TRUE CONFESSION AT LAST 1,836 words
When Julie unexpectedly bumped into her high school sweetheart at a children's school concert, she was not surprised by the tingling joy that spread through her. Seeing him standing by their high school lockers unleashed a familiar longing. How she wished there could be more than the niceties of polite conversation! But Tom was standing beside her and the children were clamoring for a trip to the neighborhood McDonald's, so after a few words about the concert, they both went on their way. However, after that encounter Julie was not surprised when, a few days later, Jimmy called and suggested she drop by Saturday to see his little farm.
It was a friendly invitation and sounded like a great opportunity to catch up with his life. At least, that is what she told herself when she went out the door. Nevertheless, it was easier to tell Tom she was going shopping for a few hours then to tell him who she was meeting, and when Jimmy met her at the end of his lane, showing her a parking spot among the trees, she suspected that he, too, wanted to avoid arousing neighborhood curiosity. Slowly they walked along a path winding through the woods surrounding his house, sipping lukewarm coffee from the thermos he had brought. By the time they had come to the clearing to look at his early shoots of corn, she knew his wife had taken their children to visit her mother, and they were not expected home until evening.
The day was warm and when he asked her to come in out of the heat and see the house he had built, she readily agreed. Once inside, it seemed the most natural thing in the world to melt into his strong embrace. The windows were open and a light breeze stirred the curtains of the bed room window. Although it had been twenty years, the passion of their long ago love was still burning, and the temptation was irresistible.
Jimmy was the boy she had hoped to marry. The summer before college he showed her his grandmother's diamond, offering to have it reset for her. There was a look of intense pain on his face when she told him she was not ready for that step. But Julie knew an engagement would end her college plans. There would be no help from her parents if she was not singly committed to her studies, and she and Jimmy would need all his earnings to start their life together. If only Jimmy had understood her burning desire to teach, things might have been different, but he could not identify with her need for more schooling. His goal in life was a decent job, a little white house with a picket fence, and four kids. Their ambitions simply did not mesh.
Julie had wanted to be a teacher from her first day of school when she fell in love with her beautiful, dark-haired first grade teacher, and from that day on, her one aspiration was to have a class of her own. From this goal she had never wavered. At home she lined up her dolls for lessons. Her pets became make-believe students. Teaching was her dream and she could not, or would not, give it up. Somewhere in the depths of her mind, in spite of her love for Jimmy, she knew she would never be happy if she did not pursue her plans, and this determination was something Jimmy could not grasp. He had a good job and a car and he was proud of his accomplishments. It was up to Julie to make a choice, and she chose to walk away from his love.
In college Julie met Tom, and their romance helped her survive the pain of losing Jimmy. When graduation came, they were married, a union that delighted her mother. Tom had so much more to offer, she was told. He was a teacher. He had a respectable family background. With Tom there would always be security. But the marriage was a bitter disappointment. In a few short years Julie realized that her life with Tom was not what she had expected. Tom was hardworking, a reliable husband and good father, but his life was defined by bouts of devastating depression, confinement to psychiatric facilities, and the financial struggles which resulted from his illness.
When two little girls came into their lives, Julie gave up her much loved teaching career to provide a more stable environment for the children. But the isolation of staying home only added to her heartbreak. She was lonely, and making ends meet was not easy. Her dreams had turned to ashes, and even though she was committed to Tom, the romance had gone out of their life. Disillusionment poisoned her mind. Her life was not what it was supposed to be.
In her daydreams she often thought of the love Jimmy had offered her, and longed to rewrite the script. Seeing him that night in the old school hallway was a reminder of those carefree days when young love blossomed. The reunion and knowing he still loved her made it easy to forget her problems at home. Tom was oblivious to her, lost in his own world of hopelessness which she could not penetrate, and so that sunny day she carelessly thrust aside thoughts of Tom's feelings. She simply enjoyed the time with Jimmy and his love, a love that she believed was meant to be theirs, and for thirty years after that summer rendezvous she felt no guilt.
