Lost in Translation

pageantThere were two sisters in Translation, FL. They grew up in the same house, but they could not have been more different.

The older sister was… what’s a kind way to say this?… a little constrained. She did not listen to Top 40 music, wear tight shorts or shirts, swear, drink, or smoke and she most certainly did not have sex. She was RE-LI-GIOUS. Suh-thern Baptist. Her younger sister, on the other hand, … um… did all those things and she was, by choice, decidedly NOT religious. No thank you.

The older sister faithfully attended Translation Baptist Church each Sunday morning. She showed up early to work in the nursery and, during the second service, she sang in the choir. She chose to sing alto because she thought soprano was just showing off. Her dedication did not stop on Sunday, of course. She had choir practice every Tuesday and Thursday after school. She attended the Wednesday evening prayer meeting, where she often prayed that her wayward sister would “finally straighten up”.

She had played Mary in the Christmas pageant for three straight years and was currently attending practices on Fridays. Freshman, sophomore, junior. This, her senior Christmas, would be her crowning achievement, so to speak. She was prepared to show without words, but with great feeling, how Mary had “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) By these things, she meant all those activities that she had denied herself to remain holy in God’s eyes. She took her religion very seriously.

Her big night was a complete disappointment. She would remember it as a disaster.

After the Christmas story reading from Luke, when the older sister would be treasuring this night in her heart, directly in the spotlight, the choir would sing Silent Night in the darkened room and, one-by-one, each person would light his or her candle. After all the candles were lit, the congregation would sing the last verse a cappella. Talk about a big finish.


The a cappella verse was not the big finish big sister imagined, though. Instead of the last, quivering note diminishing into pious, candlelit silence with her profiled at the front of the church, there was quiet weeping from the back. It was low, but unmistakable in its honesty. It spoke of brokenness and heartbreak.

You see, little sis had entered the church about halfway through the service and, partly because all the seats were taken but mostly because she was ashamed to be there, she stood in the back. Her rebellious heart broke at the thought of this baby eventually dying on a cross. Her proud spirit submitted when she realized it was for her.

Several of the same women who had so recently chastised her rushed back to where she stood, hugged her, cried tears of joy with her, and welcomed her home.

The moment was lost. She had practiced for a full month just for this night. “Always the center of attention,” thought the older sister. “Just like her.”

Lost in Translation.

About Tony Schmitz

Tony Schmitz received his BS in Mechanical Engineering from Temple University in 1993, his MS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Florida in 1996, and his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Florida in 1999. He is a mechanical engineering professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
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