in the Pink
by Sharon Tubbs
just like you, going through the same things you’ve been facing and
standing at the same crossroads where you’ve gotten stuck. As for me,
I’ve been there, too, which is one reason I believe God taps me to talk
to them, to tell them what I know because of what I’ve been through.
Now, it is not my practice to tell other people’s business, so please
understand that this little collection of stories was not my idea. See,
I know people are thinking, There she goes again, constantly lurking
around the church. You never know when she’s coming but she seems to
know everything about everybody.
Regardless of how it came to be, it is what it is, and as long as it’s
the truth I won’t complain. God will make some good out of it.
He’ll make it personal for you. That’s why those questions at the
end of each story are important. Meditate on them. Discuss them with a group
or your girlfriends.
I’m not foolish enough to think that you all will agree with the outcome of
everybody’s story. Truth be told, neither do I. Wouldn’t it be nice if the
lives of people around us turned out just how we thought they should? And
if, in the end, everyone made the right choices, so we could feel a warm
tingle in our hearts and believe that all is right with this world?
If that were the case, though, we would never be living in the pink, now
would we? You’ll see what I mean.
THE CHOIR’S soft melody filled the sanctuary and set the atmosphere for
worship. All over the church, heads bowed, eyes closed.
Bodies swayed side-to-side in time with the music. Laura Pinkston stood in
the balcony, watchful and careful not to be lulled into the moment. God had
given her an assignment that required she stay alert and ready to intervene
in somebody’s life at precisely the right
Better known as Miss Pinky to children and Sister Pinky to anybody grown
enough to pay rent, she had counseled, steered, and supported more women
than the human mind could tally. But no matter how many the Lord led her to,
there would always be someone new, or someone old with a new situation.
You’d expect as much in a world this big where everybody is connected in one
way or another, even if you have to go all the way back to the Garden.
On this particular Sunday, however, Sister Pinky needed to go no farther
than the seat to her left. There sat Camille Peters with her eyes shut tight
as if in some sort of meditation. In truth, her thoughts had drifted away
from worship to the salacious details of the prior evening. Her lips curved
into a smile, the kind of grin that comes after a woman has indulged in rich
chocolate cake or a fullbody massage or, in Camille’s case, a man like
She had started on the road to such gratification a few months before when
Camille’s friends talked her into a girls’ night out at Club Monet: “Get a
life,” Trisha had said. “You’re too young to sit at home every weekend.”
Less than twenty-four hours later, Camille donned black slacks, a fitted
periwinkle blouse and black shoe boots with a fourinch heel, enough to put
her well above five-foot-ten. She had gone to the beauty shop that morning,
perhaps too much effort for a dive where wide-hipped women roll themselves
against men in spandex muscle shirts.
After a group dance with the girls and an hour with her back literally
against the wall, Camille turned to leave when she saw him approaching.
“Him” being the guy she had observed for weeks on the sly at Believers
Ministries International Church. That she had noticed him at all among more
than five thousand members said a lot. There, ushers guided latecomers to
tiers in the balcony, and the person sitting beside you on any given Sunday
could be a complete stranger. Even so, he must have noticed Camille, too.
“Don’t you go to Believers Ministries?”
Being coy, she replied, “Is that where I know you from?”
The two introduced themselves and he pointed to a table nearby where they
could sit down. They screamed to hear each other above the din of dance
music, and she managed to find out that he was thirty-one and an accountant.
Blackwell learned that at age thirty-three, Camille aspired to become a
fashion designer in New York someday. In the meantime, she worked as a buyer
for a boutique here in Tampa, her hometown.
He called the next day, and in the weeks that followed he took her to fine
restaurants, the movies, to stage plays at the performing arts center. They
didn’t kiss for almost a month—Camille wanting to present herself as a real
The pace gradually sped up. They sat together one Sunday at church,
considered to be the public seal of a serious relationship.
And last night, they climbed to even higher ground. Camille grilled some
steaks, made mashed potatoes and her specially seasoned green beans with
homemade bacon bits. After dinner, they created their own dance floor and
slow-rocked to a CD of Luther Vandross’s greatest hits. Midway through one
of Luther’s low notes, passion lured them first to the couch, then to bed.
