Dearest Rachel –
For all of Pastor Scott’s assertions that he’s never met any alleged skeptic who, when confronted with the challenge to ‘name one’ of the supposed many contradictions in the Bible, hasn’t backed down, there are a number of issues one can deal with when going through scripture. One of these is putting the Lord’s own self-description ‘I AM the Lord; I change not’ against the whole concept of the ‘new covenant’ described by His Son. Doesn’t this suggest a sort of… change? How do you square that circle?
On a broad-stroke view, there seems to be a palpable difference between the Old Testament God and that of the loving and forgiving Jesus. The books of the Torah lay out a long list of dos and don’ts, along with how to atone for everything. I remember someone making a joke about how ‘everything is legal, if you’re rich enough,’ insofar as the fine-as-penalty only works when the cost is sufficiently painful (and to someone of sufficient means, any sort of fine is essentially chump change, giving them license to commit virtually any crime with impunity, should they so choose to). However, given the number – and in some cases, the relative slightness – of penalizable sins, you’d be offering bulls and goats and sheep and pigeons on a daily basis. I don’t care how big your flocks are, you’d likely bankrupt yourself in a year on little white lies alone. And that’s not even getting into the concept that Jesus expanded on, wherein if you so much as think about a sin, you might as well have done it (although perhaps that was always built into the concept of ‘coveting,’ but never before explained sufficiently).
And yet, it was He to whom Peter asked about how many times one should forgive another person – thinking seven (which was considered to be the number of completion and perfection by the Jews) would be considered magnanimous by his Rabbi, since the standard rules only required forgiving twice (once as an accident, twice as a coincidence) before drawing the knife, so to speak – only to receive the instruction to work with numbers several orders of magnitude larger than that seemingly generous suggestion. And of course, it went deeper than that – it wasn’t a matter of whether He said to forgive seventy-seven times or seventy times seven times, because if you were counting in either case, you hadn’t really forgiven for even the first time.
So, we are to forgive, and not bother to count how often. Fair enough. Certainly, we have been forgiven much, we have the responsibility to do likewise. But then…
…He also instructed his disciples (not just the Twelve, but seventy-two of his followers in Luke 10) that, if on their way, a town refused to welcome them in their preparations for their Master to visit on His way, they were to wipe the very dust off their feet as they departed the town. He promised that the final judgement on those towns would be worse than that which Sodom and Gomorrah endured as a consequence.
Wow… so much for forgiveness, just because they didn’t see the value of listening to some former carpenter who was going around, all but claiming to be God Himself. Not to be flippant about it; I’m just wondering how well we would do in that situation.
Maybe you’re wondering what prompted this little diatribe, anyway. Well, whether you want to know or not, I’ll tell you. You may recall my little adventure down to Woodridge, ostensibly to visit Lalla at ‘her’ church and, if we were to actually meet, possibly assist her with her financial situation, despite the fact that a.) I already thought she might be scamming me, as she’d already run afoul of the truth regarding her proximity to the Highland Park incident, and b.) with that in mind, I was already inclined to doubt whether she really attended that little church. Of course, she didn’t show, and when several parishioners asked what brought me to their church, and I told them a basic outline of the story, they didn’t recognize her name. As I left, I sent her a text about the visit, and all but expected to never hear from her again, as she’d now been proven a liar twice.
Them yesterday, I got one of those notifications on the dating app – and as I hate having that little red dot atop an app, indicating that there’s something I need to attend to, I went to check the message.
It was Lalla; she’d sent me a smile.
Seriously? As if nothing had happened?
I was suddenly dealing with two kinds of pique at this point. There was the noun, the irritation of having been played for a sucker (even if I really rather enjoyed the jaunt down I-355, and experienced more or less what I expected to when I got there). But there was also the verb, applied to my curiosity. Why would she be trying to get my attention at this point?
I chose to set the noun aside for the verb, and inquire as to why she was trying to contact me again. Well, that’s overstating things somewhat; really, all I sent her was a single-word question containing her (‘real’) name.
