A long long time ago there was a girl who had the most amazing birthmark. It was on her feet and it looked like a rainbow. It started on her toes, then wrapped around and swirled until it faded out at her ankles. She loved her birthmark and she walked around the house barefoot whenever she could. Her mother told her that it was just like the old old story of a great flood. It was believed that humanity had strayed that God sent a great flood to cover the earth. In the end though, God thought that maybe that wasn’t the best idea and so God created a beautiful rainbow stretching across the sky, as a sign of the promise that God would always love us and would never do us harm. Indeed, as soon as she was born and her parents saw her beautiful feet, they named her Promise.
One day, Promise’s aunt came over and saw her prancing around the house barefoot. The aunt had never seen her feet before and she was horrified! “You must keep those things covered!” she exclaimed. She told Promise’s parents that her feet were unnatural and if other people saw them they might be afraid. After the aunt left, they assured Promise that her aunt didn’t know what she was talking about and that if anyone was upset, it was only because they were jealous of her beautiful feet. Promise pretended to be OK with this but secretly she was kind of hurt that someone would be mad at her simply because of the way her feet looked. Her parents also pretended to be OK but secretly, they were afraid too. If her own aunt would get that upset and not understand, what would strangers think? They loved Promise and her feet but they wanted her to be accepted and safe.
When Promise was old enough, her parents took her to worship at the local church. They were nervous about how Promise would be accepted and so they told her that it was proper in church for everyone to wear knee high socks and shoes. Promise wasn’t too sure about this. She wanted to show the people at the church how she had feet that looked liked God’s love. As they were leaving, they said hello to the old man that talked a lot. Promise couldn’t help it and proudly said, “I have rainbow feet!” He looked confused but when Promise pulled down her sock, that confusion turned to anger. “That’s not natural” he said. “If you must, you can keep coming to this church but you must never show your feet again and never tell anyone. Your feet make God very angry!”
Because worshipping God was so important to her family, they kept going to church but Promise never felt at home. She always knew that if she showed who she really was and how God had blessed her, people would be angry and maybe tell her she couldn’t come to church anymore. Eventually, Promise herself started to wonder if there was something wrong with her. Maybe here feet weren’t a sign of God’s love after all – the people at church would know such things. She wished she could stop having rainbow feet but how do you tell the sky to stop being blue? How do you tell a giraffe to not have a long neck?
One day, Promise heard that there was a very special man travelling through her town. She went down to the lake to see what he was about and soon after she arrived he started telling a story:
‘There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.” But Abraham said, “Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.” He said, “Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.” Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.” He said, “No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” He said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” ’
“Wow,” thought Promise, “that story was about me!” She understood that this wasn’t really a story about heaven or hell. It wasn’t even about being rich or poor. It was about creating divisions between people. The rich man had a great wall to keep people like Lazarus out but in doing this he also dug a great chasm that separated himself from God. Promise wasn’t poor but she too was kept behind a wall – a wall of secrecy and fear, a wall built because they couldn’t accept who she was but wanted her to be a different kind of promise. She was led to believe that this was a wall that separated her from God but if what this man said was true, God was with her the whole time. God too was waiting to be accepted for who God was rather than what the people in the church wanted God to be.
She had to meet this strange and wonderful story teller. Jesus saw her coming and he smiled. He said, “would you please do me the honour of showing me your feet?” How did he know? She was still wearing her heavy socks and shoes. She tore them off as fast as she could and when her souls were bared Jesus looked at her with the biggest smile and said, “You are a beautiful blessing from God!”
When she met some of the people that were with Jesus, she noticed that many of them were poor, some were tax collectors, prostitutes, and there were some that even had rainbow birthmarks just like her. Then there were others, who looked like they were rich, and there were some who she recognized from her church but had also been touched by what Jesus had to say. They too were smiling at her. She didn’t have to hide who she was, not when Jesus was around.
For a long time after that, the followers of Jesus understood that it was their sacred call to open their doors and hearts to all who came to them and with those poor, and outcast, and rainbow coloured, they came to better know God. Then for some mysterious reason, people started to forget. Maybe the church got scared. Maybe they got too caught up in their own power. Maybe they found that it was easier to define who they were by pointing out who they were not.
Eventually, churches around the world started to remember Jesus and his story of chasms and walls. They heard the story of this little girl with her feet that looked like God’s promise. Some churches even took the symbol of the rainbow for themselves, a reminder that in braking down the walls and filling in chasms, we not only welcome God’s beloved children, we also welcome God.