What’s done in the dark will eventually come to light… Another biblical truth I can’t run away from. I broke down in the car before I drove home. I cried out to God because I knew he was the only one that could sooth my aching heart, bleeding spirit, and troubled mind. After a fervent prayer pleading for guidance, a voice I thought I’d never hear again… which is crazy… how could I believe the lie, spoke to me, “Will you listen to me Asher?”
Considering that not listening to Him last time put me in this situation… I have to… I need to… There and then I swore to Him that I would. As He told me, “Good,” a wave of relief rushed through me and peace I could only credit to my God, my Savior, my Lord took root in me and sprouted in my entire being.
Melody doesn’t want to tell either of our parents yet… she thinks we need to break the news in stages. The stages being: stage one: Unveiling our relationship by telling our parents over dinner; stage two: Going public on social networking cites, since she’s the only who’s on them that will be her job; stage three: Reveal that Melody’s pregnant with our unborn child.
It seemed wise a couple of weeks ago when she proposed it. Unfortunately, we failed to implement it since our friends and family kept us busy with our birthday weeks. Last Friday, the 4th of October, was Melody’s 18th birthday. September 30th to October 11th during our fall break to celebrate Melody’s 18th birthday, her dad flew the whole family to Hawaii… for the entire break. Wednesday, on the 9th, on my 18th birthday youth group threw a surprise birthday party for me. Melody Skyped me from her fancy hotel room before I went to bed for the first time as an 18-year-old. Then for the weekend, my parents took me down to Tucson, we went to Old Tucson since Westerns are my favorite genre of literature. I can’t totally get into Western movies though. But what’s more romantic than a cowboy, in a white hat seeking redemption from his old wild ways by protecting the folk of the old west who need it, and in the end winning the heart of the fairest lady in town. Therefore, a dinner at my place and then hers, didn’t pan out, but I figured we get to it by this week.
Monday wasn’t good because it was a school night, except for my mom (her fall break was this week). Tuesday same excuse as Monday, Wednesday night Melody was too tired to attend church with me, Thursday night was family game night for the Gartner Clan only. Friday, Melody had to go into school since she’s failing English, and she knew after her day she would be exhausted. I woke up this morning expecting her to cancel, but I didn’t receive a text or a call, therefore I figured we were a go.
Today, with our Saturday tradition well and alive to commemorate our 6th weekiversary, as we walk holding hands like the love struck teens we are, along the lakeside Melody’s proposal shocks me, “Let’s get married,” she just blurts out.
Not given the chance to think it out, she kisses with an intensity she never has before, or maybe she has, I just can’t remember. Spellbound by the magic of this moment I find myself weak in the knees and running on fumes just to continue the motion of kissing with passion. And yet, holding her, kissing the mother of my child, I want more… Do I really want my kid born outside of wedlock; do I want Melody to worry that I’ll leave at any moment? What a better way to assure Melody and our future child that I’m never going anywhere than saying, ‘I Do’ at the altar before God, family, and friends.
Abruptly, prying her lips from mine to catch her breath she gently begs for clarity, “Is that a yes, Mr. Lucas?” Her hands clasped at the small of my back, her bottom lip tucked inside her mouth, her eyes on fire with anticipation, and my thoughts soaring through the euphoric clouds of my mind I proudly accept to have Melody Gartner become Mrs. Asher Michael Lucas, “Yes,” I tell her.
It’s not until after I dropped Melody off, I realize that I didn’t consult God. I didn’t ask for his direction. I’m scared to ask Him… I got the gut-wrenching feeling He’s going to make me choose the harder road… the one I’ve been avoiding. But I promised Him that I would listen to Him… that I was done doing things my way… But if I don’t marry Melody, she’ll probably just think I don’t love her, or that I want out of the relationship, or even worse she may close her heart to Christ altogether.
Suddenly the Lord says to me, “It’s not you who saves Asher. I SAVE.”
“What do I do God?” I beg for His guidance. He doesn’t say anything…
I’ve learned His silence means I got things in my heart I have to sort out before He can answer that question. He could tell me exactly what to do right now, but the big question remains: would I listen to Him? God doesn’t ask us questions because He doesn’t know the answer, He asks the questions to help us open our eyes. To help us realize where we’re at in life or to help us acknowledge a desire or a sin in our heart we haven’t recognized yet. Does God keep asking me if I’ll listen to Him, because in the deepest, truest part of my heart I won’t listen to Him? I keep doing my thing… Or do I keep doing Melody’s thing? Making me feel bad for her, she swindled me in to asking her to homecoming. I wanted to stop drinking punch and she persuaded me to drink more. Pitying her, I asked her to be my girlfriend. Thirty minutes ago she kissed me into accepting her proposal. Melody’s a devil, a snake! She’s the weed in my heart making me disobey God…
What do I do God?
As clear as the first time He said it to me, “Love her like I love you.”
God’s love is unconditional… I’m fully human… how can I love her unconditionally? A thought crosses my mind: Would I love her if she never found Christ? My love for her is conditional… I want her to accept Christ with every inch of my soul, that I’m compromising my soul just to please her. As if I fall from the graces of her favor, she’ll not only say the heck with me, but Jesus too… I’m standing in as savior of her life instead of allowing Jesus to come in and be her savior. I was there for her when she had no friends, I became her boyfriend to spare her a broken heart, and now I’ve agreed to marry her for security. What happens, if for whatever reason, I’m suddenly removed from the equation? What would Melody do? Would she just find another boy to be her knight in shining armor, would she run to her father like the daddy’s little girl she is? And what if, Natasha didn’t say yes to Zeven, and by some miracle she said yes to me (if I got the chance to ask her out)? I wouldn’t have taken Melody to homecoming, we wouldn’t be a couple, and the baby wouldn’t exist.
“Yes, he would,” the Lord inaudibly speaks to my heart.
Yes he would? Now I’m confused. God is love shouts from east to west in my mind.
God is love. In God’s Word Translation of the Bible, it uses the word love from Genesis to Revelation, with all its different forms and variant definitions of the word, but even with all of love’s many meanings, one underlying truth is clear: God loved us first, so we could love Him. We’re only capable of loving others because we’re made in His image. We were made to love. The reason why we fall short or fail to love is because of the callous nature sin brings into our lives. For our sake, out of love, God came as Christ to save us. God isn’t in the business of being liked… He’s in the business of being loved! To obey the Lord I have to be bold enough to love her more… to love her without conditions. The real question now is: how?
To an extent, Melody’s my precious little secret. No one knows we’re an item, but I imagine people suspect we are. We agreed not to partake in public displays of affection; in fact we don’t kiss much. Occasionally, she’ll bid me farewell with a peck on the cheek, or to thank me for her weekiversary gift, she’ll lightly lay a tender a kiss on my lips, but for the most part the only level of physical intimacy we practice as of late is hand holding. How I love to walk with her and just hold her hand, a warm blanket of security snuggles my heart in a bundle of joy.
The dawn of our couple-hood opens windows into each other’s soul every day. As friends we enjoyed the company of one another, but we didn’t exchange details about ourselves to grow and truly learn who we are. Who is Melody Gartner?
A girl without a middle name because her parents want her to keep Gartner as a part of her name once she’s married. Despising her flat, dull, nearly black hair she dyes it to look like a sandy blonde and by five in the morning she’s up styling her hair to make it wavy or curly with a special hot iron… I forgot what she calls it. All the creepy crawlies yet to be discovered, known, and classified terrify her to her innermost core and for that reason, she’s not a camper. The common white daisy holds the title of Mel G’s favorite flower, I of course, already knew that, but as of late, the wild, yellow daisy grows on her and her favoritism ventures toward a crossroads. I don’t see why she can’t like both? She tries, and tries, and tries, and tries, and tries but she’s a C+ student and she’s completely envious of my perfect 4.0 GPA. Jessie J stands alone as the pop, borderline hip-hop, diva when it comes to the Queen of Music in Mel’s opinion. If she were to meet Niall Horan of One Direction, she’d drop me in a second to be his lawfully wedded wife, if he’d have her. Unable to describe what attracts her to him, it could be his voice or his charm, but whatever it is makes her head spin daydreaming about him in math class… maybe that’s the problem with her grades? Mel harbors a well-guarded secret for her love of ‘enjoying the aromas of air fresheners’. In her closet, in the far back left corner there’s a chest full of aerosol cans and spray bottles of disinfectants and deodorizers of the popular brand variants. The latest thing I learned about Melody Gartner, though we hardly talk about religion since our relationship began, she’s deadly afraid God doesn’t exist and disappearing from existence when she dies.
