It’s Sunday. Peter’s in church and, Farris tells us, God is torturing him over his bitterness, lack of forgiveness, and anger. Because of course he is.
Peter’s inner thoughts were invaded from on high with the truth that bitterness and cheerfulness couldn’t exist in the same heart. After forty-five minutes of being pounded by the conviction of the Holy Spirit, the pastor could have read a phone book for his message, and Peter would still have responded to the invitation to raise his hand and get his heart right with God.
Ya’ll have fun with that, because I know you will. Don’t think I haven’t been reading your comments on this series, because they are hilarious.
But let’s get on with that whole hand raising thing:
Lynn Roberts was peeking when every head was supposed to be bowed and every eye was supposed to be closed. She was ticked to death to see Peter’s hand go in the air.
As an evangelical, I always hated it when we were told to close our eyes and raise our hands if XYZ. They felt so invasive! And even though everyone was supposed to have they’re eyes closed, come on. There were always Lynn Robertses there. So anyway, Lynn is thrilled that it looks like Peter may be calming the eff down.
After the service, Peter comes to Lynn looking for Gwen and Casey.
“I don’t think they are here today,” she answered.
“Do you know where they are?”
“Not exactly,” Lynn answered truthfully enough—knowing they were still driving to California.
So when I was a kid, my parents told me about Corrie Ten Boom, whose family hid Jews during the Holocaust. At one point, they said, Nazis entered her apartment to search for the Jews she was hiding, and flat-out asked Corrie where they were. Corrie couldn’t tell a lie, so she pointed to the floor they were hiding under and said “they’re right here.” The officers thought she was toying with them because they couldn’t see any Jews standing right there, in the room with them, and after a perfunctory search they left. Corrie was praised for refusing to lie, and God was praised for working the situation out, and all I could think was WTF, those Jews could have died.
Sorry, but that’s where my mind goes when I read things like Lynn’s careful work-arounds to avoid actually lying. Like you tell yourself you’re not lying, girl. Whatever works for you, I guess. Whenever you’re ready, we’ll talk about the spirit of the law and the letter of the law. And then we can talk about gray ethical areas. And of course, it’s not like it works—Peter knows she knows what’s going on. Finally Lynn says what she probably should have said in the first place:
“I promised Gwen I wouldn’t tell you where she was.”
Atta girl, Lynn. Now leave it rest.
“She’s on a vacation.”
Hey, no, wait, why are you volunteering information!?
“She told me to tell you that I have her address nd phone number—although she isn’t there yet—in case an emergency came up in her case.”
Now that is actually true. But in this case, why the faux-lying to begin with? Why not just say “Gwen isn’t here, but if there’s an emergency in her case, I have her contact information.” The end. Peter asks how long Gwen’s going to be gone and Lynn tells her. Really, Lynn? She gives Peter the exact date Gwen will be back. Peter asks Lynn if Gwen has confided in her, and Lynn answers in the affirmative.
“I’ve been a little creepy to her.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t say that, Peter,” Lynn interjected.
Peter’s countenance brightened for a moment.
Lynn looked him in the eye with a wry grin.
“I would say you’ve been a colossal jerk.”
Have all these people forgotten that Gordon just died? Casey lost her father. Casey lost her father. And Gwen lost a man that she once loved, a man she assumed would be in her life at least until Casey grew up. And while yes, Gordon became an invasive creepy stalker at the end there, that’s no excuse for how quickly Peter made this all about him. And Lynn, for her part, seems willing to play along.
So anyway, the week of Gwen’s vacation ticked by God “continued to work on” Peter’s heart. He starts thinking about the Garden of Gesthemane and the connection between death and life forged through Jesus’ resurrection. Suddenly he has a very convenient thought.
Peter suddenly saw the truth God had for him. He had built a relationship with Gwen on a false foundation. That relationship had to be torn down, destroyed—it had to die, at least for a season.
It was wrong for Peter to have pursued Gwen in his heart. It was wrong for Peter to have enticed her into loving him. God would never have been honored if he would have smoothly transitioned from a wrong relationship into marriage.
I have to say, this is very, very convenient for Peter. Because now he gets to have Gwen, after being a complete jerk—because apparently the being a jerk part was necessary to ensure that their relationship would be blessed by God. Ordinarily, Peter’s treating Gwen like he has would have a decent chance of ending a relationship permanently. So many red flags. So much wrong. Here, somehow, it’s supposed to lead into the creation of a new, godly relationship. And while I’m glad that Peter realizes his past actions toward Gwen were wrong, he’s still attaching the wrong reason—he thinks they were wrong because Gordon was still alive, not because she was his client and he was her lawyer (and to top it off she told him she wasn’t interested in a relationship on the first day they met, WTF).
Also, is it just me or does the whole “enticing her into loving him” thing seem like it deprives Gwen of agency? Besides, she never said told him loved him! She told him she thought she could love him, if he was actually available for a relationship. Leave it to Peter to assume everyone must be constantly swooning over him.
Peter began calling Gwen’s home Sunday afternoon at three o’clock. He called once an hour, hour after hour. At ten o’clock he called and at the fifth ring, was about to hang up.
WTF Peter? Really? Also, this book would be so different if they had texting. But seriously Peter? Leave her alone!
So anyway, Gwen answers the phone and Peter says he was a jerk to her and—actually no. He doesn’t apologize.
“Gwen, I really want to talk with you—at length, and as soon as possible.”
“I’m not sure that I give appointments to colossal jerks.”
The phone line was silent.
“Peter, I’m teasing you. I’ll talk with you. When?”
Gwen. Seriously? Show some spine, woman!
They start talking schedules, and it turns out they both actually work. Like seriously? Gwen apparently works every day from three to eleven, and Peter has actual work all day Monday through Wednesday. So they agree to meet Thursday. Gwen says she has something “very serious” she wants to say to him, but she won’t give Peter any direction on what it might be.
“Don’t leave me—”
“Peter,” she interrupted, “let’s just wait.
“OK, Thursday. Nine at my office?”
“Make it nine-thirty. I’ve got to get Casey over to my parents. And if we meet at your office, you just can’t sit behind your desk.”
What does that even mean?!
Let me go back, for a moment, to something I noted earlier. When Peter and Gwen first met, Peter brought up the fact that he couldn’t marry her (because she was divorced) as proof that he wouldn’t hit on her like her former lawyer did. That alone should have been a red flag. But then, Peter offered to work for her essentially for free. Then Peter started hitting on her, and worse—he started hinting of marriage. Things progressed really fast despite the fact that Peter had said upfront that he couldn’t marry her (which was weird) and despite the fact that the two of them spent virtually no time getting to know each other.
Then Gordon died, after Peter had numerous times wished him dead. In her sudden grief over her ex’s untimely end (and her daughter’s loss of a father) Gwen wondered whether Peter had a hand in Gordon’s death, and told him as much. He got incredibly angry, called her crazy, left the state for two days, and went out of his way to avoid her when he got back, even when she attempted to apologize for suspecting him. This should have been the point where Gwen realized that the image she’d built up of Peter was wrong, and that marrying him would be no wiser than marrying Gordon had been (and perhaps less).
But now Peter thinks all of that was actually necessary, because “their old relationship” had to die. And in some sense he’s right—his actions did kill their old relationship, such as it was. But his actions should also forestall any future relationship before it even starts. Peter recognizes that his actions were wrong because he was holding onto “bitterness” and anger, but he doesn’t see them as red flags in terms of relationship skills. The problem wasn’t that he was upset. It was how he treated Gwen when he was upset. There’s a difference there.
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