THEY SIT SIDE-BY-SIDE on my dining room table, a plastic dashboard Jesus (complete with a spring and an adhesive base) and an eight-inch, cloth voodoo doll with red yarn hair and mismatched button eyes. Both purchased by my son on his pre-college, rite-of-passage road trip west. He bought the voodoo doll in Louisiana and dubbed him “Guy.” (The French pronunciation, please. He is from New Orleans.) This voodoo doll, hereafter known as Guy, protects travelers and keeps their journeys safe. Once purchased, he rested on the dashboard of the Accord for the black sedan’s adventure all those many miles to and from Texas.
Wobbly Jesus was procured in an eclectic toy store in Austin and remained in his box, in a bag, in the back of the car until he arrived home in Columbia, South Carolina. St. Christopher, a gift from my husband to my son when he got his driver’s permit, swung back and forth on the key ring as the music no doubt blared. Spiritually speaking, my teenage wanderer was covered.
My boy rolled into our driveway nine days and twelve hours after he’d backed out of it for his epic journey. I hugged his 6’2” lanky frame with relief. His Ray-Ban frames in the style of Malcom X were a little askew, making him look like a beatnik poet time traveler who’d just dropped in, tired but relieved to have landed.
He started telling tales. Tales of food and music and scenery and jumping in the Mississippi river – you know, just to say he had. He talked about Houston traffic and an ancient palm reader and some sketchy side streets in the French Quarter. He handed out gifts: worry dolls for his youngest sister, a bracelet that brings good luck for the middle one, a T-shirt from Waterloo Records for his dad, and, for me, the plastic dashboard Jesus.
When he finally took a breath, that youngest sister, the one who worries, slapped her hands together loudly, looked heavenward and said, “Thank you Jeeesus, for bringing him home safe!” Instantly, my son looked at me and grinning said, “It was all Guy.”
I didn’t take the bait. By this time Jesus was out of his box, arms bent at the elbow, palms upward designed to look like he is about to bless. But at this moment, Jesus looked like he was about to shrug and say, “Kids today. What are you going to do?” I feel you, Jesus.
I do not say anything, but I think: “Look, buddy, you claimed and named ‘Guy’ but God claimed and named YOU and I am certain Jesus knows your name. Certain, because I have said it fervently, frequently, loudly, in my prayers. Especially these last few days … and years.” I learned what it meant to pray without ceasing when my first born started high school. Every day, twice a day, I rode by that school and made the sign of the cross. Seriously. I once added this brilliant, creative, bold child’s name to a cyber-prayer list, knowing I needed all the help I could get, not sure if Presbyterian prayers were enough. Yeah, I think, “It was all Guy.”
It was not all “Guy.” It was all grace. It is all grace, and even though he won’t admit it, at least not to me, I suspect he knows that, too.
In a few days my son and “Guy” will get back in the car and go to college. Dashboard Jesus will remain with me, but the Risen Christ will travel with all of us, no matter where we go. Thank you, Jeeesus, for that.
JILL DUFFIELD is associate pastor for discipleship at Shandon Presbyterian Church in Colombia, South Carolina.