Speechless I remained as we embraced in a long, lingering hug. When we were by the lake in the park, and she told me that about God, I wanted to say she’ll never doubt God or fear death knowing God personally, but I feared sparking an argument. I exhaled and I let the subject go. I stayed quiet that time, and we sat on the bench among the trees, where the light glowed like beaming rays from heaven through seams in between the branches of the pine trees. The entire forest-park was alive with the sounds of nature working around us…
Today marks our first monthiversary and I know I should get her something special… like a piece of jewelry. At Hallmark, in town, with mom and Abbey I notice a platinum, Celtic-inspired, ringed cross near the check out. Kyrene’s maiden name is O’Malley and if I’m not mistaken O’Malley is an Irish Surname. It would be perfect. I just have to figure out how to buy it without mom and Abbey seeing me. I have the cash ready when I see mom and Abbey in the far back corner by the mugs and I rush to buy the cross.
The mixed girl behind the register recognizes me from school. She even knows my name.
“How you doing Asher?” she asks.
“Pretty good,” I admit smiling to be polite. “I’m sorry, but I don’t remember your name.”
Putting my purchase in a small paper bag, she’s not surprised she’s nameless to me. “No one ever notices me… I’m a wallflower you know?”
Clearing my throat I apologize, I clarify what I meant to say, “May I get your name. I want a name to match the face in my memory? Pre-cal front center desk, right?”
A subtle rosy tint flushes her cheeks as she flashes an impressed grin my way handing me my purchase. Quietly, barely loud enough for me to hear, she shares her name, “Melanie Glover.”
Now I remember her, Melanie in the front. The thought rolls into the shoreline of my mind like a wave riding up to the coast: is Melanie Glover the childhood friend of Melody Gartner? I’m sure it’s just coincidence…
Is it? Questions a thought.
“What did you buy Ash?” Abbey’s voice pries into my business.
Facing her I tuck the bag into my back pocket, and in all honesty I inform my sister, “It’s none of your business.”
Abbey steps up to me and stares up into my eyes, “You’re so secretive lately, what are you hiding?” Her gaze scrutinizes me. I deliver a firm, “Nothing,” as I shuffle sideways toward the door, but Abbey follows me.
“I don’t believe you,” she huffs crossing her arms and if looks could severely dismember a body, my limbs would be spread throughout the store thanks to Abbey Gail Lucas’ deathly scowl. “Welcome to the dark side brother,” she smirks cockily as she steps around me and pushes the door open. Before exiting the store, she says, “I’m gonna go help dad and Ann with the groceries.”
I don’t know what happened to my little sister. Once upon a sweet time ago, she embodied the grace of a princess and her heart was that of gold. As an ugly reminder of her current state of witchery, that time ago is ever in the past, and a part of me longs for Princess Abbey Gail to return and once again share her love of singing gospel hymns and the peace of Christ’s Gospel she loved to share with the lost sheep. Where did she change? Was it here or back in Sanders? And what happened that changed her? It couldn’t be her christening into the teenage years, a different perspective of life fogged by raging hormones and the overwhelming desire to “fit in”. An event mom, dad, and I don’t know about? Some deep dark secret she’s harboring and allowing her heart to blacken with bile?
[*All I can do for her is pray. Again the thought poses the question Is it? It’s the type of thought not entirely my own… I know it comes from that place in me I’ve been ignoring one day shy of a month… well, since I didn’t listen to Him at the dance, today could count, and therefore, it’s been a month. (confusing)*]
A comforting, familiar slight hand touches the middle of my back. I look down and it’s mom creeping under my arm, folding me in her sideways mama bear clutch. Patting my stomach, she asks if I’m hungry. I am actually, but dad’s buying groceries and he’ll probably whip something together when we get home. Instead, she asks if I want to go to the Chinese Buffet a few doors down. I love my father, but I’ve been my mama’s boy since birth. Normally, I can talk to her about anything, but I don’t want to break her heart… I’ll wait for as long as I can to break the news gently. I want to accept her offer, but afraid from my growing guilt that I may spill everything about Mel, not just how great she is, but how and why we’re dating may be the main topic of our table talk, therefore, kindly, I convince her I can wait until we get home.
We agreed to meet at Woodland Park around ten in the morning last night while we were texting in bed. I’m the first to arrive by the mucky lake, the air refreshingly reeks of pine needles and a faint coolness follows the warm breeze. On a bulky rock, with a smooth top, about the height of 17-month-old Annika, I take a seat. Holding the Hallmark bag in my hands, I figured I could get away with not wrapping it, since I’m a guy.
The forest floor gets crushed and crunched by approaching footsteps behind me. The pace is rushed; someone is excited to celebrate our first month together. I stand up in preparation for a huge, bear caliber hug. But the face of Melody opposes the celebratory expression I expected. For the first time, before me, she’s without makeup. Her eyes swim with tears and glare with the gloss of a troubled soul. Dressed in baggy sweats, her dad’s Brigham Young Tee, old, scuffed white tennis shoes, and her hair− flat and un-styled thrown into a sloppy hybrid of a bun and a ponytail she looks like she was reluctant to leave the house.
“What’s wrong?” I ask reaching out to her.
She rambles anxiously and incoherently as she begins to accept my embrace but when she notices the Hallmark bag in my hand, she asks curiously, “What’s that?” with a twinge of poutiness in her tone.
“It’s a gift that can wait until you tell me what’s wrong.”
Looking into my eyes, she questions, “For our monthiversary?” with the whine in her voice still present.
“Yeah, but what’s wrong?”
Turning her back to me, staring out at the lake, and with gray, stormy clouds looming in the sky she thinks for a moment. Finally, she builds up the courage to admit… “I don’t want to lose you…”
I step up and stand next to her looking out at the lake too. I figure she’ll be more comfortable if I don’t look at her. “How can you lose me? I’m right here.”
A feeling of change rises in my spirit the instance our gaze reconnects… a little like when I saw Natasha for the first time… knowing… thinking we were destined. I’m not sure what I’m feeling… Entirely wrapped up in her light, golden brown eyes I hardly notice what she places in my hand. A cold end of a hard plastic stick, and as I look down at what it is, Melody says apologetically, “Probably the worst gift for an unwed teenage boy…” The words from Melody that follow afterwards trail off. Two pink lines… I’m pretty sure that means she’s having my baby.
Tears try to escape my eyes, and the overwhelming urge to flee rises tall within me, but I fight the cry pleading to breakout from me and I force myself to stay. I allow Melody to fall apart in my arms. Both weighed down with shame, guilt, and regret we fall together to the dirt soil ground and kneel on a bed of twigs, pinecone remnants, and pine needles as we grieve over the loss of a bright future and prep for the hard one to come.
WARNING: Contains content that may be a trigger for anyone who has experienced sexual assault. However, the content is not graphic just a relay of events.
On Saturday, at 7:29 pm I pull up in the Gartner driveway in front of the porch. In the rearview mirror, I notice my tie is crooked. Usually mom ties my tie, and does a perfect job, but I am capable of tying a tie myself. I should probably do it more often to get better.
Walking up the stairs, I freak out for a second worried I didn’t wear the right colors. Tan suit, pastel green shirt, and sunburst (or closest shade I had to) yellow, and brown leather dress shoes. Fortunately, as a pastor’s son I have a wide variety of suits and dress suits. I haven’t worn one lately because the church on the Res isn’t very demanding that we dress up every Sunday.
A petite, boldly, blonde woman with a fake sun tan and heavily masked face caked with makeup opens the door with an exaggeratedly happy face of salutations. As if she’s a relator ready to sell me this overpriced home.
“Come on in Asher.” She encourages me to step inside. Closing the door, she tells me, “I’m Kyrene, Melody’s mama.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Kyrene.” I say looking down at the woman looking up at me.
“You’re almost as tall as my husband.” She jokes knowing I’m a good 4 to 5 inches shorter than him.
“MOM!” Melody frantically hollers.
“If you’ll excuse me, Asher, I have to finish Mel’s hair. She’ll be right down.” Kyrene explains as she heads up the stairs.
Adam emerges from the living room holding a huge blue leather bound book and wearing gold, wire-rimmed reading glasses. Astutely, he takes off his glasses, folds them up, and tucks them into the front pocket of his shirt. I know it’s a father’s duty to be intimidating, but is there any way he can tone it down a bit? It’s not like I’m dating his daughter, we’re just friends going to homecoming together.
