tagRomanceThe Humper Game Pt. 07 Ch. 04

The Humper Game Pt. 07 Ch. 04

byWilCox49©

Author's note:

This is, in all its seven parts and their many chapters, one very, very long story. If long stories bother you, I suggest you read something else.

No part of this story is written so as to stand on its own. I strongly suggest that you start with Part 1 and read sequentially—giving up at any point you choose, of course.

All sexual activity portrayed anywhere in this story involves only people at least eighteen years old.

In this particular chapter, the characters' focus is centered on spiritual issues in their lives. A few readers have complained about the amount of such discussion in previous parts. The discussion here is important to the characters and where they are going. If you find that kind of thing objectionable, this might be a good time for you to give up on this story and read something else instead.


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One day at the end of July, Ellen was due home later than I was. I had sat down to study, but that gradually kind of ground to a halt, and I was just sitting there. I'd been thinking once again about how I needed to come to a philosophical resolution and decide where I really stood. I thought—and felt—that I was far past the point where agnosticism was a live possibility for me any longer, and I was having to face the fact that I was stalling. My thinking kind of ground to a halt, too, and truly I was just sitting there as if asleep with my eyes open—almost as if in a hypnotic trance. I knew I should go fix dinner, since Ellen was late, but it just seemed like too much effort. She was trying to take on the main responsibility for dinners, but not to forbid me ever to do it, of course, and she was out late.

Ellen came in and put down her things, then came over to kiss me. She did that, but then took one look at me and sat down next to me and put her arms around me. "Phil, what's wrong?" she said. I had no clue as to whether something in the kiss tipped her off, or what, but with that question I was suddenly near tears.

"Ellen, I'm sorry. It's—too much to talk about before dinner. If we don't get dinner fixed and eat, I won't last through talking. I just couldn't seem to get up the energy I'm so sorry." On top of everything else, finding myself unable to do something as simple as getting up and fixing dinner had tears starting down my face.

She sat back from me far enough that she could look at my face better for a moment.

"Phil, I'm sure you're right, but just forget what we were going to have. Will you be all right sitting here for a little, or do you want to come to the table and sit there? I'm going to be in the kitchen for just a bit."

I stood up, taking a couple of tries, and she held my arm and guided me over to the table. She sat down and took her phone and dialed. To my surprise, it seemed to be a local sandwich shop we very occasionally went to. Well, you know I liked to cook, and Ellen did, too, and she wanted to do it to get better. But besides that we tried to live frugally, not even coming near the limits of living within our means—and Ellen was more strongly inclined that way than I was. The place was very reasonable, but we could eat as well a lot cheaper on our own, and we tried to. We almost never ate out—occasionally if we were away from home, in which case our goal was healthy but inexpensive, and very rarely at a better place for a celebration of some kind. She asked them to deliver it, which was also something we simply never did.

She ordered a large sub—cheaper than two smaller ones—ordering for my preferences rather than hers. I tried to interrupt at that point, and she gestured with a shushing, you-be-quiet kind of motion, so I shut up. As soon as she was done, she got up and threw together a tossed salad, too. She dished that into bowls, poured glasses of juice with a glass of water for me and one of milk for her, and set out plates, forks and knives. She sat down, beside me instead of across from me, and hugged me again for a moment. Then she said, "Eat."

She knew what kinds of things I liked on a salad, mostly things she liked on hers as well, and we always had those things on hand. She had given us each a dollop of the dressings we preferred. So we sat there and ate the salads.

We didn't talk as we started, but then she told me about what she had been doing that day. It was interesting, and I listened. Before we were done, the delivery arrived, and she went downstairs to collect it. Before she went, she looked at me kind of carefully.

She extracted the sandwich from its bag and unwrapped it. They had cut it in half, and she cut off at least a third of her half and put it on my plate with mine.

After we had each had a couple of bites, she said, "Phil, I'm sorry I was late. I'm pretty sure part of your problem was just being hungry, and you're looking a lot better. Can you tell me what's wrong now?"

So I tried. "I honestly don't know everything about it, honey, but I think this is the big thing. This has been coming to my mind a lot, lately, but I suddenly saw it a little differently."

I talked about why I had considered myself an agnostic, from before I really knew that word. I gave this partly in terms of my own development—Dad, and my grandparents, and school, all at odds with each other. I had eventually come to see the Bible and a naturalistic, materialist account of the world as each presenting a logically coherent picture. And I didn't see that I had all the data to decide which was actually true—if either.

"And then, in high school, I really got to look at the complexities of evolutionary theory, which mostly just don't get put in front of the general public, and I saw that there are big, big holes there, circular reasoning and all the rest. You know that all sides are guilty of that kind of thing. And you know that at school they weren't out to push any kind of non-naturalistic or religious understanding of the world, not at all."

"You're right about that, for sure!"

"So you could say my agnosticism deepened then. Except—except that the whole issue of the origin of the world, and of life in particular, bothered me more and more. It's not logically inconsistent just to assert that all the elements were there, and that billions of years of gradual changes are enough to explain everything we see. But evidence is lacking, and so are the details. In so many cases there really doesn't seem to be a very plausible, detailed route from point A to point B—we're left with mere assertions. And where are the fossils of all those intermediate forms? There ought to be a lot!

