By Megan Starbuck
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Imagine the sweetest, purest girl you know & you probably have an idea of what Jenny is like. She isn't just innocent because she's ignorant or naive. She's been through a lot, & she's the first to admit that she has faults. That's why so many people respect her & why they so easily overlook her flaws. They seem small, but she takes them seriously. She regrets them, tries to fix them, or at least minimize them. She faces them. And then she moves on until they reappear. Jenny. Only those who don't know her can possibly not like her. Even the people who don't like her, like her. She smiles often, but not too much. She'll speak to anyone, but not too long. She'll laugh at cheesy jokes...not because she thinks they're funny or even to make the person feel better, but because she thinks it's funny that the person telling the joke thought it was funny. Jenny. She volunteers at the daycare & the nursing home. She works at the local pizza place, makes good grades--not perfect grades—but good grades, and still makes time for family and friends and even for herself. She's carefree though she's not responsibility-free. She'll climb a tree in a heartbeat, go for a swim while everyone else watches TV, or sit by the fireplace in the winter to read—even if she has to build the fire herself. Jenny. She gets along with everyone, but it wasn't always that way.
Jim. Imagine a man devoted to his job, not because he loves what he does but because he loves money. That's Jim. It wasn't always that way for him. He used to be happy. He used to be happy with his car, happy with his wife, happy with the wearing a t-shirt and jeans to work. He was happy with the little he had. But he didn't know he was happy. He thought he wanted more. He worked harder and longer, built more and bought more. He wore a suit and tie. The more he did this, the more frustrated he got. But he didn't know he was frustrated. His friends like him less and less. His family liked him less and less. Even he liked himself less and less. But he didn't know it. Jim.
Sherril had a dangerous need. It was a need to be loved. She had the dangerous need to be loved by a man. Or rather, her need was to be constantly adored. She wanted a man to put her above everything else. She was to be his priority: whatever she wanted, he should supply—Immediately. Jim didn't do that for her anymore; he was too busy with work. In fact, he had never done that for her. His excuse used to be that they didn't have the money. Now it was that he didn't have the time. But he'd always had time and money for a trip to the bar after work. When she found out, she couldn't have felt much more betrayed. He knew she'd had an alcoholic uncle, and he knew how much it hurt her family—her Uncle Mac included. She didn't want her own husband falling into that inescapable pattern. It infuriated her the more he did it, but it infuriated her because it scared her. It terrified her. Even if he could gain control over it, it would haunt him. Buddies would call. Commercials would scream their appeal. Every bar would beckon. And Sherril would worry. He'd stopped going to church with her. She'd stopped getting her hopes up. Sunday school had gotten interesting with the new teacher. A man who talked about God as being holy and good was amazing to her. She didn't understand a third of what he said and didn't agree with another third, but she really liked the remaining third of what he said. Too bad he was married.
Ben had his good side. If he weren't so self-righteous, maybe his wife wouldn't have been so distant. She just felt like he didn't understand any of her struggles. So she didn't talk to him about them. She talked to her friends online. They understood what it was like to have an indifferent spouse. He had everything figured out. Everything except her. Sandra worried about their daughter—mostly because of the pressure Ben put on her to be just like him: perfect. But she figured it was better for the girl to be like him for her to be like Sandra, the lazy, insignificant soul that she was. She tried to make good decisions, even liked some things the Bible had to say. But God just wasn't appealing. In some ways He was—that's why she tried to do some things right. But she had so many questions about God. One would think her husband would be able to answer such questions, but Ben only made her have more questions. Why were there so many views of God? How does anyone know which one is right? Is there only one right view? Until shown otherwise, Sandra would keep to her own view of God. He loved everyone, but not enough to keep them from pain on earth. But He'd take away all the pain one day—a lifetime of it was enough for everyone.
But Ben didn't agree. He thought Sandra would burn alive for eternity. He never said so directly, but she could hear it in his voice every time he fussed at her for polluting her mind and wasting her time reading and watching TV. He only read books about God and only watched films and shows that he deemed wholesome—which excluded most of what Sandra watched. Ben despised her laziness, but anytime she did something she enjoyed—rock-climbing, cliff-jumping, horseback-riding—he found a reason to condemn her for that. Wasted money. Bad influence on the kids. Dangerous. He used to love adventure. He used to love Sandra. They'd go camping together at the beach. They'd laugh together and talk about the future—a future very different from the one they were now living. Back then, he'd tell her she was beautiful, and he meant it. He still thought it, but felt odd mentioning it now. She didn't need to hear it; she didn't deserve to. Sandra hadn't changed since their wedding, hadn't grown up. And of course she claimed that he'd changed too much. He had to change. For himself, for God. Even for Sandra and their daughter.
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