Clearing his throat, in a deep gurgle, he steps further into the foyer, inching closer to me. I see the silver inscribed title of the book, which reads: Doctrine and Covenants and the subtitle reads: of the Church of Christ of the Latter-Day Saints. Adam cups the book to his chest.
“Have her home by midnight,” he says looking at the ground, yet I can feel the seriousness of that request. As if it was a threat if I don’t have her home by then.
Walking over to a drawer, a part of a fancy, tall end table with a dark wood finish, he slides the drawer open and pulls out a small, hardcover blue book, which I’ve seen before. Kaylie gave one to Colton. It’s the Book of Mormon. I’m prepared to reject the offer to take it, but Adam faces the living room archway. Barely looking over his shoulder, looking back at me out of the corner of his eye, he says, “Have fun… and keep my daughter safe.”
“Yes sir,” I promise… I forgot to call him Adam, but I suspect he’s okay with it this time. He knows I’m serious, but to be safe, I correct myself, “Of course Adam.”
Adam’s trek into the living room is interrupted when Kyrene announces, “May I present to you the lovely, Melody Gartner,” from the second floor by the stairs.
From around the corner, Melody makes her descent down the stairs. Her sienna sand hair is up in a voluminous bun of big, roller-made curls. Little yellow, wild daisies are woven with the strands of her hair. Two long, wavy strands of hair dangle, one beside each ear. She wears a long, pastel green shawl around her shoulders to accent her simple, yet elegant sunburst yellow dress gown. Once she makes it to the bottom of the staircase, she turns to the side, and the waistline of the gown is tightened by a rope-looking tassel tie wrapped in a bow, the colors of the tassel rope are brown and tan. Under direct light, her skin sparkles with a golden, glittery glint. I totally get it; she’s a wild daisy along the roadside under the sun.
Kyrene forces us to model before a camera to document this special night. For the first pic, we stand side by side, but for the second pic, Kyrene has us stand like were in a conga line. She’s folded in my arms around her stomach, her outward facing head rests against my chest, and her hands are clasped over mine. The third take is similar to the second, Melody stands in front of me off to the side, but our arms and hands are near the same position. I know we’re not a couple, but it feels like it currently, in this pose… I’m not sure what to compare it to or what feeling describes it. To hold her in my arms, the way her hands clutch to mine, it’s like she needs me to stay tethered to life, and every part of me wants to be that stability for her.
All eyes are on us, when we walk into the galaxy-themed, strobe lit, various neon flashing lights gym. Okay, not all eyes are on us, just the jealous eyes of Jon Hurst, the jaded glance of Meaghan, and the envious stare of Charley. Living on a prayer, I hope they all leave us alone.
Melody drags me to the dance floor immediately, and I follow her lead. We keep a safe distance of a foot and half apart. I’m not really into the whole dancing thing, but Melody clearly is. She has serious dance moves… like she could dance professionally… Not like a pole dancer but like a backup dancer for Beyoncé or some other pop star.
After a gazillion songs I need refreshment and a break. Reluctantly, Melody drags me to a table and sits me down. Talking over the music, she tells me she’ll go get us some punch. I try to do it instead and ask her to rest, but she demands I let her do it. Her demanding side has the bite of a hungry wolf. I’m not a fool… I’ll let her do what she wants. The punch citrus flavor packs a powerful kick, but sweet tanginess settles the kick a little. It’s pretty good.
We rest. We dance. We repeat the process. I lose track of time. By the time I have my fifth or sixth glass of punch, I must have a sugar rush because I feel super charged! I’m SO amped to dance, Dance, DANCE! I never noticed how strobe lights can make you dizzy, but they can. I didn’t think I’d have this much fun at a dance… Dancing… I love dancing… it’s like… AWESOME!
After a bathroom break, Melody hands me another glass of punch. If I drink anymore I’ll be peeing all night.
“No thanks,” I say nudging the cup toward her.
“Aren’t you thirsty from all the dancing though?” She questions.
That is true. I’m pretty parched from all the grooving. I hold out my hand and she smiles handing it to me. As I drink from the cup, the thought don’t drink it comes to me… Why not drink it?
“Asher,” I hear someone say.
I look around, but I don’t recognize who it could be. I guzzle down the punch and lightheadedness comes over me instantaneously, and my breath drops down into my stomach… you know, the type of feeling you get on a roller coaster ride lunging down the slope. Hunched over, holding my stomach makes the feeling cease. When I stand up, the strobe lights jumble everything in sight around and people start to double. I hope I’m not epileptic… I hear lights like this can trigger a seizure and since this is the first dance I’ve ever been to with such lights, how would I know?
Rest. Drink. Dance. Restroom. Repeat. Rest. Dance. Drink. Restroom. Repeat. Dance. Drink. Dance. Restroom. Dance. Repeat. Rest. Repeat… Repeat… Dance? Rest? Drink? Repeat? Sleep? Yes… sleep!
The scent of clean linen and lavender comes from the soft fabric my face is buried in and it’s a glorious smell to wake up to. Did mom switch the laundry detergent? Turning my head, not wanting to open my eyes and admit I’m awake, the thread of the sheets caresses my skin with a fresh sensation. That was so sweet of mom to change my sheets… I’ve had the same ones for a week. They were getting grimy and gross. I feel liberated lying in bed… I don’t feel smothered and imprisoned by my PJs. Am I in my boxers?
Upon the realization I’m butt naked under the covers I wake up and find myself in a room that belongs to a girl, not me. This room is the size of two of mine, therefore, definitely doesn’t belong to my sisters. I’m in a huge beige, framed canopy bed, under a tangerine sheet, and a lemon-yellow comforter. The bottom of the walls are paneled with wood the color of the canopy bed frame, and the top of the walls are thin vertical lines of tangerine orange and pearl white. I see my suit laid out on a chair by a window that peers into the piney forest.
An ache ten times stronger than a brain freeze pulses through my head. Looking toward any source of light intensifies the headache. Closing my eyes helps, but the pain twinges on. I hear a door creek open and close gently. Soft, but fast footsteps creep toward me. The bed dips lower as I sense someone sitting beside. A moist, faint pressure purses against my lips and startles my eyes to open wide. I jerk back to part Melody’s lips from me. She’s wrapped in nothing but a towel and her hair is flatly straight, dripping wet.
“Well, you’re kissing attitude has certainly changed from last night.” She titters.
I scoot away shutting my eyes tight. I don’t want to see anything I shouldn’t.
“What are you freaking out about? You already saw all of me last night… well it was dark. Maybe you just felt your way.” She says poking me in the ribs.
I sense her stand up and hear her walk away from the bed. I hear doors slide open. That must be the closet. Hangers rattle and clang as she looks for a wardrobe.
“I’m not looking your way if you want to get dressed.” She says.
I open my eyes, thinking she must be hidden behind a changing partition, but instead I’m exposed to her entire back side. For the first time, I experience what the first Adam felt for his wife after he left the garden: lust. Instinctively, I stare at her backside asset and marveled by a fascination I can’t grasp it’s hard to look away.
A flood of shame inflicts my spirit and hurriedly I avert my eyes. I rush to get dressed. When I finish, I discover fully clothed Melody’s been watching me. She’s wearing jeans and a white t-shirt.
Another thought invades my mind: Adam! He’ll kill me!
“Your dad,” a panicked squeal leaps from my mouth.
“No one noticed us sneak in. It rained last night, hard. I called dad and said we were going to wait for the rain to let up. He said he couldn’t wait up any longer, that he was going to bed.”
“But how am I going to get out of here?” I ask.
“Out the front door… My parents are already on their way to church. Tenor drank the spiked punch too, so he’s still out like a light.”
How could I be so stupid?! Strobe lights don’t make the world spin, intoxication does. It was the Lord that called my name last night… That thought wasn’t me saying not to drink the punch, it was God! And now I did the worst thing possible… I lost my virginity to a woman that isn’t my wife. I disrespected her body and took advantage of her while we were influenced by alcoholic spirits (alcohol in our system)…
I’m so sorry God! Unable to stand I buckle to the ground on my knees. I try not to cry, but my breath shallows as the salty tears leak from my eyes. An ache in my heart plagues me with sorrow and spiritual agony… How could I be so dumb to fall so low? Melody bends on her knees, rushing to my aide. Her arms reach to embrace me, but I reject her comfort by scooting back from her extended arms-length.