"In fact, it sounds a lot like what Aaron told Moses. He asked them for their gold, and then, 'So they gave it me: then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf.' The details might be inconvenient, so let's just leave them out, right? It all just happened!

"Beyond that, I've been seeing things happen that—well, they could be coincidences, but they look like really unlikely ones. Maybe they are all just chance. Maybe.

"And one of those unlikely chances brought Martha Davidson to talk to me. And she was exactly right. We say we know all kinds of things in life, on the basis of incomplete evidence—it doesn't even bother us when yesterday's solid scientific proof gets swept away today. But we insist we don't really know anything about God unless we can give an absolute, a priori proof.

"Tonight this all came into sharp focus. I saw that my problem hasn't really been about the logical issues, for a long time now. It's about the same as what kept Sam on the fence, and you too, I think. I have plenty of evidence. You've seen a lot of it. I've been trying to stay sitting on the fence, but not because of facts and logic—and that means I need to add that to all the other things I've ever done wrong, and repent of it all, and hope I can be forgiven. But if I admit it's true, I'm going to have to give up so much of my past that I value. And I don't see how I can." That last was almost a wail. I was about to start crying again.

Ellen had heard me talk about most of this, all except the last part, enough times that she must have been sick of it, I thought, but she listened to me anyway, without interrupting. When I ran down, she carefully wiped her hands, then put her arms around me again. She didn't say anything to me except, "Phil, I love you, and I mean it. I'm not letting you go." She held me for a moment or two, firmly but not squeezing, and then let go and took her phone and dialed again.

"Pastor, it's Ellen Morris. I hate to bother you, and I know Monday is officially your day off, and as much of one as you ever get, but is it possible for Phil and me to come and talk to you, tonight? You are? Thank you, it really means a lot to me. We'll be there as soon as we can, then."

I was staring at her, unable to figure out what she was thinking. She went to the cookie jar—a flattish, metal canister, actually—and started to get out a couple of cookies. She hesitated a moment, then put them back and closed the canister. She grabbed some paper napkins, too.

"Phil, finish your sandwich. We're going to talk to Pastor Mac."

I hurriedly ate the last two bites. She had finished while I was talking, of course. I washed my hands and rinsed my mouth. Brushing my teeth didn't seem worth doing, not when Ellen was apparently taking our cookie supply along.

We went down and got into Ellen's car, and she drove to the church. She said, "Pastor told me he was in his office, and had recently finished a meeting. I think we're keeping him from his dinner, though."

We parked and went in, going straight to his office and knocking.

Pastor Mac greeted us warmly, and asked us to be seated. Ellen said, "Pastor, we were about to have dessert when I called you, and it occurred to me that you probably haven't had your dinner yet, so I just brought our cookies." She opened the tin and put it more or less in the middle of his desk. She took two cookies, handing me one.

He looked at her, then said, "Thank you very much," and took one himself. He put the lid back on, but left the canister where it was.

"I know you wouldn't call me like that without a reason, Ellen, so why don't you tell me what the reason is?"

"I worked late, and when I got home Phil was just sitting there. He had been studying, but he apparently just stopped. He normally would have gotten dinner, but he was just sitting there. By the time I arrived, I think some of it was hunger, so I just got something into us as fast as I could, and that helped some. You've seen how he can get when he's overwhelmed by emotion, and this looked a little like that, but not completely. Anyway, once we'd eaten some, I asked him about it. And when he answered, I realized that while I may have things to say, I really think some of the issues may be a little beyond me."

She turned to me. "Phil, you need to be the one saying this, not me. I don't think you need to expand on what you said, really. Just tell Pastor Mac what you told me. Please." I could see the concern in her face, and I was cut to the bone by it.

I tried to be as brief as I had been with her, but I had to fill in a little more, even though we had talked some about all this, during our premarital counseling. I finished by adding, "I suppose it's fair to say, I was confronting my own sinfulness in a new way. Much the same as something Sam said, when she called to tell us she had accepted the gospel. She'd heard this sermon, and really understood she had to respond—but she kind of tried to pretend 'maybe' was an acceptable answer, because of something she didn't want to give up. Um. It was that last week with me, as it happens. I don't have anything so definite and concrete that I'm clinging to, exactly, but I think that's still what has held me up. I haven't been willing to admit that I'm not responsible for my own life."

When I was done, Pastor Mac continued looking at me for at least a couple of minutes. That might have worried me if I hadn't seen it often, before. It seemed that he put all his attention into absorbing what was said to him, taking time when the speaker was done to think about what it might mean and how to respond. Finally, he said, "I think I understand most of what you said. But I'm unclear about what you mean about having to give up things from your past, and that's obviously the crux. Please explain that, as best you can."

I had to stop and think, to answer that. "Partly, it really is like Sam's difficulty—I think. Anyway, if I really believe that there is a God, to whom I owe honor and perfect obedience, I'm in serious trouble. I haven't done very well. I know the only way out. If I hadn't already, Sam showed me. Honest grief for my wrongdoing—contrition, in other words—repentance, and asking for forgiveness I know I don't at all deserve. I sure can't change what I've done, or make up for it. What could I possibly do that would be enough? I can only hope that Jesus' acceptance of all human guilt covers me, too.