The conversation that ensued included her disbelief that I would bother to show up at ‘her’ church like I said I would (although if she were a regular attendee, that shouldn’t have made a difference to her being there or not) and that I had merely been joking with her about that, some discussion about the fact that the remodeling process was nearing its end and my regret of any wisecracks on my part as to what it would take to even begin the process (it seems she forgot why you’re not in my life; she asked if you were angry with the work I’ve had done to the place. Lalla, girl… not everyone who’s single is divorced), and if I would be amenable to a rain check get-together this weekend, to make up for last time.
I told her I would think about it.
I didn’t spend much time mulling it over, to be honest. As before, I expected this to be little more than another smokescreen leading to a new request, or at least, a reinstatement of the one before (which, remember, I haven’t acted upon, in terms of giving her anything). But if it was sincere, shouldn’t I be forgiving, giving her the benefit of the doubt? But if I did, what would that mean for a possible relationship? Would she feel free to make such demands of me regularly going forward? And would I be expected to acquiesce? Or was there a point at which I should be brushing those four hundred ninety grains of dust from my feet, and moving on?
She didn’t quite wake me up first thing this morning, but she was bright and early with her greeting as always. Even as I attempted to respond to her texts (resulting in me setting aside my earlier letter to you about the new blender due to the distraction), I noted that her profile on the app had disappeared.
That’s never a good sign. Oh, ‘the heart knows when the search is over,’ she told me, ‘When I found you, I felt as if my heart found its destination.’
Those kinds of words and phrases might move some men, but I can’t help but see them as just words and phrases any more. They don’t mean anything worth latching onto, especially since she’s never met me in person, never spoken to me directly—
At this point, she interrupted to let me know I could just call her directly myself – I have her phone number, after all. And I suppose I could, but that sort of action, from my perspective, comes off as either too aggressive or too desperate. I’m not either of those, but, having been invited to do so, I decided to keep that possibility in the back of my mind. I’m certainly not going to call her the moment she asks, at the very least.
It still bothers me that we don’t know each other well enough to really mean any of the sort of florid prose she’s spouting at me. To me, it sounds like she’s just telling me what she thinks I want to hear. Oddly enough, what I think I’d prefer hearing is just some back-and-forth about each other’s mundane lives, with the aim toward determining how they might mesh together some day. It was like that a little more than a week ago, after all.
But it was at this point that I tried to explain my caution, without specifically trying to accuse her. After all, I’d dealt with plenty of other scammers; why come out and say she was one, unless she got defensive about it? And if she did, well, that was just her recognizing how well the shoe fit her; I’m not forcing her foot into it.
And that’s pretty much what happened. While I was talking about how ‘people do this,’ and ‘profiles do that’ – I was even trying to avoid saying ‘women,’ not because I’m no biologist, but because whoever’s behind a profile may just some fellow running a Nigerian Code 419 scam – she responded by asking ‘Why would I do that?’ Did I say you did that, Lalla? But she continued; ‘I just needed the money to sort out my items that was [sic] seized at the airport.’
Upon pressing her further (since, for all my/our travels, I/we never had anything confiscated from us), she claimed to have brought antiques from China without declaring them. In other words, she was effectively smuggling them into the country. Now, why on earth would she think that story would get a sympathetic reaction from me – especially since she claims to know me so well?
Sometimes, honey, I pursue these things farther than I know I ought to simply because there’s likely to be an interesting story behind them. I think I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of this one – not that I’m sending her anything, particularly since she has now upped her request to a cool thousand dollars. But I also think it’s high time I shook the dust from my feet, regardless of whether or not I should be forgiving. It’s one thing to forgive; it’s another to continue a relationship that, between lying and other crimes, is bound to be toxic, even if it were possible.
Still, I find myself shaking my head at the pure shamelessness involved, and wondering who and how one gets taken in by this.
Until next time, honey, keep an eye out for me, and wish me luck; it seems I’m going to need it.