I fold myself into an empty corner near her bed. I repent again and again and again, but relief doesn’t find me and I lack the sense of God’s forgiveness. I betrayed Him. I broke my promise to stay pure. And worst of all, I disobeyed God by ignoring His voice. I try to be still enough to hear God’s voice say something. To hear Him say He’s still with me. To hear Him say He forgives me. I’d take comfort in a simple hello, but nothing. I just feel the overwhelming guilt of my sin consume my spirit and place a bleak hopelessness in my heart, taking root in my mind.
My parents… they trusted me to be alone and I broke their trust. They’ll never trust me again. And now I’m so confused. In the Old Testament, once a man and a woman lied down together, they were married in the eyes of God… And even though we have a ceremony today, the truth is a soul tie was made between Melody and I. Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, we’re closer now than we were before, because we have exchanged a piece of each other. There’s no going back to the way things were, pretending like nothing happened. Does that mean I should date Melody now… give her a chance… but what if she never gets saved…
Oh God! I’ve ruined my witness. I claim to be a legit born-again Christian waiting until marriage to take that step of intimacy sex offers and I just slept with her because I was drunk? Saliva pools in the corner of my lips as nausea-on-roids attacks my stomach.
“I’m gonna be sick.” I moan.
Melody rushes and grabs the trash pale beside her desk and hands it to me just as barf bursts out of my mouth. Soothingly, she rubs my back as I empty the contents of my stomach. At the least optimal time, she jokes, “Glad I kissed you before you hurled.” I’m too depressed to laugh.
Since Tenor was trashed too, Melody drove us home in the black truck. My dad’s car is still at school. When my stomach settled enough to travel, she drove me back to school. Parked beside the old silver Toyota Corolla, Melody questions if I’m okay to drive home, and I tell her yes, but I must not have been convincing. She drives out the parking lot and takes us through the Mickey D’s drive thru.
In the parking lot of Mickey D’s, she forces me to drink an iced-coffee and a breakfast sandwich. I’m surprised that she downs three breakfast sandwiches and three hash brown bars. Driving back to my dad’s car, she makes me drink a coke too. She’s claims it will help with the hangover. Surprisingly… it does… I feel way better than I did thirty minutes ago.
Parked again beside the Corolla, Melody questions, “You’re not gonna blow me off are you?”
“Well, you kept your end of the bargain… You took me to homecoming… You could like let things go back to the way they were… and just wave hi to me in the halls.” She explains entirely convinced that I used her for sex and now I’m going to treat her as if she didn’t exist.
I start off to say we’re friends but how do you stay friends with someone after having sex with them? Wouldn’t we be lying to ourselves? I don’t know what to say.
“Melody…” I sigh.
What should I do? I’m tempted to ask for God’s help… to have Him speak for me… but my sin has separated me from Him… He’s the furthest He’s ever been in a while for me. Internally, I feel completely alone, yet I can feel Him watching me… looking down on me with disappointment and embarrassment. But just because I messed up once, doesn’t mean I should change who I am all together. I’m about honesty and doing the right thing, especially when it’s hard, but what is the right thing to do? What is my honest opinion? What do I want our relationship to be from here?
“Melody… I never meant to give you the wrong impression…”
She interjects, “We don’t have to be more than friends… I get that what happened last night was a mistake, but you’re the only friend I have right now and I don’t know what I would do without you. I’d be totally alone…” she whines with tears swelling in her eyes.
“Of course we’re friends Melody. It’s just… You have no idea how sorry I am for not treating you like the treasure you are.”
Sniffling, she looks at me confused.
I continue, “You deserve more than a drunken night with a fool… I took something that belonged to your future husband.”
“You didn’t take anything. I’m not a virgin…” She admits shamefully.
“That’s not exactly what I’m talking about. I took a moment of intimacy that was meant to be for you and him… and whether you acknowledge it or not… We gave a part of ourselves to each other last night, and the only way we’re going to get it back is through God’s grace… We’re never going to think of each other in the same light and therefore, our friendship is going to be a struggle.”
“So you don’t want to be friends?” She asks with a quivering lip. Crinkled, meshed ripples coil in her chin.
I take her right hand and hold it delicately. “No… I want you to be my girlfriend…”
Pure awe embodies her gaze as she looks at me. I think she expected me to dump her as a friend altogether.
“But, we’re not having sex again unless we’re married, because we owe it to ourselves to honor God as being His living temples.”
Melody nods excitedly, as tears stream down her face. She tugs me into a hug, locking my neck in the fold of her arms. “Thank you,” she shudders in my ear…
Then her hands slither to cup my face, and slowly her lips approach and for the first time we kiss… without being under the influence. The moment is everything I dreamed and dreaded at the same time. The fact of having a girlfriend, something I’ve wanted since early boyhood, fills me with joy, but the way I got my first girlfriend breaks my heart. With her being Mormon and me being a Christian… there’s no way this relationship will last, not without one of us making huge sacrifices and I will not give up Jesus for religion.
Note from the Author:
The night of Homecoming in this story can be a trigger from those who have experienced sexual assault. If you or anyone you know need help to recover from trauma, please DO NOT hesitate to reach out for assistance. The link below is from the RAINN website and the info there can connect you to resources that will lead to healing and can even lead to justice. There is HOPE.
Call 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.
Melody ignored me completely on Thursday. I tried to sit by her at lunch, but she got up and walked away. I assumed going to homecoming together was a dead concept.
But as I’m saying bon voyage to my family, my phone alerts me I’ve received a text message as mom hugs me goodbye. I pull out my phone as mom’s the final person to get into the minivan.
The text from Mel G. reads…
We’re still going to homecoming tomorrow night, right?
Is this girl bipolar? One minute we’re all buddy-buddy, then she ostracizes me for an entire day like a typical Amish shunning, and suddenly I’m acceptable to talk to again. No; let’s not go together. I want to text that and I begin to, but then the thought love her like Christ loves me blares in my head. Whoever thought being a Christian was easy was a lunatic… Doing the right thing is harder than doing the wrong thing. Sometimes doing the wrong thing is a struggle too, but it still seems easier majority of the time as if wrongdoing is second nature. Oh wait, it is… thanks a lot Adam and Eve for the wonderful gift of sin.
Before I respond to Melody, I figure I should get my parents’ permission. I call mom’s cell. She worries why I called so soon and asks me what’s wrong. She asks if I’m locked outside of the townhouse. I remind her that it’s impossible to lock the door unless you’re inside or outside with a key, with a deadbolt lock there’s no way to lock the door behind you.
“What is it then?” She wonders.
“Can I go to homecoming? I’ll be home by curfew, I’ll go pick up Melody and drop her off at home. The only reason why I asked her is because I could tell she really wanted to go and nobody asked her.” I blurt out as quickly as possible. If I spoke slow enough for her to grasp all the words, it would somehow give her a chance to tell me no, but she could still tell me no.
“Let me ask your father.”
I can hear her talk to dad. Abbey bickers about how unfair it would be if they allowed me to go. Dad requests the phone to talk to me.
“When does the dance end?”
“Eleven-thirty,” I say.
“How faraway does Melody live from school?”
“About 15 minutes,” I’m pretty sure that’s right.
“Be home no later than a quarter to one. We’ll probably all be sleeping, but send your mother or me a text when you get home, so we can be relieved in the morning when we wake up.”
A wave of relief mixed with a touch of eagerness ripples through me as I thank dad ecstatically. I don’t have to let Mel down now. Dad hands the phone back over to mom. She tells me to drive safely and she sends a bundle of love my way. I thank her too, because none of us Lucas kids get to do anything, if both parents aren’t onboard.
As I walk inside, Mel shoots me another text asking if I want to go to the homecoming game tonight. I text yes if she really wants to go. Her ex will be the star, her brother will be a bratty showboat, and her ex-eagan bffs’ will be there. She texts that her parents are going, therefore she has to go. Begging me, she pleads that I go to spare her from boredom and humiliation. When I feel like I should accept her invitation, the alarming mental reminder that I have Worship Practice tonight blares in my mind. Regretfully, I tell Mel that, but I’m completely honest.
She texts back:
I understandJ Rock Out 4 Jesus. C U 2morrow nite!
In the Youth Sanctuary, everyone waits for the leading worship duo. Aden warms up on drums. Nicolette double checks the sound levels on the mikes with Chlonelle. Wilma plays scales on the bass. And since Zeven, left his acoustic guitar, I daringly pick it up and play around with it. Once I get into playing a Gabrielle y Rodrigo song, a song that carries the heat of running with bulls yet sooths like summer rain, everyone on the team stares at me, therefore I stop.