“Oh, Lord,” Camille now said aloud.
“It’s all right, baby. You want a tissue?”
Finally, she opened her eyes. The choir was singing a different song now:
“Order my steps in your word, dear Lo-OORD . . . ”
And the woman next to her held out Kleenex.
“Do you want a tissue?” the woman repeated, her eyes fixed on Camille’s. “I
have more in my purse. You sounded like the Spirit had grabbed hold to you.”
“No thank you,” Camille said, looking for a way to disguise her true
thoughts. “God is good, isn’t he?”
The woman nodded. “All the time,” she said, “all the time.”
Sister Pinky put the tissues back into her purse and settled in her seat to
hear the day’s sermon. Camille didn’t know Pinky, but Pinky knew her. She
noticed when Camille first joined the church and observed how Miss Peters
sashayed through the doors with her matching shoes and purse, looking
straight ahead. She would find her seat, at which time she surveyed the
sanctuary to see who came to church and what they were wearing. Pinky
observed it all, including the day Camille and Blackwell sat side-by-side.
“Jesus, help ’em,” Pinky had whispered.
Camille plus Blackwell equaled a dangerous combination, at least righteously
speaking. They both hovered around the same spiritual level, the one where
you can make it to the church singles meeting to mingle and eat finger
sandwiches, but not to the prayer group onWednesday nights. They were
“living in the pink,” as Pinky liked to say. And though the phrase she
coined sounded like her nickname, it wasn’t about her.
People who live in the pink are stuck between what the Bible calls a scarlet
stain of sin and striving to become pure or “white as snow.” They say they
believe in God, but only enough to call themselves “spiritual” without
having to make significant changes in their lives. Don’t be fooled, Pinky
would say, they might go to church and say eloquent prayers or sport a Jesus
bumper sticker—all while nursing sins that they’re unwilling or afraid to
let go. They want to believe in God, just not too much.
Something about Camille’s diva-like stride and the way Blackwell nuzzled
against her clued Pinky to their pinkish state. And this morning Camille
obviously had her mind on something other than the Lord. The look on her
face betrayed too much natural satisfaction to be holy. Pinky asked if she
needed tissue just to bring her back to reality. “God sure is good,” Pinky
mumbled to herself.
On a regular Sunday, Pinky would sit on the east side, third row from the
front. She occasionally wore a broad-brim hat over her short gray-tinged
hair and carried a hanky to wipe sweat droplets from her caramel face during
praise and worship time. She didn’t let people walk by without giving them a
hug and a “How you doing today?” A retired teacher, she was known for
knowing God’s word, like last year when she spoke at the annual Women’s Day
breakfast. Her message, titled “Tell the Devil to go to Hell,” came straight
from the book of Revelation. And every woman, from the twenty-somethings to
the saints in high hats, stood to her feet by the end. “That woman sure did
preach,” a few said afterward, confirming the obvious to no one in
Some kept their distance, especially when they wanted to talk about the
bishop’s wife, or the worship leader, or Sister Gaines’s drug addict son. “I
don’t listen to mess,” Pinky told the last woman who tried to engage her in
he-said she-said. She propped reading glasses so low on her nose that people
wondered whether she really needed them at all—she didn’t when it came to
spotting the Devil’s wrong, that’s for sure. Most often, her glare settled
on the women at Believers Ministries or one of its branch churches. Her
influence over the years had transcended the church property and even Tampa,
Florida, where Pinky had moved with her daughters after living the pink life
These days, she would get to know single mothers and find out whether they
struggled to pay their bills. If so, she’d help them get assistance through
the church benevolence fund. She refereed catfights between so-called
sisters in Christ and watched for those who were overly ambitious, weary, or
lonely. She mentored mothers in raising their children to revere God and
encouraged women to own up to their mistakes because no earthly consequence
was worth eternity in hell. She helped others wise up, especially when it
came to men. Pinky knew who was dating whom and who wanted to date whom.
Which is the very reason she sat in the balcony today.
At the end of service, Pinky faced Camille. “I’ve noticed you here for some
time now,” she told her.
