My childhood was full of religious books and stories. Some of them I liked well enough and others I found very odd, even horrifying. I really did NOT like the stories about Christians being fed to lions. Because of stories like that I would seriously ponder whether I’d “renounce Christ” in order to be spared being used as lion bait. There were beheadings – John the Baptist’s head on a plate – crucifixions – of course – and all sorts of macabre tales for an impressionable child. This stuff messed with my head.
Not all were quite so dramatic as those I’ve mentioned. In fact, there were stories intended to hit closer to home. A whole series of them with illustrations. These were kept in our house and, as a kid who read constantly, I remember reading them mutiple times. Most are long forgotten (though likely still making hash out of my unconscious mind) but one in particular I remember. I’m going to tell it the way I recall it, which is to say generally, but if a few specifics are forgotten, the basic idea is intact.
A Little Girl lived with her parents in a fancy house with servants. The kid had everything she could possibly want. But did she appreciate it? No. She was a brat, sassed her parents, and was unkind to the servants; Cook, Maid, Gardener, and so on. So an Angel shows up to give Little Girl a tour of her future in heaven. Off the pair go. They start down a fine road. I’m a bit fuzzy here so let’s just say it’s a gold brick paved road for the sake of creating a picture for you. The first house they come to is a palatial spread (picture an antebellum, columned mansion if you need something to work with). “Is this my house?” asks Little Girl. No, says the Angel, that’s Cook’s house. Little Girl figures if COOK gets a crib like that, HER own house is going to really be amazing.
Angel and Little Girl continue down the road. They come to another huge, fancy house. “Oh that must be my house” says Little Girl. No, says the Angel, that’s Maid’s house. They go by one or two more fancy houses, made of the finest materials, each of which belongs to a servant. Little Girl is starting to get concerned. Why do the lowly servants get grand houses?
The road begins to deteriorate. It’s no longer paved. The trees by the road have no leaves. It’s getting creepy and downtrodden. There might as well be a “I’d turn back if I was you” sign. But the angel continues to take Little Girl down this path. Why, Little Girl wonders, are they going down this unpleasant road? Finally, they come to a pathetic, clay, one-room hovel. Little Girl is sure there must be some mistake. Whose house is that she asks? That house is yours says the Angel. Little Girl begins to sob uncontrollably beside her clay hut. How could this dreadful house be hers?
Angel explains that this is the house Little Girl’s crappy actions on earth are building for her here in heaven. But there’s a ray of hope. If Little Girl straightens up her act on earth, she might build a better house in heaven and move out of the clay district. Little Girl is all for that. She goes back to her home on earth and immediately commences being a sweet, Little Girl who gives nobody any problems. The End.