From way in the back, in the control booth, Chlonelle hollers, “Where did you learn to play like that?”
“I taught myself…” I say overwhelmed with embarrassment. Everyone thought that was good? If I practiced more often, I’d be way better.
“Can you play Desert Streams acoustic version of Born?” Nicollette asks.
“What key?” I wonder which she would prefer, “A, Bb, or E.”
My parents never got me a capo, so I learned how to play in different keys without one. It’s not always easy, but it is possible.
After I play the intro and the chorus, Nicolette uses her brazen mezzo-soprano voice to slay us all in the Spirit. She is such an anointed singer. She would probably lead more often if Tash wasn’t Pastor Chastity’s daughter.
Midway through the bridge, Tash bolts into the sanctuary with Zeven rushing behind her.
“Can we at least talk about it after practice?” Zev pleads.
Abruptly, spinning to face him, she whispers loudly, “No. You… bring it… and we… done!” Is all everyone could make out. She turns around and faces the group. “Sorry we’re late. Lost track of time.”
Zev glares at me as he approaches the stage. Hopping onstage he questions if I can play and challenges me to play a G-progression. When I do, he grudgingly acts like it is cool I can plays as well. I surrender his guitar back over to him. Everyone takes their rightful places and we officially rehearse for the week.
Okay, we all know 21st Century Americans (or any member of a first world country) love TV shows! Netflix, Hulu, and AmazonPrime are beloved streaming services people flock to for entertainment. For the Faith-Based Audience, we live off Pureflix and the Hallmark’s Movies app. But let’s keep it real… it’s because God taught us to see the good in anything, we can find satisfaction in Pureflix and Hallmark, because these are the avenues that give us grown up content without the nudity, the language, the gore, and the darkness. Yes, there is Vidangel that filters all the bad stuff out of “Game of Thrones” and “Stranger Things”, but is it really as good as the uncensored originals?
Programmers make content that the current society can relate to, and they do this to ensure people will watch their show. If programmers want to introduce something new to society, we now consider taboo, we will see it in comedic format until society catches up to this “something new” and having a drama with the content is palatable.
One of the first TV characters to have a baby, out of wedlock, on TV was Murphy Brown. “Murphy Brown” the TV show, was a comedy in the late 80s to mid 90s (it has been rebooted and cancelled after season one… not gonna lie… I prayed for that cancellation). Single mothers were common across America at the time. The programmers (producers, writers, directors, executives, etc.) addressed single mothers because they knew there were many out there and could relate to it. Also, think about the young women at the time who watched this show, and were raised to believe having kids out of wedlock was wrong… how many do you think decided maybe it wasn’t so bad if they had a kid outside marriage, and they made different life choices because of “Murphy Brown”?
Don’t twist my words… making choices based on what one sees on TV can be negative, but it can also be positive. Some may think, “No one makes life decisions based on TV and TV characters!”
I was on Instagram today, and one of my favorite actresses Olivia Wilde, made post about how proud she was of her bisexual character Alex Kelly on “The O.C.”. I literally read a comment where someone posted they realized they were gay because of her character on that show…
Now, depending on what worldview lens you hold, will determine how interpret what I wrote above.
As a person with a Judeo-Christian perspective, I don’t agree the homosexual lifestyle can be lived out and lead to Heaven with the God of the Holy Bible. There is enough scripture in there to support my personal belief. Now, if you’re reading this and you don’t believe homosexuality will lead to eternal death, I’m not angry and I won’t try to convince you otherwise. If you want a better understanding of what I believe and why I believe it, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If I quote scripture on homosexuality such as the following:
Leviticus 18:22: Do not practice homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman. It is a detestable sin. (NLT)
Leviticus 20:13: If a man practices homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman, both men have committed a detestable act. They must both be put to death, for they are guilty of a capital offense. (NLT)
Romans 1:26-27: That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. (NLT)
1 Corinthians 6:9-11: Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive or cheat people –none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (NLT)
Then I could be accused of using hate speech on social media and I don’t want to get removed from Facebook. I’m quoting from the sacred text that billions of people believe to be the WORD OF GOD, the One who MADE EVERYTHING. Now, what the WORD says may not sound awesome to embrace and may be contrary to how a lot of people feel and think, but in a world where definitions and truths are as fickle as feelings and ever changing, what my God says today is the same it was 4,000 years ago and that brings me peace.
[Let’s rabbit trail, and think on this for a moment… God is love (1 John 4 says so) and love that is unconditional will always do what is best for the other person, regardless of how that other person feels, thinks, or acts. However, we have learned as the human race, we don’t do anything unless we believe in what we’re doing and believe what we claim as truth as our reason for why we do what we do. We are like this, because God designed us to believe in Him, but if we miss Him, we will find anything else to believe in that makes ourselves feel good…
So God, who is LOVE, had awesome experiences with humanity for thousands of years, but no one could stay consistent in listening to Him. Through the founding fathers of faith (in Judaism), He gave guidance and instructions to live a blessed life and because God longed to connect with the rest of humanity, he asked Abraham and his descendants to live according to love and to live for others as opposed to living to self, which is vain and leads to death.
Think about circumcision? Men are less prone to diseases and less likely to spread diseases if they are circumcised. How loving is that? God wanted men and women to be in good health! I will spare us specific details of why, for all the adults reading this, you can think of why.
To help humanity out, and specifically His people out, God writes down His guidelines and His instructions to the Blessed Good Life. Anyone who reads it, believes it, and lives out their life upon what the WORD says will live a BLESSED GOOD LIFE (in the end, when you look back on their life).
If you look at the Kosher Diet, that some people in Judaism follow to the letter, living in a time without the FDA, antibiotics, probiotics, and weight loss pills… that diet is the best diet to live a long, prosper life way back in those Bible days.
The Ten Commandments may have had harsh penalties, but if we look at 8 of them, they all prevent people from doing bad things, if they abide by them. The first two, if those are followed, those people would never do anything bad because following God of the Bible didn’t ask for crazy rituals to be pleased…
Do you realize most pagan idols (gods) back then required human blood sacrifice, sexual orgies, eating raw animal meat, torturing people, killing animals, doing drugs, mutilating their own bodies, and who knows what other vile things?!
People back then lived by fear. If they were afraid of something or someone, they most likely didn’t do what would get them in trouble. To ensure the people Israel wouldn’t do super bad things, God made a super bad punishment knowing most people would be too afraid to go against that. And if you read the Bible, when the whole lot of Israel got disobedient, He just graciously exiled them from the Promise Land, he didn’t kill all of them and start again, He realized after Noah, that doesn’t really work (kidding… I think…).
God is GOOD. He is LOVE. His WORD is LIFE. Living by His SPIRIT does HELP US in our EVERY DAY LIVES.
End of rabbit trail.]
Again, why isn’t there anything good (suitable for believers) to watch on TV?
I think we settle for it.
We watch what we want because it gets us hooked and because we know the truth all the sin, all the falsehood, and all the blaspheme against God doesn’t affect us that much. If we’re solid in the WORD, solid in our PRAYER LIFE, and connected to the BODY these shows don’t impact us deeply. For some folks, watching a scene with nudity could lead them to falling in the area of lust and acting upon those lusts. Or watching a show with bad words could lead them to cuss. Apply a scenario you watch on a show and how you do similar things in real life.
I’m not telling anyone to quit all TV, but if you want a program that honors God, and puts what is good on display, free from deception and the grips of the enemy, then we need to let programmers know there is a demand for it and there will be an audience that watches it. But it starts with us writing emails to local networks and asking why isn’t there a primetime show safe to watch with your kids about doctors? Who would love a Shonda Rimes Drama free from the scandal – okay, probably no one because she does scandal so well she created a show called SCANDAL! Hopefully, you see my point!
Another thing we could do is pray… Pray for more content to be made not just for the enjoyment of believers but to spread the Gospel beyond using the Nativity Story and the Life of Jesus. (Be on the look out for Chosen TV on Vidangel. Yes, the creators of Vidangel are Mormon, excuse me, LDS, but the creators of Chosen TV are not. Dallas Jenkins is the creator and director and this series is going to be BETTER than the BIBLE SERIES because it is more Biblically accurate with consulting from Messianic Rabbis from Israel! The first season isn’t out yet, but it’s coming sooooooooooooooon).
