Copyright© 2012 by Robert McKay
Things were moving in a flurry now. We'd met with the elders on Saturday, and on Monday by prearrangement Hadassah missed her first class, and we met with the principal of Calvin Academy, Dr. Vernon Chalmers. As we drove toward the school I thought of what I knew about him. I'd seen degrees from UCLA and the University of Texas on his wall, and a Ph.D. from Harvard. There was another doctorate from Southern Baptist Theological seminary, and I remembered him mentioning that he'd studied at Oxford and the Sorbonne.
And I remembered where he'd taught – Princeton, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of New Mexico, as well as a small seminary back east the name of which I couldn't remember. He'd left the UNM position when he'd founded Calvin Academy in 1990. If there ever was a learned man and a Christian both, it was Dr. Chalmers; he was in the mold of such scholars as John Owen, who'd taught at Oxford and written theological treatises still in use today; or Jonathan Edwards, who was prominent in the first Great Awakening and was the first president of what later became Princeton University, and was a scientist and philosopher as well as a pastor and theologian.
I don't often find myself intimidated, but on this occasion I did. My degrees are respectable, but I haven't studied secular subjects as Dr. Chalmers had, nor am I as broadly educated in spiritual things as he was, nor am I as deep in more than one area. He was an administrative and teaching theologian, while I teach to support my theological writing, but no administrator on earth was more aware of what his school taught, and more involved in forming the curriculum, than Vernon Chalmers.
Gill was less intimidated. She is not ignorant of the Scriptures, but she is no theologian, and received her degree in accounting; theological rankings and disputes don't interest her. She simply knew Dr. Chalmers as a chilly and formal man, who ran his school with a strong hand and was providing for Hadassah a better education than she could ever have obtained in the Albuquerque Public Schools system.
Hadassah was simply terrified. As we turned onto Paseo del Norte she asked, "Do you think he'll throw me out of school, Daddy?"
"I don't know, Hadassah." I reached back between the front seats to clasp her hand; it was icy and damp. "I certainly will argue against that if Dr. Chalmers tries to do it."
"And I will too, honey." Gill was the calmest of us all. "I know that the school has standards and rules, and you've broken those rules and failed to meet the standards. But we know just how much you've repented, and I'll make sure Dr. Chalmers knows it too."
"I'm scared, Mommy."
"I know you are, Hadassah. But your father and I will be there beside you, and if necessary we'll stand between you and Dr. Chalmers."
"'For the LORD will go before you, /And the God of Israel will be your rear guard.' I know you and Dad aren't the Lord, but that's what I think of when you say that."
I laughed, glad to have some way to lessen the tension. "Daughter, if they stood you up in front of a firing squad, you'd find an appropriate quotation."
"I am the Gurney Halleck of my family," she said. "I might say to the man in charge of the soldiers, 'What you do, do quickly.' Or I might paraphrase Psalm 91:5 and say, 'I will not be afraid of the terror by night, /Or of the arrow that flies by day.' On the other hand, I might be so terrified that I'd pee my pants and fall down and they'd have to tie me to the post because I couldn't make my legs hold me up."
"Who on earth is Gurney Halleck?" Gill asked.
"He's a guy in Dune, Paul's swordmaster. One time the duke says that if he ever caught Gurney without a quotation he'd look undressed – Gurney would, I mean."
"But getting back to where we were," I said, "I just hope we never have to find out. But seriously, Hadassah, if you were dying for your faith, I think your legs would hold you up, and I think you'd find the right words to say, too."
"'When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit.'"
"That's what, Mark..." I trailed off, not able to think of the reference.
"Mark 13:11. I think that even if I forgot my own name, I could remember references." And Hadassah laughed, gently, and I knew that our banter was helping her too.
"You might want to keep that verse in mind this morning. You're not on trial for your faith, but you will need to speak the right words. Ask God to help you, and I'm sure He will."
"I'll speak the truth in love, Dad." She sounded much more confident now, if that's the word; perhaps peaceful is better, or serene. "And I do love you and Mom, and Josh, and this baby, even if she's the fruit of sin. I love all of you, and I love God above all, and I'll tell the truth that way."
We were getting close, in an area which once had been empty but was now growing up with houses and businesses, but I thought I'd latch onto something that I'd noticed before. "You keep saying 'she' when you speak of the baby. I've learned not to doubt a mother's instinct, for your mother believed we'd have a daughter even before she had her first visit with the doctor. Are you sure you're having a girl?"
"Not sure as in knowing. But I really have a strong feeling about it." She paused, and I glanced quickly in the rearview mirror, and saw her looking thoughtfully out the window. In between housing developments and shopping centers there were still expanses of dirt and brush, the original high arid plains which the city keeps turning into a man-made forest of flowers and trees. "I'm thinking about naming her Charis..."
"That's a beautiful name," Gill said. She'd been quiet during the theological discussion, but she was at home with baby names. "Where does it come from?"
Hadassah looked at her mother – as I saw with another look at the mirror – and giggled just slightly. "Ask Dad."
"All right, Bill, where does that name come from?"
"Oh, somewhere in the New Testament."
"Bill Garvin, I am nowhere near the scholar you are, but I'm reasonably certain that there's no one in the Bible named Charis."
"No, but it is a very important word. It's the Greek word that we translate 'grace.'"
"Oh..." It was a reverent sound. "I can't think of a better name for this baby, if it is a girl. 'Grace' – this baby is God's grace, isn't it?"