Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Selfishness (02/14/05)
TITLE: Where Roads Converge
By Lois Jennison Tribble
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My twenty-three-year-old granddaughter's face whitened. "What shall I do?"
I pulled Adrienna into my arms, unleashing her tears. Dear God, I prayed: give me wisdom. Then while stroking her unruly hair, I thoughtfully began. "I had a friend once; a good friend a few years younger than I. She fell in love with the captain of the high school football team -- a real hunk! Charlene was a cheerleader, and quite a charmer in her own right. But Jim had ambition."
"What's the point, Grams?"
"You'll see, Baby: just listen. All Charlene wanted was a family. She loved Jim; so when she graduated from high school two years later, she followed him to college. Jim was a senior when she got pregnant in 1962 -- the same year your mother was born. Charlene assumed they'd marry, but Jim refused. He wanted to be a doctor -- an OB/GYN of all things. 'Get an abortion,' he demanded. 'We'll marry after medschool.' That was her crossroads. Abortion wasn't legal then, but Jim had connections and was willing to pay. I still wonder if it was an accident, or if it cost extra. But after the procedure, Jim never had to worry about Charlene becoming pregnant again."
"Never?" Adrienna asked.
"Never. She was ruined -- the road she chose dead-ended. I remember how depressed she'd get each Mother's Day."
"Is that why you volunteer with Prolife?"
"Partly," I answered. "She stuck by Jim regardless, his perennial doormat. He said they'd marry when it was time. Charlene believed him: all through her twenties, then her thirties. During those years, Jim completed his training and started a private practice. They lived in the same community, but different houses. Not just for appearances -- Jim wanted his own space. Charlene finished college and started teaching -- she still wanted to be around kids."
"The abortion didn't change that?"
"No. Only her relationship with her parents changed -- especially with her father. 'You fool!' he'd growl. 'Jim doesn't love you -- he can't: a man like that only loves himself!' Then he'd plead, 'Find a caring man, like Pete, or Fred, or Elmer.' No kidding -- there was even an Elmer he suggested she date."
"What did Charlene say?"
"'No, Papa. I love Jim,' she'd insist, mirroring that stubborn look her father had. 'He'll come round: you'll see.' But Jim never did."
"What happened to her, Grams?" Adrienna stiffened, moving to the window.
"During her forties, Charlene's parents died: her mother, first, with breast cancer -- then her dad. It was the worst with him."
"Charlene was visiting, and they had their usual fight. He had a heart attack and died, right on the spot: that was 1989. Charlene was their only child, all alone now. She took a trip -- spent that whole summer in Europe. And when she came home, she gave Jim an ultimatum."
"What was it?"
"'Marry me now, or I'm leaving.' Understand: by this time she had invested almost thirty years in this man -- her whole adult life."
Adrienna turned to face me. "What was Jim's answer?"
"What do you think? He laughed at her. Said he'd been keeping her around just to be kind -- he had younger fish to fry."
"Oh, Grams, how could he!"
"Jim was selfish, just like her father said. Charlene ignored his advice and God's boundaries, obstinately insisting on her own fantasy. Proverbs 16:25 warns us there's a way that seems right, that in the end leads to death.
"Are you saying she killed herself?" Adrienna asked.
"Not literally. Life ends for some people years before they're buried. Charlene drowned her pain in alcohol. Coveting Jim was expensive: it cost Charlene the respect of her parents and friends; the love and companionship of a husband and children, and grandchildren like you. Eventually she turned her back on God and lost her own sense of worth." I looked Adrienna squarely in the eye. "Is he worth the price?"
Adrienna blushed. "What am I going to do, Grams?"
I took her anxious face in my hands and kissed her. "This is your crossroads, Baby. One road leads to life, equipped with everything you'll need along the journey -- Let Jesus guide you. Charlene chose the other, paving the road to regret with her shattered dreams. It's a one-way street with no return. Do you really want to go there?"
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