Also, have such an appetite for the things of God that whatever you’re watching, you see Jesus in it or where Jesus is lacking!
Programmers will make what we want to see when we show them what we want. Maybe we’ll luck out and Sarah Drew and Chris Pratt will team up and create an AWESOME show that is faith inspired and faith based for Hulu or for Netflix, and everyone can’t stop talking about it because it is SO GOOD! (Yes, this is secret prayer of my heart…Oops, it’s not a secret anymore, where two or more are gathered, HE IS THERE!)
Feel free to comment below, I only ask that you remain respectful. If anyone has any personal questions or wants to know my testimony about being set free from gender dysphoria and then lesbianism, email me at justbriannamonique.blog and I’ll be more than happy to share how I was Transformed By God’s Love (LBGT backyards acronym).
ALSO, if you feel inspired to, SHARE THIS POST with whoever and wherever! I’m already grateful for the gift of writing, this blog platform WordPress, and apps like Canva and Adobespark that help me do all this. I give God the MOST GLORY (like all of it) because I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing without His constant leading and prodding.
My meditation scripture for the foreseeable future is Psalm 23:5-6 (ESV):
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely[a] goodness and mercy[b] shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell[c] in the house of the Lord
And yes, I plan to meditate on these verses three times a day, every day. Normally, I would think such an act is “too religious”, but I found out Lindsay Lohan meditates three times a day and that is her “personal religion”. She made zero mention of a god or believing in an existing religion as hers. Who knows what she meditates on… maybe she thinks of something or maybe she empties out her mind.
But meditating with God’s Word is simple, it’s a matter of going over the verses for a few minutes and thinking on them. Soaking the verses in to the point you believe them.
If you ask me right now, “Hey Brianna, do believe in the Lord in the way David described Him in Psalm 23?” I would say, “yes”. But if you look at how I respond to certain circumstances in my life, no way… okay, maybe sometimes. But David was always saying out loud what he thought of God and who God was to Him in relation to how he saw the world. Many times, he received prophetic words about our coming Lord Jesus. So he wasn’t thinking of God in light of how He wanted to see God, he thought of God how the Lord revealed Himself to David. And for living as he did because he thought as he did, David became the man after God’s heart. David was after God’s heart. David was not ultimately after his own.
Wow… rabbit trail two! I am definitely a woman, right?
To really sum it up, let’s make TV Networks give us more of what we want. Let’s watch less of the smut they are showing us and force them to create something that glorifies God, not exploit God. Be intentional what you stream, download, and tune into on TV.
Natasha and Chlonelle (Clo-NELL) are setting up the stage, making sure the sound levels are right for worship, and that the lights are ready for their cues. Melody’s grip of my hand is firmer than her father’s handshake. I didn’t realize someone could be so nervous over going to church, but I remember walking in here is more a spiritual battle than a mental one for her. Nicolette, Aden, and Wilma enter the youth room from outdoors laughing together. When they see us, standing by the door to the hallway, they come over to greet Melody.
Nicolette’s style complements Melody’s. Today they’re both wearing black flats with ribbon bowties, skinny jeans (Nic’s are faded while Mel’s are midnight blue), Nicolette wears a white blouse with a ruffled collar and a knitted light gray, long sleeve cardigan sweater while Melody wears a yellow blouse with a cow bell neck line and a long, baggy black cardigan. Stubbornly, keeping my hand in her clutch, Melody uses her right hand to shake. I introduce her to Nicolette first, and Nicolette winks saying, “Nice shoes!”
As Aden, Wilma, and I join Nicolette in a quick giggle, Melody only smiles uncomfortably. Fixing her sandy blonde, wavy ponytail Nicolette complements Melody’s hair too. This time we spare the giggles to alleviate the awkwardness of this first encounter.
Aden opts to wave instead of shake hands. He’s a borderline germaphobe. Hopefully, Melody isn’t offended by it.
Lastly, Wilma and Melody shake as I inform them of one another’s name. Melody’s grip has loosened now that she sees these guys are cool.
But she tenses right back up when Nicolette asks if she’s ever been to church before. Grinning out of angst, she huffs lightly, “Not one like this…” I expected her to follow up by professing she’s a Mormon, but she just lets her sentence drop and die out. Averting her eyes, she looks around the Youth Sanctuary… it’s really just a humungous room with a two foot high stage in the corner.
Wilma says, “We’re glad you’re here.”
“How do you know Asher?” Aden asks.
“We go-,” Mel and I both start to say, a titter escapes through our breath from our lips in unison too. She lets me finish the sentence. “We go to school together.”
Nicolette nods her head pursing her lips, her lame attempt at trying to be cool, as she says, “Right on.”
Until I’m required to report to my Youth Worship Team post as an ensemble singer (as Natasha calls us) Melody and I hang out in the Book Nook Corner. It’s a corner in the back, filled with Christian literature for youth and young adults. Bean bags surround the outer edge of the area, turning the corner into a square. Melody still holds my hand hostage while exploring the book selection. When I tell her she can borrow anything for free, she just has to sign it out on the clip board, she appears eager to take something home. By the look in her eyes, it’s obvious she doesn’t have a clue where to start. I would make a few suggestions, but I don’t want her to feel like I’m pushing her. Only if she asks… I’ll point a few books out.
“There’s so much here…”
“Have you ever checked anything out?”
I think she’s fishing for me to tell what’s good to read, but I shouldn’t just assume. I answer honestly, “No, but-,” I point to a book I own and have read several times, “I have this one at home.”
Without hesitating, she pulls the red softcover book titled: not a fan. The book divulges what it really means to follow Christ and answer His radical call. After reading the summary on the back, she puts it back.
“Could I barrow it from you? It may take me a while to read it.”
She continues to look on, dragging me with her. I try not to look as surprised as I feel when she pulls The Case for Christ off the shelf. Holding it up, she inquires, “Is this a good one?”
“I heard its good, but I’ve only read More Than a Carpenter… they’re similar, since both authors were former atheists.” I say.
Handing it to me, she says, “You should check it out and then after you read it, tell me which one I should read.”
I hand the book back to her, “Or you could check it out, and tell me what you think. Then maybe I’ll want to read it.”
“Asher man, let’s warm up.” Natasha calls out to me.
I manage to break my hand free. Once I think I’m scot-free to walk on, I’m held in place by a nervous-someone tugging at my shirt.
“Don’t leave me,” she yelps in a frantic whisper.
I pry her fingers off my shirt, and I join her hands together to the clutch the book in her grasp instead of me. Locking eye contact with her, I say to her, “You’ll be fine. Hang back here and skim the pages. See if it’s worth checking out.” Gently, I guide her to my favorite bean bag to sit in. It’s filled just right, not too full, and not too flat. Tenderly pressing down on her shoulders, I guide her to sit down in the royal blue, cloth bean bag. As she sits in it, her posture stiffens like a tall board, and her knees hug up against each other as they point to the side. Apparently, she is a princess now, sitting as royalty should.
Zeven happens to make his way to the stage as I’m heading there. He looks over his shoulder at Melody and asks, “She with you?”
I just nod, not feeling in a very talkative mood toward him.
Patting me in the back, “It’s about time you got a girl man. Congrats dude.”
I open my mouth to correct him, but a part of me wonders if Natasha would be jealous if she thought I had a girlfriend. I just pretend like I didn’t hear him.
We do a quick run through of our set. Natasha just makes sure we understood her notes on our sheet music about her arrangement, and she makes sure our sound level is perfect for worship. While we’re singing How Great is Our God, Chastity, who’s been standing in the sound booth all this time, steps out and goes over to Melody and interrupts her reading.
I’m fortunate this song is programed in my brain, because I can’t seem to concentrate as I observe my Youth Pastor talk to my Mormon friend. Considering my past experiences with Mormons and misguided Youth Pastors, I’m totally panicked that Chastity’s going to kick her out. But everything seems to be okay. Chastity gets Melody to genuinely laugh, which should help me relax, but now I wonder how close Melody is to accepting Christ… the real one…
The strangest thought crosses my mind once she’s saved, maybe we could date… My heart literally skips a beat, which is the first time I’ve ever experienced such a phenomenon. Clearly, my heart is aching over my missed chance with Natasha and Melody is the close proximity rebound.
The music dies instantly and Natasha hounds at me, “We’re repeating the chorus twice in the end Asher.”
Autopilot doesn’t always work out best. I apologize.
“Let’s take it from the bridge.” Natasha orders.
