow, she liked the squish of mud as it seeped inside her shoes when she stood up to run from puddle to puddle. The tap-tapping had turned to squelch-squelching.
"Let's go," called Mom. Climbing into the back seat of the station wagon, she huddled against the far door, expecting at any moment that a brother would tattle about her being so dirty.
No one noticed her, though. She was confused. Wasn't the sight and stench of the mud obvious? Couldn’t they see it covering everything?
At the Easter church service, she saw the other girls, all dressed in new dresses, soft shades of pink and green, and white. "If I stand beside them someone will certainly notice how dirty I am," she thought, so she stayed close to her mom, trying to hide in the shadows.
In the sermon, the minister described how the Jews had been slaves for hundreds of years in Egypt, and how God told them to mark their doors with the blood of a pure lamb.
“God said, ‘Eat standing up, with your coat on, ready to leave for the Promised Land.’” She remembered the story from Sunday School. The Angel of Death came that night to kill the oldest boy in each house, but not in the houses marked with blood. The blood showed the angel all the families who believed God could and would rescue them.
The minister then described the week leading up to the death of Jesus on the cross. How Jesus was beaten, with blood pouring over his face from a wretched thorny crown forced onto his head. And then they put him on the cross to die. The minister paused and turned to the wooden cross hanging on the wall behind him. It was draped with a black cloth.
She looked down at her dress and saw the mud had dried to a colour that matched the cloth on the cross. The minister pointed to the cloth and her eyes grew wide as he looked directly at her.
"That black cloth is your sin," he exclaimed. "The sin of history, the sin that has been thrown at you through circumstances, and the sin you have chosen yourself." She lowered her eyes in shame.
Tears streaked over the mud on her cheeks. She wiped her eyes trying to wash her face but knew she was just mixing the dirt around more. She quietly tried to wipe her face on her short puffy sleeves, but the material was already soaked through with dirt and wasn't helping at all. Being sorry was not enough.
The minister's voice had become quiet and she looked up to see him draping another cloth over the black one. This cloth was a deep red. He made sure it covered every bit of the black cloth.
"You don't have to stay in sin. Remember the blood of the lambs at Passover? It was the blood of a sacrificed lamb painted on the door that showed the Angel of Death who believed God could rescue them. Jesus gave himself on the cross as that sacrifice, at the exact time it was needed in the world because he was the perfect sacrifice. His blood can be poured over you just as it was on the doors so long ago. Do you believe God can and will rescue you from sin? Will you ask God to allow the sacrifice of Jesus to be accepted in your place?"
"Oh, yes," she whispered. "I would rather be covered with Jesus' blood than with all this mud. Then God will see the blood and know I believe He will rescue me."
The minister continued. “It doesn’t end there. Jesus’ blood covers the sin that keeps us from God, but then Jesus did even more. He rose from the grave. He conquered death so we can live for eternity with God. Hallelujah! Isaiah says, 'though your sin be as scarlet,' yes, even as your sin is covered with Jesus' blood, 'it will be white as snow.' Jesus' blood washes us clean. Jesus makes us white as snow so we can live in the presence of God. Do you believe?"
The minister paused as he hung another cloth over the red one. This cloth was white. It did not cover the red but seemed to be framed by the red cloth, as if tucked into and protected by the blood sacrifice.
“Only by the blood of Jesus can we live today, tomorrow, and for eternity in holiness, washed as white as snow.”
Her heart filled with wonder that God could cover her with Jesus’ blood to make her white as snow. She looked down again and fingered her lacey white Easter dress.
"Look, Mama, I'm white as snow."
This Lent season, Marnie Pohlmann is reflecting on the seasons of winter, mud, and spring, and how Christ's blood washes us white as snow to give new life, even though we have jumped into mud puddles of selfishness and sin. Read her blog, Phosphorescent, to see how God continues to teach her of His presence and love.