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Authors: Francine Rivers

And the Shofar Blew (49 page)

BOOK: And the Shofar Blew
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Where do you want to go, beloved?

The age-old question. Was her decision going to be based on the temporal things of this world, or on the eternal things of God?

Our lives are like the grass that withers. Short. Oh, but sometimes life seems
to go on forever.

Would running away get her where she really wanted to go?

She sipped her coffee, mind racing with questions. And Paul wasn’t trying to talk his way out of the mess he’d made this time. That was the most surprising. It wasn’t like him to let the silence go for so long. He knew she was skeptical, and it wasn’t like him not to defend himself and his position, making her feel small and somehow to blame.

The waitress brought their plates. She came back with more coffee. Other than to say thank you to her, Paul was silent. Was this a new strategy?

“I talked with your mother, too. Did she tell you?”

He met her gaze. “Yes.”

“And?”

“She said you were right.”

“Then you know I’m not going to follow her example. I’m not going to go back to VNLC and sit in the front row and pretend everything is all right with our marriage and your ministry. I’m not going to let your sweet talk put a veil over my eyes or keep me from using my brain. Not anymore. I’m not going to sweep anything under the carpet. I’m not going to cover for you.”

“I know.” He said it so simply, eyes clear, looking back at her without the faintest hint of cunning, anger, or fear.

Her armor began to come unhinged. She tried to make repairs. “Tell me, Paul. How’s Sheila?”

“She’s in Palm Springs awaiting the arrival of her husband. She’s not going to tell him, and it’s not my right to do so.”

“He knows already. He tried to tell me.” Paul looked surprised, but not frightened at the prospect.

“I’ll make amends any way I can.”

She wasn’t about to tell him Rob Atherton would probably thank him for providing grounds for divorce.

When left to our own devices, what a mess we make of our lives.

“Sheila wasn’t the problem, Eunice. And despite what I said to you at home, you were
not
in any way to blame for what happened. You’ve always been a true, loving, and faithful wife.” His voice broke. He cleared his throat. “I’m responsible for the bad decisions I made, starting with rejecting Christ. I filled the void any way I could. Pride. Plans. Projects. That was only the beginning of a long downward spiral into all manner of sin, not the least of which was rationalizing and justifying my affair with another man’s wife. It’s over.”

“Well, I guess so, if Sheila dumped you and went off to Palm Springs to wait for Rob.” She couldn’t believe she had said anything so blunt or cruel. She’d always taken such care. What sort of Christian was she? Had she always harbored such hateful feelings? Had they been lurking just below the surface, waiting to rise up and spew out like venom?

“I’m not just talking about the affair.” He spoke quietly, no edge of self-defense in his tone. “I’m talking about the way I was living, my walk with Christ.”

Is this what you do, Eunice? Beat a repentant man when he’s down?
Her hand trembled as she covered her mouth.

“It’s all right, Euny.”

She shook her head, trying to blink away the onrush of hot tears. No, it wasn’t. It wasn’t right at all. He hadn’t retaliated. That told her, more than anything, that he had changed.

But how long would that change last?

“One day’s troubles are enough,” the stranger had said in the cemetery. Jesus had said the same thing to his people on a hillside beside Galilee.

And they crucified Him.

“Say what you need to say, Euny. Try not to worry about how it comes out. I love you.”

She looked at him. “I’ve tried to talk to you before.”

“But now I’m listening.”

God help her, she looked into Paul’s eyes and still loved him. How was it possible after what he’d done?
God, don’t do this to me. Please. How much
more hurt do I have to take from this man before You’ll allow me to be free of
him?
She wanted to squash the tiny seed of hope growing inside her. She wanted to cling to the memory of his betrayal, the anguish of discovery, the battering waves of disillusionment over the years, the aching wave of sorrow now. Paul Hudson wasn’t her knight in shining armor. He hadn’t been for a long, long time.

No, beloved. He’s just a man fooled by a common enemy. The same enemy
who is trying to fool you now into believing Jesus hasn’t the power to restore the
stolen years.

She could say what he needed to hear and see where that would take him. “I forgive you, Paul.”
In obedience to You, Lord, I forgive him. As I’ve forgiven
him over the years, so I forgive him again now. Because of You, only because of
You, and only in Your power can I forgive.
She let out her breath slowly, her muscles relaxing.

Paul put his hand over hers.

Her heart fluttered like a trapped bird. Repulsed, she snatched her hand away and shook her head. It had only been a few days ago that she had seen his hands caressing the body of another woman. God could put sin as far away as the east is from the west, but she was only human. And Paul was moving too fast.

He searched her eyes, his expression gravely concerned. “Forgiveness is a start.”

What was he waiting for her to say? What assurances did he want? Oh, she knew. “If you’re worried I’ll go back and call the
Centerville Gazette,
you can relax.”

He shook his head. “I wasn’t. It’s not your style. But I am worried how you’re going to feel about my decision. I’m going to resign from the pastor-ate.”

“Resign?” That was the last thing she expected him to do.

“I have to get my own life in order again before I can stand at a pulpit and tell other people how to live.”

“You’re going to run away.” Just like she had done, and her problems had chased after her.

“No. I’m going back. I’ll call the board together and talk with them first. Then, if they allow it, I’ll give one last sermon so the congregation will understand why it’s necessary for me to leave.”

“Sheila—”

“Sheila’s name won’t be mentioned. I’ll be confessing my sins, not hers.”

“When did you decide all this?”

“This morning. I talked with the pastor after the service. He didn’t mince words.”