As a teen Julie had committed her life to Christ. Her conscience should have been pricked to the core by what she had done. Tom trusted her. She knew she should feel shame about her disloyalty, but she had no regrets. How could she be sorry for something she wanted so badly! To pretend remorse would be a lie. So she simply returned to Tom and went on with her life, working to make their home a good place for the children, who grew up and had children of their own.
During the last years of her marriage, she was at peace. Tom's care after a debilitating stroke consumed most of her time, and she did her best to meet his constant needs with patience and forbearing. She loved having the grandchildren around her and seldom thought of her old love. Although Jimmy called her several times after he heard of Tom's stroke, she was busy with her husband's care and had little time or energy for anything more. When she read of Jimmy's death, she felt a sharp pang of sorrow, but in no way did it compare to the grief she felt when Tom died a few years later. She was lost and adrift, for they had shared almost fifty years, and a bond of devoted love had been cemented.
Julie had a deep and abiding faith. With the loss of Tom and her responsibilities as a caregiver, it seemed natural to turn to God as the one who would fill the emptiness. God had promised to never leave or forsake her. Therefore she vowed to let him be her constant companion, the one who would make her life complete. And so a new life began.
As her pain grew less, she accepted that there was happiness in singleness. She had friends. She had her family. She had her God. This was her new normal, until the unbelievable happened. She had not only God's unfailing love, but she also developed a rich and beautiful friendship with a widower who had been married almost as many years as she and Tom. Jack, too, missed the life he once had. With him she found comfort and hope, and as their friendship grew, a new love blossomed.
She knew she was blessed by Jack's trust and kindness, and she admired his unflinching morality. She treasured his respect and wanted to be worthy of that respect, and a conscience, that had been too long dead, awakened. After all these years she finally admitted that the indiscretion she had found so comforting was a mistake. Why had it taken so long for guilt to surface and cause the memory of that afternoon to prick her conscience like a blister that would not heal? For so many years just thinking about that day and those few stolen hours had been a bright ray of sunshine to ease the pain of despair when life was difficult.
How easy it is to rationalize when we want something so very badly! But guilt cannot stay hidden forever, and it did, eventually, become a blister that would not heal. God has a way of making us listen to Him. A gradual realization made her see that what she had once thought was a cherished memory had no place in her marriage. Why had she never considered how her desire for Jimmy would have hurt Tom? Although Tom had not known, she had betrayed his trust, had been deceitful with him and with God.
Her life with Jimmy had ended with her marriage vows to Tom, but her heart had not released him. By cherishing thoughts and dreams of him she was dishonoring the man she had married. A beautiful memory that should have been tucked in the box with grade school pictures, old prom folders, and high school yearbooks had captivated her heart. To be faithful with your body but not your mind fractures the trust that is so vital to a strong marriage, and of that she had been guilty throughout her marriage.
Dwelling on a past relationship had held her back from a full commitment to Tom. Tom had been a good husband. He had always supported her and she had not appreciated his goodness. She had been disappointed when their life became difficult, but God never promises a rose garden. The vows she took on her wedding day were for better or worse, but she had missed the significance of that vow. Unfortunately her disappointment led to wistful thinking. She had been unfaithful in her mind long before the actual infidelity.
As she realized the enormity of what she had done, she was filled with genuine sorrow for her thoughts and for her indiscretion. She turned to the words of I John 1:9, which offer forgiveness and new life. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins, and purify us from all unrighteousness." This was God's promise of grace and Julie believed that promise. Acknowledging her wrong and receiving God's forgiveness freed her from guilt.
Although she regretted the years her heart had been divided and not fully committed to Tom, she gratefully gave thanks to God for his tender love and leading. Now, because she was at peace with herself, she was ready to enjoy the gift of Jack's respect and open her heart to his love.
For 20 years I was an ordained pastor in the United Methodist Church. My husband's death came 3 months after my retirement. We would have been married 49 years that spring. Since my retirement I have enjoyed writing and have had several articles published.
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