“Really?” Camille said, beginning to recognize the woman’s face. “I arrived
a little late to the Women’s Day breakfast but remember hearing part of your
‘Tell the Devil to go to hell’ message. I bought the CD.”
“Everybody remembers that one, but I wish I had titled it differently.
People got so wrapped up in the ‘hell,’ they forgot the glory.”
Pinky’s first instinct urged her to schedule what she called a “sister
intervention” where she and Camille would meet over lunch or dinner, the
idea being to talk on a personal level. But just as she opened her mouth to
invite Camille over, Pinky’s inner voice whispered: “Wrong time.” If she
knew anything, she knew she’d better wait on God’s cue, so she started
talking about the church’s singles ministry instead. She introduced Camille
to a few members who had gathered after service.
Once the sanctuary cleared, Pinky spread her arms for a hug.
Camille felt a strange sincerity in the lengthy embrace, like the love she
felt when she visited her mother back home in Ohio. Pinky finally released
her, and then wrapped both of her hands around one of Camille’s for what
Pinky called a love-shake.
“We’ll talk again soon,” she told Camille. “And I mean that. Once I’ve
spotted you, I won’t let you go unless the Lord says so.”
Camille watched Pinky walk away. Something about that woman made her feel
secure, even if only for the moment. Like a loving mother with wisdom
seeping through her pores, one who meant it when she said she would not let
A typical Saturday and Camille twisted in the salon chair at Gladys’s House
of Style where she had a standing appointment.
Gladys shaped many a hairdo for the metro area’s local news anchors and
football players’ wives, yet she knew how to customize Camille’s short cut.
Her strong hands massaged mousse into Camille’s freshly-washed hair, then
smoothed it flat and shaped it for Camille’s turn under the dryer.
On a typical visit, she and Gladys would gab away, but Camille’s mind was
divided this morning as she held a cell phone to her ear. “What did you
say?” she asked her mother. How rude to talk on the phone while in Gladys’s
chair, but her mother had called for the third time that morning. “Mama, is
“Wrong? Not in my house. I’ve been trying to get in touch with you to find
out what’s going on at yours. After all, you never gave me the details of
your sexy date with Blackwell last weekend.”
The older Brenda Peters got the more she lived vicariously through Camille.
They talked several times a week, Brenda often calling for fashion tips or
to get the scoop on Camille’s friends. In Brenda’s mind, intimate details
with men weren’t off limits, either, although Camille cut her mother short
when Brenda offered a little too much information about a night with her
In Ohio, Brenda served as treasurer of the usher board for Little Rock
Church in Mansfield. The head deacon was “Uncle Fred,” as Camille called her
mother’s longtime boyfriend. They both taught Camille Bible stories and made
her say grace before meals. Her father had left before Camille could jump
rope but came through town once in a while to leave her a twenty-dollar bill
to buy herself a pretty dress. One time she bought enough fabric and
accessories to create her first “designer” skirt.
Camille kept the cell pressed to her ear while under the hair dryer and, as
expected, Brenda veered into her usual rant about Uncle Fred. Rather than
pay attention, Camille tuned it all out and triggered memories of her
childhood. She remembered going off to bed while Uncle Fred watched TV in
the living room then waking up to find him sipping coffee at the kitchen
table. She couldn’t remember when she realized he must’ve been sleeping in
her mother’s room, but whenever it hit her she certainly didn’t see anything
wrong with a man and woman doing what came naturally.
As long as she’d been in church, of course, Camille heard preachers and
leaders talk about sex and sin. Yet they seemed to pay it little attention
in their own lives. Her mother and Uncle Fred weren’t the only leaders at
Little Rock to share a bed. The pastor himself had business to tend to, like
the baby he fathered with the head of the church nursery, a woman who strut
her swollen belly around the sanctuary without shame. He admitted his
transgressions from the pulpit one Sunday, his wife standing staunchly at
his side. Two weeks later he was preaching about God’s mercy, the mistress
had joined a church across town, and the members were angry—not with the
pastor, but at a newspaper reporter who’d stumbled upon the mistress’s claim
for child support at the courthouse and wrote a story about it.
