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It’s Lent, and I can tell.
I’m not having trouble fasting from the usual sweets and coffee.
Rather, the battle goes much deeper.
It was just an innocent question I posed to Melinda, my neighbor … but I should have known where it could lead.
Robert is her son. Last year, Melinda mentioned that Robert and his wife Kate, with their two daughters, were heading toward divorce. That saddened me.
So I prayed for Robert and his wife. I prayed fervently. I know divorce is sometimes necessary, but it just didn’t seem to be the case here. God’s will be done.
So my initial inquiry was from a heart of love and concern.
Melinda smiled. “They’re doing better,” she said, “much better.”
“Oh, good,” I said, inviting explanation.
Melinda started talking about their struggles. Evidently, Kate never had a great childhood. Kate’s mom often attacked her with critical remarks, no matter who was around. She even embarrassed Kate at the wedding.
“She is so rude to her,” Melinda said. “It is shameful.”
“That’s abusive,” I added.
I totally understood. I had been humiliated by Anne, a mutual friend of ours. I never knew if anyone else ever really saw how mean she was. Should I bring it up?
I felt the urge to tell Melinda how awful that situation had been. Here was my perfect chance for validation.
I was so tempted.
But, really, there was no need to discuss this with Melinda. I had resolved the conflict with Anne long ago. We were at peace. If I were to bring it up now, the whole goal would simply be to defame her.
So I resisted.
But as I encouraged Melinda to keep talking about the problematic woman in her son’s life, our conversation spiraled downward.
Temptation knocked again.
I had to hold up my end of the conversation didn’t I? Surely I should bring up our friend, right? I’d be justified. I’d be right. After all, this conversation fed right into it.
I opened my mouth, but paused.
Deep within, I knew it was the wrong thing to do.
Melinda waited for me to speak. That’s all it took. I caved.
“That’s exactly what happened to me,” I said. I dragged up past events, bashing our mutual friend. Although I’d already forgiven Anne, I recounted every injustice, every mistake, every wrong she did.
Even as I spoke, I knew I was out of line.
Suddenly, both Melinda and I realized our conversation had turned to gossip. We ended the discussion and headed toward the kitchen to start dinner.
The next day, I felt the sting on my conscience. I wished I could take those words back. I realized clearly that I’d been tricked by the evil one, and I so easily took the bait.
Yep, giving up coffee is way easier.
Fasting from sin is much more difficult. The devil is so cunning … so sly.
In the days ahead, I’ll pray for my neighbor’s son and his wife.
I’ll pray for my wretched soul as well.
(Debra Tomaselli writes from Altamonte Springs, Florida. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.) †