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The officer grabbed the door and opened it a bit wider to emphasize his point. Paul gave the him a slack-jawed stare even as he stepped out of the interrogation room. The officer escorted him around the building so he could collect his belongings and then led him out of the police station.
“Bit of advice,” the officer said, “You might want to take a close look at how you treat the ladies in your life, and you also might want to look into how you react to certain things.”
Paul nodded. The officer probably wanted to arrest him and sentence him to whatever time in prison was warranted, but if Stacy and her new boyfriend were unwilling to testify, it wasn’t likely there was much to do. That left the officer no other option than to give that warning. A part of Paul wondered how that officer could operate in such a personable manner even though everyone knew Paul had done something terrible.
What do I do? There wasn’t much else to do in the beginning other than use his PID to get a ride back to the school. For some reason, the officer’s words made Paul want to contact his mom, so he dialed her up on the PID and synched the wrist device to an earphone that he placed in his right ear. He just activated a privacy screen between himself and the driver when his mother answered.
“Hello, my son!” She was always so cheerful when he called. Her good mood made him feel even more guilty.
“I really messed up, Mom.” Paul’s voice trembled as he spoke.
“What happened?” There was no annoyed, resentful tone. Neither was she overly concerned as if she were freaking out that something was wrong. It was just a simple question. Maybe she didn’t understand how royally he’d screwed up.
He launched into the story. He kept interrupting himself. Each time, he thought his mother would respond with a rebuke, shout, or simple question; but she just listened.
“I’m on my way back to the university,” he said. “I’m not sure what to do.”
“You’re not your father,” she said.
It was every bit as much as what he wanted to hear as it was a lie. A tear rolled down his cheek. “But I did exactly what he would have done.”
“And what should you have done?” she asked.
“I should have treated her better,” he answered. “I should have been more interested in her than I was in … well, what we did together.”
“That’s true,” his mother replied, “but I’m asking what you should have done in that moment you saw them together.”
“I was so mad,” Paul said. “I couldn’t think straight.”
“Are you angry now?” his mother asked.
“A little, but, what are you getting at?” He glanced out the window to see how far the car had taken him since the conversation began. The freeway exit sign made it clear that, despite how long the conversation felt, they hadn’t been talking long.
“I get that you were blinded in that moment, but you’re not blind now, so you have the time to think you didn’t have then. What should you have done?”
“I don’t know. Maybe I should have just left. Sure, we’d still have broken up. I don’t know that I would have realized what a jerk I had been being to her if I hadn’t done what I did, but at least no one would have gotten hurt.”
“We’re talking about controlling our bodies at church,” his mother said.
“Mom —” He didn’t want her to get into some sermon, but she didn’t seem to be in the mood to be stopped.
“You called me; that means you get my opinions, which I base on God’s word,” she said before continuing her point. “What I think is you try to control your anger by ignoring it. How’s that working for you?”
Paul muttered, “That’s not really fair.”
“But it is necessary,” his mother replied.
“So what am I supposed to do?” he asked, ironically feeling the grip on his temper begin to slip.
“The answer is simple to say but much harder to do,” she said. “You have to train yourself how to be angry without sinning.”
“And how do I do that?”
“For starters, always start by asking if you have a right to be angry,” she said.
“So Christians don’t have a right to be angry?” He didn’t keep the sarcasm from his tone.
“The commandment wouldn’t be, ‘Be angry, and don’t sin,’ if we couldn’t be angry.” His mother’s patience seemed to make his sarcasm seem even more childish. “The fact that you think you can’t be angry at all is the problem. You associate anger with the violence your father inflicted on us, so you tried to avoid the one by ignoring the other, which is probably what he did, too.”
Paul didn’t say anything for a few moments. “So I am just like him.”
“No,” she said. “It’s true that you did something he had done, but that only makes you just like him if you respond the same way he did. He justified his abuse. He justified his anger. Is that what you did?”
“I don’t know that I had the chance,” Paul said.
“That wasn’t the question I asked,” she replied.
“No, I didn’t do that. I feel guilty. Like I said, I tried to turn myself in,” he said.
“That is repentance.” His mom paused to emphasize the word “that.” She had a satisfied tone in that moment.
“I didn’t ask God for forgiveness.” He was about to tell her he didn’t owe God anything, but she jumped into the conversation.
… to be continued …