I still attended church but without Jim by my side. His wife started coming and of course he sat with her. He didn’t even look at me when we were in church. My heart ached.
Not to mention the guilt and shame that pressed in on me each and every week as I sat and listened to the words of hope the pastor offered.
I wasn’t worthy of the love, grace or mercy he spoke of. I knew that. I knew I shouldn’t even be sitting in church while I was in the middle of my affair. But each Sunday when I woke up thinking I wouldn’t go something spurred me on.
Jim and I still met when we could but it was becoming less often. His words still promised a future. One I couldn’t see but held desperately to.
One Sunday Jim and his wife didn’t come to church. Even though we never talked while there I hungered to see him.
The same day, after the music ended and the pastor took the stage, a man from the crowd interrupted him.
“Excuse me Pastor. But I need to bring something to light.” The man stood from the middle of the sanctuary and slide out to the aisle.
I didn’t know the man personally but I knew he was a friend of Jim’s. He had talked about how they both despised the pastor and wanted to get him out of the church before they lost all control.
The pastor looked startled. I didn’t know if this had ever happened before but it seemed odd.
“Is now the best time, John?”
“Now is the perfect time.” John’s voice boomed and echoed off the walls as he spoke louder. “It has come to my attention that we have an adulteress in our midst. That she has been carrying on for some time without any sense of remorse.”
Murmering fill the space and gazes flew across the room looking for the offender.
Heat crept up my neck and flooded my face. Yes, I was an adulterer but he couldn’t be talking about me because remorse filled my very being. It must be someone else.
“John…” Pastor’s voice had a warning tone.
My heart beat wildly, I thought it would beat right out of my chest. I needed to get out of there but I would only draw more attention to myself and I didn’t need that.
John took long strides in my direction. I looked down at my hands as they twisted in my lap. Maybe if I didn’t look at him he wouldn’t see me.
A rough hand wrapped around my arm and yanked me to my feet. “This is the woman. I have seen her with my own eyes spending time with a married man.” John didn’t even look at me as he blurted out my sin for all to hear.
More murmuring filled the sanctuary. Stony glares flew my way, pelting my gut.
What had I done? Why did I keep coming to church when I was in the middle of my sin? Church was no place for someone like me. Why didn’t I run away like I always had done before?
Before I knew it John pulled me to the alter and threw me to the ground.
“They Bible tells us to call out sin, to bring darkness to light. So what are you going to do about her Pastor?”
I only heard his voice, I could no longer see anything or anyone. I planted my face in the carpet and tears dripped down my chin and nose. My body shook uncontrollably. Where was Jim? Did he know this was going to happen? Was this all a set up?
His harsh words against Pastor and his boasting of finding a way to get rid of him echoed in my mind.
Did he use me like all the others? Was I a pawn in his game to oust Pastor?
Silence filled my ears. I sensed Pastor move down from the stage and stand before me. He was about to declare me trash, just as I always knew I was. But to hear it come from such a man I would know without a doubt it was truth. I was worthless.
Yet, I deserved it all. My father showed me a long time ago what I was worth and now everyone else would know too.
Pastor cleared his throat after what seemed like forever. “I’ve always said this church would be a place that we can say to the broken and wounded ‘welcome home’ and embrace them. I stand by that now. If you don’t want this to be a place where we welcome all sinners then you should leave and find a church without sinners. I believe it will be difficult to find.”
What? I couldn’t have heard him right.
I still couldn’t look up. I couldn’t look to see what was happening. But I heard shuffling and I heard John give a “hurmph”. I heard people leaving. Leaving because they didn’t welcome me.
I heard another sound. I heard steps moving closer to me, I sensed people coming beside me and kneeling. Soon I felt the warmth of hands on my back and the warmth spread to my heart.
I finally looked up.
Around me where at least half the congregation. The other half were gone.
I looked up to Pastor and he smiled and said words I never thought I would hear from anyone:
There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28 NLT
Make sure you come back next week for the final installment of Ariella’s story.