Melody tries not to laugh at me, by burying her face in the book. Once the music plays, Melody gives me two thumbs up trying to be encouraging. Chastity looks at me and in her expression she tells me to get focused without words. A peace sweeps through me as I trust Chastity to look out for Melody while I practice singing praises onto the Lord.
We get started right away tonight because everyone managed to show up five minutes after we finished rehearsal. Melody makes sure she’s front and center during worship. She doesn’t sing along much, but she reads the words on the projection screen, and sways to the beat of the music as she keeps the Case for Christ clinched in her hands.
The worship team joins the rest of the youth group on the ground as Chastity takes the stage with a bible in hand and a head mike attached to her face. As usual she makes announcements. On Sunday, we’ll begin the sermon series on Sexuality: Knowing Him and Her. The first Saturday of September, we’ll be having game night here in the youth room. There will be food and drinks and games provided. All we need to do is bring ourselves and some friends. Melody whispers in my ear that she wants to go. I nod my head, promising her we’ll go. Zeven and Aden walk around with baskets to collect tithes and offerings, then after everyone has given to God what belongs to God, Chastity begins her sermon.
“Tonight, we’re going to start a new series… Does God Know You?”
Zeven’s hand pokes in between my head and Melody’s with two slips of paper. Aden comes beside me and hands us a bible to share. Melody and I went out to eat at Lucano’s, which gave me no time to run home to get my Bible. Usually, I bring it with me Wednesdays to school in case I run behind, but today I forgot. Breakfast time was quite the showdown as Abbey picked a fight with my mother over cereal. The cereal was a cheap knock off brand and Abbey put her two cents in about it. She’s lashing out because she doesn’t get to attend homecoming, instead, she has to stay home and babysit her little sister. Dad told me to go to school alone, he had to have a talk with Abbey and he said he would drive her up the hill to school. Dad text me at lunch that he would pick Abbey up from school too, and by the looks of her not being here, I think she’s in big trouble.
I look at the half sheet of paper.
Does God Know You? Part I
1) God knew you in the womb. Ps. 139:13-16; see all Ps. 139
2) God has a plan for you. Jer. 2:5; Jer. 29:11; Ps. 16:11; Ps. 119:105, Pr. 3:5-6
If God had a plan for Jeremiah, certainly He has a plan for you.
Trust God and see His plan unfold. (Pr. 16:4)
3) You were born with the knowledge of God. Rom. 1:18-25
4) Seek God (knock) and you will find God. Mat. 7:7-10
Have you sought God with all your heart?
Have you asked to get closer to Him?
Melody pokes me to get my attention. She mouths: Do you have a pencil or a pen? I scout my pockets and find my favorite sketch pencil, but I trust Melody with it. Taking it, she notices what pencil it is, and she mouths: Are you sure? Casually I nod yes.
The sermon wasn’t questioning whether or not we legitimately know God, it was encouragement to seek God’s face and know him personally. Over the next four weeks, on Wednesday, we’ll be learning how to deepen our relationship with Christ, so we can have that deep, intimate relationship with God. I was wrong about Abbey being a no show, she showed up ten minutes into the sermon and she looked pissed. I try to find out why she was upset after our closing worship song, but Dad showed up to collect her. I know I’ll find out later.
On the car ride up the hill, into town, Melody won’t quit with the questions. Why were a lot of our worship songs about Christ and not God; aren’t we putting Christ above God doing that? I explain that Christ was fully man and fully divine, which she agreed with, but I lose her when I tell her God gave authority to Christ. I admit that I totally don’t understand it, but Christ is one with the Father, because that’s exactly what the Word says.
Next she asks, if we were born with the knowledge of God, wouldn’t that mean we were spirits with Him, before we passed through the veil and were born into fleshly bodies and forgot about Him? She almost lost me with that question, but I ask her, “If we forget about God once we pass through the veil, how could we be born with the knowledge of God?”
She argues the fact God knew us before the foundations of the Earth were laid, so we had to be spirits living with Him before entering earth. God knew us, because he foresaw us, but he knits us together in the womb (says so in Psalms), and directs our paths to fulfill the plans He has for us (mentions something like that in Proverbs). Taking a moment of silence, she mentally chews on my response.
“So if God, Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit are three persons in one… what does that mean? Like how are Elohim and Jehovah not actually father and son, because the whole three persons in one concept seems like the father and son relationship is a figure of speech or symbolism for something, right? Like why would God talk and pray to Himself?”
For fun I question, “Do you not talk to yourself?”
“Well yeah, but…” her words cease as she looks out the window up at the stars.
“I don’t really know… and I think if I did it would boggle my mind. In my short 17 years on this planet, I’ve learned that God doesn’t think like us… If He did, why would we need Him, so that means some things about Him are incomprehensible; and when we try to understand Him in light of our knowledge, we misconstrue the message.”
Sighing, Melody wonders, “How do you reconcile your faith?”
What does she mean? “What do you mean?” I ask for clarification.
“In the beginning, the law was mandatory wasn’t it, then all of a sudden it isn’t, how do you progress in God’s grace?”
Lord, what is she asking and how do I answer it? Take over Lord. Holy Spirit give me the words.
“Why don’t you ask God and find out for yourself?” I ask her.
Really God? What about explaining that Jesus set us free from the law through His death and resurrection and that God’s grace is a completely free gift impossible to gain or keep by what we do. The only way to receive grace is choosing Christ and building a relationship with God, and through the Holy Spirit we’re empowered from within to imitate our Savior and live in God’s will.
“I did that about six years ago and I thought I got my answer…”
“How did you do so?”
“Well, I had all these types of questions before when I was 12. I had a friend at school, Melanie, and I spent the weekend at her house. I didn’t know she was a Baptist. When she talked about church, I thought she went to one like mine, I just figured she attended the church in Show Low or something. After Sunday school I started thinking that maybe I’ve been lied to about God all my life. I was scared of going to hell because I didn’t know the true Jesus the Baptist preacher talked about. I went to my dad and he told me to read the entire of the Book of Mormon. Just like it says at the end, you’ll pray seeking God’s Wisdom and know by the burning in your chest. And it happened, I felt just that and I knew I grew up with truth… or so I thought.” She sighs heavier, keeping her gaze out the window.
“Why are so unsure again?” I question.
“I don’t know…” She sniffles.
Is she crying Lord?
“Do you believe in devils?” I ask curiously.
“The Devil exists. He was upset he didn’t get to be our Redeemer so he fell and God chose Jehovah, who was an angel before He was born to Mary.”
“Of course you believe in Satan, but do you believe in devils and demons?”
Melody makes a gentle “ah” noise about to speak, but she falls silent after a short, low grunt. “I’m just confused!” She blurts out.
“God is the God of peace, confusion comes from the Enemy.” I say calmly.
Melody doesn’t say anything; she just grunts again sounding annoyed. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice her elbow resting on the window seal and her hand shoveled in her wavelets of hair.
Adam comes out to the car as I pulled up by the porch. He opens the door for Melody. Ducking low, and poking his head inside the car, he probes for details about our night by simply asking where we were. I open my talk piece to confess we went to my church, but she says we went to a movie: The Nephilim Class: Nexus the First
“How was it?” Adam asks.
I try to say, ‘Good’ but I just shrug my shoulders.
Melody covers for me. Resting a hand on my shoulder, she lies, “He fell asleep. His baby sister kept him up all night. I liked it though.”
Adam steps back so Melody can get out. Melody forgets her backpack, but Adam notices it on the passenger floor and picks it up for her. Slowly, closing the door, he tells me, “Have a good night Asher, and tomorrow after school, could you just drop her off right away. It’s family game night. You’re more than welcome to join.”
The chance to say yay or nay passes for he closes the door without waiting for a response, which I think he’s trying to encourage me to say nay.
On the drive down the hill, I pray nonstop for Melody, and ask the Holy Spirit to take care of the seeds planted within her tonight. In the parking lot, I take a moment in the car. Tears swell in my eyes as Colton comes to mind… I beg God to bring him back home before it’s too late, and I plea for Melody to see the truth. I confess that I don’t care if she stays my friend… I just ask for her salvation. If I could, I’d take her place, but You Lord already did that… You paid the price for her… Help her see that… When she asks… and I think she will… reveal Yourself to her so she knows without a shadow of doubt that You Lord are God the great I AM. The burden that built a home in my heart during our conversation in the car has lifted and peace once again resides in my heart the moment I say, “In Jesus’ name… Amen.”