All the years of trying to reach him, and it was a stranger who got through his thick skull. Everything she and his mother and Samuel and even Stephen had said had rolled off Paul like water off a duck’s back. It should be enough that her husband wasn’t blind anymore. It shouldn’t hurt so much that he was hearing the truth and taking it to heart. Even if he’d been willing to listen to a stranger rather than those who knew and loved him through all the years of watching him wander in the wilderness. It shouldn’t have bothered her, but it did.

Oh, Lord, why couldn’t he have listened to me? And now it’s too late. No matter
what he does, the consequences will come down upon him like a rain of hot
coals. And he won’t
be the only one to suffer from his actions. All those people
who love him, all those who hung on his every word as though it were gospel, all
those who have worked so hard to build something.

Build what? A pedestal for Paul Hudson to stand upon? How many had come to worship Christ? How many times had she overheard conversations in the narthex about Paul’s catchy phrases, the elocution that imprinted his titillating message on the brain? Like a bad joke passed on and on. It should’ve been God’s Word that was remembered!

Those poor people had made him into an idol, and now they would learn from his own lips he had feet of clay. They would sit in their comfortable cushioned pews and watch him topple.

They wouldn’t be happy about it.

Assuming they cared at all about God’s call for purity. Assuming they would be offended by his adulterous affair. She knew many of them wouldn’t. They were so worldly; they might be willing to pass it off with “everyone does it.” Hey, look at Bill Clinton.

And then what?

Another temptation for Paul to face. Was he up to it? Had he the strength to do what was right after so many years of habitually doing what was evil in the sight of God?

She rubbed her forehead, wishing that were all it took to wipe away a splitting headache.

At least he was making his peace with God through Christ. She should rejoice with him. His sins were covered by Christ’s blood. His debts canceled.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

You ask too much, Lord. My joy is crushed beneath the weight of hurt. I
failed. I tried and I failed. Wasn’t it a wife’s duty to safeguard her marriage and
her husband?
Apparently she hadn’t said the right words or done the right thing when it was needed.

“Each is responsible for his or her own sins,” her father had told her. “Everything in God’s time,” he used to say. “The Lord is sovereign.”

Couldn’t You have gotten through Paul’s thick skull a little earlier, Lord? Before
he crushed Samuel? Before he ran all those precious old people out of the church? Before he did his best to destroy Stephen Decker’s reputation and life because
Stephen dared confront him? Before I found him in the arms of another
man’s wife?

“Will you come home with me, Eunice?”

She raised her head. She wanted to scream at him. How could she sit in the front pew of the church and listen to him preach again? How could she face all those people he’d lied to over the years? How could she bear the whispers, the smirks, and the firestorm he was going to set? “I don’t know if I can, Paul.”

“Then we’ll stay here. I’ll wait awhile.”

“No. You go. You have to go.” Now, before he changed his mind. If he waited, he might weaken. “It’s more important that you make things right with God than try to piece our marriage back together.” Confession would bring with it accountability. No more secrets. No more closed doors. No more Sheilas. She could hope, anyway. If she chose to do so.

“You know,” he said, head down, “I almost decided against going into the ministry once. Just after I graduated.”

“You never told me that.”

“No. I wouldn’t have told you. I was afraid you wouldn’t marry me.” He looked sheepish. “Your mother told me you went to college to marry a pastor like your father. I was in love with you. The first thing that attracted me to you was your depth of faith. Most of the girls on campus were just looking for husbands. You were different.”

“Unsophisticated. Simple. From the backwoods of nowhere.” She mocked herself.

“No. That’s not what I saw in you. I saw someone who sought God’s will in everything. You didn’t try to fit in or pretend to be anyone but yourself. You walked the walk, eyes on Jesus. I’d watch you sitting out on the bench outside your dorm, the sunlight streaming down on you while you read your Bible. You looked like an angel. You were so solid in your faith, so un-compromising. The last thing I wanted to do was admit any doubts about my calling to be a pastor.”

And she was called to obedience. The Lord said to love one another, not just when it was easy, not only when you felt the stirrings of passion, but always, despite circumstances. Hadn’t Jesus been thinking of others even as He hung on the cross, wracked with pain and carrying the sins of the whole world upon Him? Hadn’t He been making provision for His mother and looking out for His young friend John? “Love is patient, love is kind.” Oh, she remembered the passages as though the Lord were speaking them into her heart now. And wasn’t He? He was branded with His own suffering, His abounding love, His inexplicable mercy, and His incomparable grace.

“Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” Her father would have said the whole thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians by heart if he had performed their marriage ceremony. No compromise? She’d given in to Paul because, after all, how could the heir to David Hudson’s church get married in a poor coal miner’s living room?

Tears slipped down her cheeks. She, too, was a sinner saved by grace. And by His grace, and through it, she was to extend grace to others. For wasn’t that what grace was all about? Extending love to someone who trashed what you held so dear? If Jesus had done that for the unrepentant, couldn’t she bring herself to do likewise for a man with a broken and contrite heart?

Or so it seemed.

Human love ebbs and flows, blows hot and cold. God’s love never fails.
God. God, help me.

You know what I want of you, beloved.

Heart torn, she surrendered. She belonged to Him, after all. He was her first husband, faithful—always faithful—through time and beyond it. He’d died for her. And risen so that she might know she would never be separated from Him. What strength she needed would come from Him and not through her own measly efforts.

All right, Lord. So be it. However long, whatever pain may come. Before You
I vowed that it would be so, though I was young then and full of dreams and
didn’t know.

I know.

And because of her love for Jesus, she could say what needed to be said—not later when she felt like it, but now when Paul needed to hear it.

“I wasn’t called to be a pastor’s wife, Paul. I was called to be
your
wife.”

And so she would remain until God told her otherwise.

BOOK: And the Shofar Blew
13.48Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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