"But if I really repent of all I've done wrong, and acknowledge that it was wrong, what's left? Some of my motives were good, OK, but they were always mixed—impure. I believe that having Ellen as my wife is a gift from God—a blessing, one more good thing I don't deserve. But look how that came to me! If I hadn't been involved with Jenny and others—and if I hadn't gone to that school knowing about the sex ed program—I never would have been with Ellen. If I get any credit for helping Maggie, and Barbara too—. I think that I helped them, in ways maybe no one else would have, and in spite all my own selfishness mixed in, I wanted to help them, too. But I couldn't have done that if I weren't choosing to do what was wrong. I went out to try to rescue Maggie—for all that it turned out to be unnecessary!—but I was spurred on by my anger and hatred for her assailants, revenge for their past treatment of me. Take out what I did wrong, and there's nothing left that's right, either."

This all kind of just poured out of me. I waited to see what the pastor would find to say to that. I could see just how concerned Ellen looked, and she took my hand and held it firmly, but she didn't say anything.

Pastor Mac sat there even longer, this time. I really would have been worried, had I not understood. He was paying me the great and rare compliment of taking seriously what I said, first listening and then considering it carefully, before he said a word. So the silence felt awkward but not ominous.

When he spoke, he said, "Phil, in one way I understand very well why you're asking this, why you're so concerned. In another way, I think that if someone else were to come to you with the same questions, you would be able to answer them as well as I can answer you, possibly better. Kelly has spoken to me, and to others in my hearing, about several passages that raise issues like these, saying that she would have been confused had you not gone through them with her. The account of Joseph and his brothers in Egypt, for example.

"Phil, the things that you have done, good and bad, are done. You've already told me about some of the bad effects you recognize, in yourself, that result from the life you lived your senior year. You are much more likely to be troubled by certain temptations than you would have been, had you been chaste, or even as chaste as your situation allowed. You shouldn't regret your sins only to the extent that you are aware of bad results from them, of course.

"But the Lord weaves the whole fabric of the universe, of our lives specifically, from our choices, our choices for good or for ill. He provides the context in which we make those choices, and they're in his hands from the very beginning.

"Certainly, you need to spend some time reflecting on your sins and identifying them. But think of your friend Sam, when she came to you to express her repentance and her very real and great sorrow for how she had wronged you. You told me about this, and I was privileged to have her describe it to me, too. She made no attempt to go through all the individual, specific times she taunted and belittled you, over more than three years. She clearly identified these things as a group, recognizing and confessing what was wrong about her behavior. But within that limited range—her offenses toward one human being, you—she repented very thoroughly. She sought to do what she could to repair the harm she had done you—knowing there wasn't very much she could do. And she sought to avoid continuing to do wrong, in those areas. Not just to you, for that matter. But you both made clear to me that she understood—and you did too—that you both understood that this didn't make up for the wrong she had done.

"Let me give you one more example from your own life. You said something about this, but your friend Miss Brown asked to speak to me at the end of your wedding reception. Surely, some of what you did with her after she told you about the rapes was wrong. She saw that you thought so at the time, and why. But she believes that even those things provided comfort and assurance that she feels she needed from you, and that she thinks no one else would have given her. From what she said, I suspect she is right. She told me why you felt you needed to continue on to intercourse with her, in particular. But she had no doubt whatever that if it had been bad for her, rather than helpful, you would have refrained, whatever your own concerns. Probably there were other things you might have done instead that would have served as well, But what you did was plainly a great reassurance to her.

"What did Joseph say to his brothers? You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good. Phil, consider your sins, confess them to God, and determine to learn from them and behave differently in the future.

"In repenting, you're not trying to undo your past. Hate what was wrong in it. Determine not to repeat that. When you fail, repent and ask forgiveness again. Rejoice that the price was paid, and that you can rely on that forgiveness. 'If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.'

"Of course, you have to act differently in the future. If you come on a woman who you can see needs comforting, to take an obvious example, you can't comfort her as you did Miss Brown. I know you wouldn't—I heard your promises to Ellen. Comfort her as best you can in righteousness. But at that point you must truly trust the Lord. If it's his will, that will suffice, or she will find comfort elsewhere which will suffice. You will have to put that in his hands, doing what he gives you to do and no more. I know you understand that very well in the abstract, but I think you will have some difficulty letting go of things in concrete circumstances—knowing you.

"I hope that helps you. If it doesn't, I think I need more from you as to what the problem is. And I should have said at the very beginning: I understand you to mean that you have indeed accepted that moral claim God has on your life, and the need and possibility of forgiveness. And that Jesus' sacrifice is the only available basis for that. Is that correct?"

I had to sit and think for a while, myself. Not about his question, but about everything he had said.

"Yes. That's right. I do believe, and my only hope is to be forgiven. The issues I was raising really were—I guess, about what I'm doing when I repent. And you're right, I should have known at least the general answer. I was bogged down in the details. So thank you very much."

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