Camille heard it all while sitting cross-legged in front of the TV or
standing by the kitchen table as Brenda talked to visitors and to friends by
phone. She couldn’t have been more than eight or nine when she asked her
mother what “sex” meant. Brenda told her it was something that two adults
can agree to do together when they love each other.
“Like you and Uncle Fred?”
“Yes, sweetheart, like me and Fred.”
All these years later, Fred still brought his overnight bag to Brenda’s
house on Fridays, and Camille had once questioned why they never married.
“We thought about it,” Brenda said, “but we’ve gotten old and set in our
ways now. Why bother? Getting married and moving in together would only
complicate matters when things are as good as they’re gonna get already.”
But that’s a long way from exciting, which may be the reason Brenda couldn’t
stop dipping in Camille’s business a thousand miles away.
“Did you play that Luther CD like I told you?” Camille heard her mother
asking with playful wickedness in her voice.
“Yes, Mama, I played the CD, but I’ll have to call you back later,” Camille
said, ending the call.
For one, she couldn’t get into specifics in the middle of the beauty shop.
Secondly, something about telling the details of lovemaking to the woman you
call “Mama” just didn’t feel right. She would keep dodging her mother’s
calls for another week or so, hoping that would give Brenda enough time to
forget and stop asking about that special night.
Camille went to the singles ministry bowling event, mostly out of
obligation. Pinky had taken the time to introduce her to the organizers,
Damian and Jacinta, so she didn’t want to seem ungrateful. When she arrived,
most of the faces were people she had noticed in church, often praying
openly or standing with their arms raised high during worship, as if
surrendering to God above.
It didn’t matter who watched or what anyone else around them did.
They were true worshipers whose praise came from the inside, and Camille
observed their sincerity from her perch in the balcony, hoping to someday
reach that level in her spiritual journey.
Any single person at the church could attend the singles’ outing, but no
more than twenty showed up. Didn’t take long to figure out why. Group
regulars were serious believers, who would rate perhaps as high as a cream
or even off-white on a Pinkymeter.
Damian kicked off the gathering by forming a circle of prayer, right there
in the middle of the bowling alley with other bowlers standing back in
reverence. Later the group sat around eating pizza and hotdogs when, out of
the clear blue heavens, Damian and Jacinta started talking about their
recent engagement and how they wouldn’t make love until their wedding night.
“I respect this woman too much to put her in a position that would
jeopardize her relationship with God,” he said.
Jacinta leaned her head against his shoulder. “I’m so blessed to be with
him,” she told the group. “You know your man’s love is real when he’s
willing, not only to protect you from harm, but to guard your relationship
Camille tried to disguise the resounding “puh-lease!” she felt in her heart
by maintaining a neutral facial expression. She questioned what compelled
them to announce their sex life, or lack thereof, to a roomful of people.
But since they brought it up, she asked the one question she couldn’t
“I’m curious, are you both virgins?”
Damian shook his head vigorously. Jacinta laughed. “No, not at all, although
we wish we were,” she said. “Our past is just that, the past.We’ve been born
again and we want to live as Jesus said so that our new life together
Uh huh. The vow to celibacy didn’t make much sense to Camille, especially
since their sheets were already dirty. But one thing stuck with her after
the evening ended—the part when Jacinta talked about Damian guarding her
spiritually. The words sounded corny at first, but then Damian put his arm
around Jacinta and softly kissed her forehead. Camille sensed in their
relationship the same kind of genuineness she had perceived between the
other true worshipers she saw in the group.
Camille tilted her head and looked into Blackwell’s eyes.
“What would you say if I wanted to be celibate from now on?”
“You heard me, Black. What if I didn’t want us to sleep together anymore?”
Blackwell unhooked the arm that had held Camille close to him and scooted
away to get a full view of her face.
“You can’t be serious. We’ve already slept together countless times.”
“I know, but—”
“Are you trying to tell me something?” Blackwell said.
“Yes, I am trying to tell you something but as usual these days, you’re not
listening I’m trying to tell you that I’m reclaiming my virginity.”
Blackwell laughed. Obviously Camille had been spending too much time with
those religious overkills at church. “I don’t know what your new bowling
friends told you, but I’m sorry, that’s one thing you can’t get back.”
