A married man and a married woman were assigned to work on an intensive project at work. Both were excited for the opportunity, for they respected the other and found their personality interesting and easy to work with. The project involved long hours at times, and a close communication in order to reach completion.
After several months, the man found that he took less enjoyment being at home than he did at work with his coworker. His wife was unhappy at the amount of time he spent at work, and punished him by being rather rude and complaining. He began to compare his wife with the woman who thought so highly of him at work and found his wife lacking. All the qualities that had drawn him to his wife seemed trivial and circumstantial. He wondered at how he had not seen it before, and hated the fact that he had let the marriage continue after the first years of struggle when he could have left so easily and blameless before his family and friends.
One day his wife was particularly heartless and he found himself complaining about it to his coworker who was very interested and supportive. She seemed to be completely on his side which helped validate his dissatisfaction with the marriage. He thanked her for her support and wished her a marriage she deserved, to which she smiled and said nothing.
When the project was nearing completion, and the woman suddenly confessed that she was going to miss the time working with her coworker so closely. The dialog was fast and surprisingly easy once the first words were exchanged and the two found themselves in a conversation that might lead to something inappropriate. An ill-timed interruption broke their interchange and they hurried to return to work as if nothing had happened. The project ended successfully and both were satisfied with the results, giving credit to the other and smiling broadly together. The two passed in hallways and held brief conversations, but often found themselves interrupted or unable to break through a sudden boundary between them. The man often wondered what had happened, and why he was unable to get back to the way it had been before.
The woman had an incident with her vehicle closer to work than home, and decided to call her former partner for assistance. He rushed to her aid happily, hoping to discover why things were so uncomfortable after the project’s end. When he asked, the woman unhappily admitted that she had feelings for him, and was trying to distance herself. He was astonished and commented that her decision to avoid him had wounded him deeply and made him miss her all the more. She smiled until their conversation were interrupted by a call. They agreed to talk further over lunch the next day.
The next day a senior leader stopped in the hallway and spoke with the man just before the woman joined him for lunch. The leader seemed interested in bringing the man on his next project, a big compliment. The woman arrived, but graciously offered to join the man another day as the man was just explaining he had lunch plans. The senior leader thanked her and the two men continued their conversation about the details of the project over lunch. The younger man was respectful but had become quiet once the woman left them. He had been looking forward to their time together and he found himself disinterested in the conversation. He kept glancing at his phone and wondering when he could propose a new lunch time with her.
Finally the senior leader said something. He asked if the phone had more interest than the conversation and the younger man hurried to deny it. The leader held eye contact with him for a moment, then released him. He spoke, weighing his words carefully. “I would be very careful with what you are contemplating if I were you. I was once in your shoes and it ruined my marriage and I still regret it. It may not be too late for you.” Startled eyes met a hard look that meant every word, and he struggled to form a reply.
—————Thoughts that motivated this story—————
In this story I looked at a well-timed warning
and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
In Matthew 3:2 we read the message of John the Baptist. It’s pretty simple, and one that was preached in Judea, the very center of religious practice and knowledge of the Jewish faith. He comes after a very long drought of no prophets at all, and certainly he was much anticipated. Was God going to condemn the Romans or even destroy them? Instead they hear a message that requires changing themselves. Over and over throughout the Old Testament, God sent prophets to warn the people to turn around and observe the covenants made with Him.
This message may have seem outdated, for John was more than likely preaching to folks who observed most of the religious practices and covenants, something not always done before. They were ‘good people’ who tried hard to be right with God and here they were being told “you’re doing it wrong”. He didn’t just speak kind words or help them realize it on their own, he was bold and loud and wholly unforgiving. The message about the kingdom of heaven was good news, but what was this repent business? We are all masters of deception, we justify our actions and believe our own lies. Before you can see your need for God you must have a change of mind about your own worthiness.
In my life I am all too quick to take action and assume this is enough. Singing praise, reading the scriptures, even supporting someone in a crisis all look like things worthwhile. They are, but only if my heart is really in it. To assume the action is sufficient is to ignore John’s message. John calls us to a change of mind about ourselves and our worthiness, to quit justifying our little mistakes or plans to sin as acceptable in the big scheme of things. In order for God to really invade our lives – for the kingdom of heaven to enter – there must be recognition and sorrow; a change. This is a decision I must make over and over. To clear out of the way and turn from the wickedness I so easily delight in. Like a drink on a hot day, there is always joy that follows that decision.