How Great the Price!
Elaine J. Roark
JANE BRENT sat staring out the train window. It was night and there was nothing that could be seen but the occasional flashes of light as the train sped past the scattered farm houses. Jane didn't want to see anything. She tried to look beyond her reflection in the black window. She didn't even want to think.
Think! That was the last thing she wanted to do. If the whole thing could only be changed; no, only one thing ... but why think of it? It couldn't be changed. Her thoughts were interrupted by the sudden awareness that the train had slowed down and was coming to a halt. She opened her white brocaded summer bag and ran her comb hastily through her chestnut brown hair.
Holding her skirt up in back to keep it from dragging on the not-too-clean metal platform, she stepped quickly from the train. She plunked her suitcase on the runner and glanced around.
There he is. Looks just the way I knew he would. "Dad! Dad, here I am."
On the way to the car Jane inquired about everyone's health, and Mr. Brent gave a clear but not too detailed response. That's the way he was. He never talked long, but what he said he meant and what he didn't say spoke just as loudly.
Once in the car and on the road, the lack of conversation became vividly apparent. Jane searched her father's face for some trace of emotion. He was watching the highway and his face wore its usual peaceful expression. If there were some clue in it Jane failed to see it.
"All right, Dad," her voice cut the silence, "let's get this whole thing hashed out before we get home!"
"Will what I say make any difference, Janie?"
"You might as well speak your piece and get it off your chest."
She was a little taken-back by the frankness of his question but she didn't let it show in her voice. She sat very straight, with her face firm, like a soldier before the firing squad.
"I'm sure you've thought about the outcome, Janie."
He paused for a long time and Janie knew he was getting his thoughts in logical order. She knew that when he spoke again it would be in clear, well-chosen words like a lawyer's defense statement. She clenched her fists until her nails hurt against the palms of her hands.
She knew she would have no answer to his logic. Hers was a decision of emotion and not of logic.
"Janie," his voice shook her from her thoughts, "I'm sure that Stan is a fine young man and I know that you love him. Love is important to marriage, Janie, but can love survive long where there isn't unity of thought?"
"But we do think the same on most things, Dad. We like the same sports. We both want a large family. I like his family and he likes you and Mom."
"Yes, Janie, but ... "
"But we have a different religion! I don't care! I love him, Dad. Can't you understand that? Lis ten! I've thought about the difference and what it would do to our home in the future and about our children and all that. I even was going to join Stan's church. In fact, I tried, but I couldn't go through with it. Even after taking all those lessons I found I didn't and couldn't believe what his church teaches. But I'm not going to marry the church. I'm marrying Stan."
"Janie, a man is ... what he believes. If you do not join his faith you must sign a pledge, a pledge that will make you a stranger to your own children. You have taken this course to understand his faith. He is forbidden by his church to take any steps to understand your faith."
"Look, Dad, it's no use ... "
"In signing this pledge you will promise to rear all your children according to his faith, to do nothing to influence them or Stan to see things as you see them. At the same time Stan will pledge to do all in his power to win you to his faith. Your children will be taught that your church is no 'real church,' that your religious beliefs are false, that your Bible is not completely true and cannot be trusted. Am I not right, Janie?"
Jane swallowed hard, her face felt hot, and her feelings were a mixture of anger and sorrow. She clenched her fists harder, as though they were the dam which held back the flood of tears. When she finally spoke, her voice was thin and throaty.
"You know you're right, but our kids will be taught about Christ in his church. That's all they need. We worship the same God. We just do it in different ways. The children will be going to church; What difference does it make where they go?
"Just because I can't believe all they teach doesn't mean his faith isn't just as good as mine! I will worship my way and he and the children will worship their way."
"Janie, won't this cut you off from the most important part of family life?"
"We can do other things together, Dad. I'm willing to pay that little price."
Mr. Brent was silent for some time and Jane relaxed a little. As the car neared the driveway to their large, white farmhouse, Jane could see the tall pillars of the porch gleaming in the moonlight. They pulled into the driveway and stopped.
"The price," Mr. Brent said very reflectively, almost to himself. "Janie, remember when you were a very little girl and I gave you your first allowance? You had twenty five cents and the decision was yours as to how you would spend it."
Jane could not help but detect the tender love in his voice as he spoke.
"Remember how careful you were about how much everything cost? Old Tom Jennings owned the dry goods store then. I was surprised when you left the store still hanging on to your quarter, Janie. You looked at me and said, 'Daddy, those things just cost too much--I'll wait.'''
He took a deep breath and, smiIing sympathetically, he said, "Let's go in, Janie. Mama has supper ready. She insisted on waiting until you got home,"
This article appeared in Today, 1957 , reprinted in the Standard, September, 21, 1958, reprinted in Youth's Christian Companion, Jan. 25, 1959.