Camille went to her weekly beauty shop appointment that next morning, then
stopped by Nordstrom’s. She moved from rack to rack, browsing the size 8
pantsuits just to get her mind off of the discussion with Blackwell the
night before. The more he laughed, the angrier she became. Be your own
woman, he told her. Stop listening to those people in the singles ministry.
They’re probably lying anyway, just like all the other church leaders who
pretended to be so righteous.
He totally dismissed Damian and Jacinta’s story, which unnerved Camille for
reasons she couldn’t totally explain. All she knew for sure was that she was
getting more involved in church while he drifted away. He rarely attended
services these days and changed the subject whenever she tried to discuss a
recent sermon or Bible verse she’d read. He turned down her invitation to
the singles event and future meetings. The group just didn’t fit his style.
How, Camille wondered, would she motivate him to take her and his
relationship with God seriously?
Hours passed before she checked the time on her cell phone and realized she
had less than thirty minutes to get to Pinky’s house. A few days earlier,
Pinky had called and invited her to a barbecue. She had been keeping watch
over Camille’s involvement with the singles group. Now, the time was right
to step in.
Camille used her GPS system to find Pinky’s two-story brick house on the
east side of town and pulled into the driveway where she met Brother Willie.
From what Camille could tell, he seemed a good match for his wife. She
remembered him standing at the main door during church services, shaking
hands and ushering people to the sanctuary. Unlike Pinky, he was quiet and
had a stately air about him. He offered a simple nod in place of saying
hello, like a man who relied on his actions to speak for him. After Camille
stepped out of her car, he introduced himself then stepped aside and opened
the front door for her.
Prints of serene landscapes on the walls accented the blue-gray couch with
huge pillows. Crocheted doilies covered a cherry wood bookshelf and coffee
table. Old school gospel wafted from a CD system on a shelf beneath a
flat-screen TV that seemed slightly out of place in the otherwise simple and
homey surroundings. The music created a soft undertone for conversation.
Pinky handed Camille a plate piled with tossed salad, potato salad, baked
beans, and pork ribs slathered in a sweet, tangy barbecue sauce. “I hope you
ain’t trying to keep that skinny figure because we like to eat around here.”
“Thank you ma’am,” Camille answered, looking around the room. She expected
to see more people from the church, talking and laughing. Yet the only
guests appeared to be a few older men who stayed outdoors with Willie. They
sat out on the backyard deck telling stories and laughing. Not a single
other woman had shown up.
“Is anyone else coming?”
“No, no one else,” Pinky answered. “I invited you over, just to chat.”
Camille wondered what they would chat about. “This certainly is a nice home
you have,” she said as a conversation-starter.
But Pinky, who had no heart for small talk, steered the conversation to a
personal discussion, asking about Camille’s job and her parents, then about
how and when she became a Christian.
Camille seemed unsure about the answer to Pinky’s last question.
“I guess I’ve been a Christian most of my life. My mother raised me in the
church, and I remember being baptized when I was a little girl.”
Pinky didn’t say much in response, and Camille grew curious about Pinky’s
background. “You seem so happy and confident.
How did you get involved in church?”
“Now there’s a story,” Pinky said with a light slap to her thigh.
You see Willie out there? We’re old, but we’ve only been married five years.
He’s my first husband, but not my first man, if you know what I mean. I have
two grown daughters.
“I was something else when I was your age. Thought I was Miss It. I would go
shopping and get me a new outfit and go to church thinking I looked good.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about being put together. It’s just
that, in my case, I thought the outside mattered more than my inside. I
showed up every Sunday, but I hadn’t made a commitment to God.”
“Really?” Camille said thinking about the ensemble she’d bought for church.
Pinky nodded. “I didn’t realize it but I was insecure. I thought my hair and
clothes were what mattered most. I hardly ever made time to pray, unless
something went wrong at work or with my family.
“And you’re going to think this is crazy,” Sister Pinky went on, “but
sometimes I visited a different church just to check out the men.”
“What?” Camille said, trying to sound surprised, although she had done the
same thing in the past.
“That’s how I met my daughters’ father. He was playing church just like me.