It’s twenty after nine when I get inside and for some reason as of late I tend to get home when Abbey’s throwing a tantrum toward my parents. Rising from her place at the dining table, nearly across the front door where I stand, Abbey yells at mom and dad, “This is ridiculous! You don’t trust me, but you trust a 17-year-old boy to have the whole place to himself for the entire weekend? I swear I’m your least favorite child and you just love to see me suffer. I hate you!
Both of you!” She follows up with a loud, angered shriek as she stomps up the stairs to her room. For sure we presume she’s going to slam the door, but Annika must be in bed already, because she closes it as softly as possible.
“What is she talking about?” I wonder.
Dad stands up and grips me by the shoulder carefully, “Abbey’s coming with us to babysit Annika while we attend the wedding festivities. It’s her punishment for her disrespect lately.”
Mom comes to the other side of me, crossing behind me, and kisses me on the cheek.
“Have I ever told you how grateful I am you’re not a troublemaker?”
A little prideful that mom sees me as her angel child, I huff a tender a smile.
Giving me a quick pat on the back, dad says, “Don’t be too wild while we’re away.”
We all chuckle in a unified matter as we go our separate ways. Mom goes to the kitchen, dad plops down on the couch for his nightly devotions, I go upstairs to my room.
Tossing my backpack in the closet, I realize I don’t ever have to tell mom and dad I’m taking Melody to homecoming, but I should ask encase they’re not okay with it. Too lazy to put PJs on, I strip down to my briefs and the Sanctus Real band shirt I’ve worn all day. For the fun of it, I rush and leap into bed, landing face first into my pillow. The impact wasn’t as cushiony as I imagined it would be, but it was a small thrill… I’m too easily amused.
Lying on my back, wide awake in the dark I think of all the things I could have said to Melody in the car, but didn’t. It must have been the Holy Spirit because I wouldn’t operate a conversation that way… Restlessness rises up in me again… and I’m not sure why. Like an alarm clock blaring, very alertly the Lord says to me, “Melody, pray for her.”
But I did Lord?
What do I pray for? I prayed for everything I could think of in the car. Well, when you don’t know what to pray for, you let the Holy Spirit pray for you. After I say aloud, “Dear God,” strange ramblings of gibberish I don’t understand, yet it sounds like a combination of Spanish, French, Hebrew, and complete nonsense spews from my mouth. I pray in tongues until the ick feeling in my spirit dissolves. I look at my alarm clock on the nightstand and the red, block numbers illuminate the time: 10:45 pm. I prayed for one person for over an hour… I’ve never done that before… at least I don’t think so.
As I close my eyes to go to sleep, the Lord leaves this final word with me, “Will you listen to me Asher?”
Of course, Lord. I respond.
Last night, I went to one of my dearest friend’s gender reveal party. As great as it was to be a part of that, for the first time I understood how unwed, childless women feel… People with kids talk about their kids mostly and it gets weird and awkward when you don’t have kids too stay share parenting war stories…
But it wasn’t all bad, I met a woman who was questioning the validity of the Gospel. She grew up in a Christian home but when she began to question if the Gospel was true, she was discouraged from raising those questions because “it would make her faith harder to hold on to”…?
I could relate to the woman because she was a fellow analytical thinker and counted on evidence to make a solid decision. For once, in my 26 years on this planet, I wasn’t nervous about discussing scripture, hearing her questions, and I had a lot of peace to share my experiences that strengthened my faith over the years.
Nowadays, we have too many people falling away because of experiences. They either have bad experiences with believers or whacky experiences with devils or themselves and credit such workings to God. The same factor lacking in the aforementioned experiences is scripture… what does scripture have to say in light of those experiences?
Then, we also have a bunch of people who worship the Bible and don’t rely on personal experiences with God at all! What a dry, dead life?!
We need a balance of everything. We need a solid foundation of scripture, we need a consistent prayer life to stay connected to God, and we need experiences with the Holy Spirit or orchestrated by God for our faith to grow and live fervently within us.
As I talked to this woman (that I am ready to friend), and we hit a really sweet spot where I can unpack all this evidence with science to support scripture, and personal experiences in light of the Bible, we get interrupted because the gender reveal party is over and people start to leave… so people come over to say goodbye…
If only I had two more minutes…
Then after I say goodbye to everyone, and I leave, on the car ride home I think about the things I could have said, or I think how I should offered to pray with the woman who had questions, but I stop my thoughts on that should-have, could-have, would-have train. Everything I said in that conversation wasn’t for nothing and God doesn’t separate cultivating relationships from saving souls (sometimes we do that in our ignorance and/or arrogance).
Therefore, I’m going to friend this woman. Not with the sole ambition to win her soul, but we have common interests and I know in God’s goodness He is going to reveal Himself to her. There’s a high probability I will be used as a vessel to connect her to God, but her salvation or reconciliation with God isn’t my mission. My mission is to love her as I would any other human being that is a dear friend to me, and keep my hope alive in Christ, that the Holy Spirit will draw her back to the Father’s Heart… because she once considered herself a believer. Is God not a jealous God and in the business of keeping us?
Never discourage anyone from questioning the Bible or the Gospel. Simply trust God will keep them in the truth. Be open to taking their questions and sharing your thoughts and experiences. Don’t be nervous. Don’t feel their salvation rests on your shoulders. Jesus saves, we are just the messengers.
Remember, our relationships with people are the most precious because our commodity is love. God loved us first so we could love Him. Humanity is driven by the presence of, or the absence of love, and the quality of that love. Humanity is at its best operating in love centered around the love of Yeshua-Son of Man (aka Jesus Christ).
Shine like a star, as yourself, who God is making you to be every day. Maybe people think you’re too religious, or not religious enough. Maybe you talk about Jesus too much or not enough, if you live at peace and know you’re in God’s will for your life, DO NOT CARE WHAT ANYONE THINKS!
We are not people on a mission, we are people of faith! Dr. Lester Sumrall said faith is knowing God. Yes, we must spread the Gospel, but notice how Jesus told the Good News… First, he obeyed God. Then, he made a group of friends and taught them what he knew. Next, he started sharing what God wanted him to do how the Holy Spirit led him to do it. When he healed someone or set them free, he sent the person to testify to someone else who was that person’s direct link to a community.
For example, when the lepers came to Jesus and begged to be healed, he healed them (Luke 17:11-19). Jesus told them to go show their priest that God made them clean. In that day, lepers were excommunicated from everyone. And lepers most likely lived in leper towns. It was customary to go to the priest, go through a ritual cleaning and to be forgiven by God to be made clean (learned this in Bible College from a professor, I trust this source), and only if the priest saw the leprosy was gone, could they go back and join the community.
Another example, when Jesus delivered legion out the Gerasene Man, Jesus told the man to return to his family and testify about what happened and to show the man was delivered (Mark 5:1-20).
The famous woman at the well (John 4:1-42), she went and told everyone she knew who Jesus was.
The over all point being is that God is in the business of relationship. Clearly, God reached out to Abraham and he answered the call. God could reach out to all of us one on one, but because God designed humanity to be a family and to build all sorts of communities, God calls us to cultivate our relationships. We are blessed to partake in spreading the good news not just by telling people about God and leaving them with pamphlets to know God, but through loving people and building our lives through the ties we have with people.
Paul said that our lives were to be letters from Christ to everyone around us. Writing a letter can be so intimate. Putting words on a page to pour out your entire heart without any interruptions. Without anyone twisting your words. Without anyone diluting what you have to say. Reading the letter is all the more richer when you know the one who wrote it. Jesus is the author of life crafted in the Spirit of God, and to the people around us, when they look at us, or talk to us, or spend time with us, they experience firsthand what God has done for us or is currently doing in us, and it is the experience of our company that probes them to connect to the Father. As they understand who we are as a person, they begin to understand God in part.
Not only are we letters from heaven to the world, but we are the translation of God’s love. A love that cannot be grasped or experienced in a fuller way until they believe for themselves… Jesus died on the cross for them and rose from the grave, just to connect them with an unseen God who loves them more than we ever could!
Take this year to love the people you know and get to know them better. This year, when you spread the Gospel, don’t just think about depopulating hell, but think about birthing new babes in Christ, and then commit to be there for as long as God will allow to mature them in the faith. And PLEASE, love your brothers and sisters in Christ like you love your blood family. Be quick to forgive, slow to anger, and even slower to speak!
Best of all, live everyday with God behind you, before you, and right by your side. Never try, but just be like Nike and do it! Live boldly and fearlessly!