Pastor Michael Collins turned and walked away from the house. It was the hardest decision he had made in twenty years of ministry. Why hadn’t he seen it coming? What would he tell his wife, Marylyn? Sitting in his car he prayed briefly before turning the key. He drove directly to his office which was located behind the church.
Michael married his childhood sweetheart shortly after seminary. He loved her dearly and although unable to bear children they were deeply in love and drew strength from each other and their Lord.
Sheila Langley, a divorcee, joined their church almost a year ago, shortly before her son married and moved away. She was pretty for her age, but lonely. A number of times over the past year, Marylyn had revealed her concerns regarding Sheila’s flirtatious behaviour.
“Why didn’t I listen, Lord? Why didn’t I see this coming?”
Michael wept before the Lord. He poured out his soul and pleaded for forgiveness - forgiveness for his failures and blindness. He knelt resting his elbows on the leather lounge where many of his congregation, including Sheila, had sat to listen to the counsel of their pastor. He replayed the incident over in his mind.
Marylyn served dinner as usual at six o’clock. The telephone rang, a typical coincident for the pastor’s home.
“I’ll get it.” Michael said, rising from the table.
It was Sheila. She was crying. “Pastor Michael, I’m at my wits end. I’ve had enough. Tonight will be my last night on earth. I’m going to kill myself.” The phone clicked; the line went dead.
“You eat without me. This is urgent. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
He kissed Marylyn on the cheek and grabbed his jacket on the way out the door. It was a chilly autumn evening and he would have rather stayed home.
The door opened as soon as Michael knocked. He entered the over-heated and dimly lit house. He unzipped his jacket before realising the seriousness of the situation. He was too stunned to speak. Sheila was dressed in a flimsy night-gown. The air was thick with the scent of aromatherapy candles. Haunting music played softly from hidden speakers. She pawed at his shirt like a love-crazed tiger. She even began to purr.
“What is this?” he finally managed to respond.
“Come on, you know you have always wanted me.”
Fear filled him. “I am a married man. I am also your pastor, a man of God. How could you even think I wanted you?”
Snivelling like a pouting child, Sheila resumed her threats of suicide and sat heavily in an over-stuffed chair crying pitifully. He froze and began praying silently for direction. He wanted to help her, yet he knew this was a dangerous situation.
“Sheila, I’m sorry. I cannot counsel you any more. I will investigate another pastor or counselor for you. A woman.”
“But, you are my pastor and I don’t like to talk about my problems to other women.”
Michael turned and walked to the front door. “I’m sorry Sheila, I can’t.”
He closed the door silently behind him.
Michael rose from his kneeling position and went to his desk. Picking up the telephone receiver he dialled home and asked Marylyn to come straight to the church. He didn’t give her time to ask for an explanation. He couldn’t. Not over the phone.
Head bowed in solemn meditation, he heard her footsteps softened by the center-aisle carpet. He stood and moved to meet her at the end of the pew. Taking her hands in his, he looked into her puzzled, frighted eyes.
“Michael, what is it? What’s happened?”
He wept as he confessed his indiscretion. They sat quietly on the floor in front of the alter for almost twenty minutes before Marylyn spoke.
“What do we do know, my love?”
Her tender words almost broke his heart. The love of his life still cherished him despite his weaknesses.
"God, I don’t deserve her, but thank you."
He fought back tears. “We need to pray about our future here. There’s the invitation I received last week to pastor the church up north. Maybe it’s time to move on.”
“Maybe we should trust God and not run away from trials.”
Michael smiled and hugged his wife. “Maybe you should be the pastor. You are very wise, my dear.”
Side by side they knelt before the Lord and prayed for direction and peace.
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