Nice looking man with a good job. After six months, we got an apartment
together to save money. We always said we’d get married when we got our
finances together.We went to church, side-by-side, like we had said wedding
vows. A few years passed before we realized we didn’t love each other
He moved out and started mailing his child support.
“After that, all I wanted was another man. I found another, and another. I
made sure anybody I dated went to church, though. I wanted a real Christian
man, someone who believed in God, so we could have a nice churchgoing
“I know exactly what you mean,” Camille said, thinking about her
disappointment in Blackwell’s behavior when it came to church.
“You know what an old wise woman told me one day?” Pinky said. “She looked
me in my eyes, like I’m looking at you now, and she said: ‘Baby, you can’t
lead a man to God, while you’re sinning and sleeping with him at the same
time. If you want a Christian man, first of all you’ve got to be a true
“Oh.” Camille felt uneasy.
“That was a long time ago,” Pinky continued. “Eventually, I stopped trying
to find a man and started talking to God.As I prayed and meditated on His
words in the Bible, I found peace and I dedicated my life to Him,” she said
looking up, as if the Lord, Himself, rested on her ceiling. “Eventually,”
she said, “Willie found me.”
Camille glanced upward and saw the time on Pinky’s wall clock. It was nearly
seven, and she and Blackwell had made plans to spend the evening together.
She quickly said her good-byes and rushed to her car. She called Blackwell
who luckily was also running late.
Perfect, Camille thought, as she started her car. She forced the
conversation with Pinky to the back of her mind and turned on the radio, not
wanting to think about God or celibacy or right or wrong.
“Did you bring clothes for church?” Camille asked Blackwell the next
“Nah, I’ve got some work to do,” he told her. “Call me when you get home.”
Not the response she’d hoped for.
In many ways, she had the ingredients of success: a handsome boyfriend, her
own fledgling career, and a sense of style.With her hair in place and new
white linen pantsuit, she looked impeccable.
Yet, as she walked out the door that morning, somehow she felt undone.
Sister Pinky’s wisdom churned in her mind: “If you want a Christian man,
you’ve got to be a Christian woman.” Camille put a copy of Pinky’s message
from Women’s Day into the CD player and truly listened for the first time.
“God is not pleased with lukewarm Christians who sin on Saturday and act
saved on Sunday. Be either hot or cold, says the Lord,” Pinky said. “He’s
waiting on you to let Him fill the emptiness in your life. ‘I stand at the
door and knock,’ He says in the book of Revelation. The Devil is a
hypocrite. Don’t let him keep you from being the woman God wants you to be,
from having all the blessings stored up for you in heaven. Commit your life
to Christ and tell the Devil to go to hell!”
Camille walked into the sanctuary, spotted an empty seat next to Sister
Pinky and made her way there. The saints were singing and clapping, but
Camille couldn’t stop thinking. She felt something, a presence much stronger
than she had ever known, rapping on her heart. Should she let it in? In the
midst of the music, she lifted her arms high, surrendering herself to God.
Her life would have to change, this much she knew.
She tried to wipe away the tears before anyone else could see, but felt a
hand softly resting on her back. It was Sister Pinky’s.
“Would you like a tissue, baby?”
BOOK CLUB QUESTIONS
1. How is Camille living in the pink?
2. During most of the story, how does she view her Christian walk?
How might her upbringing have shaped her view?
3. What are your thoughts on intimacy and dating? What strategies can
Christian men and women use while dating to get to know each other without
compromising their values?
4. What was it about the “true worshipers” she saw at church and Damian and
Jacinta that drew Camille’s attention, and why?
5. How does Sister Pinky relate to Camille? What’s the difference between
biblical counsel and just meddling in other people’s business?
6. Discuss Titus 2:3–5a, below, with your group. How does the passage relate
to Sister Pinky and her relationship with Camille? Do you think that these
teachings would be useful in today’s culture? Why or why not?
7. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not
to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then
they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be
self-controlled and pure.
8. Isaiah 1:18 says: Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as
white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. What
do you think of Sister Pinky’s “living in the pink” philosophy? If you had
to put your relationship with God on her color spectrum—from white to
crimson—what shade would it be?