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“That’s a different problem, but repenting before God is only the highest form of repentance. You sought forgiveness from Stacy, which, apparently, she gave, at least to some degree.”
The car continued along the freeway as Paul considered what his mother said. Was that what he was after? He didn’t think so. “I wasn’t after forgiveness, Mom.”
“You were probably trying to be punished because you know what you did was wrong.” Her already normally soft voice was whisper quiet. She was sad about something. It was probably because Paul wanted punishment.
“I think people should pay for what they do,” Paul said. “I think they should get what they deserve.”
“I sincerely hope not,” his mother replied. “I want to give mercy, and I want to receive mercy. I know exactly what I deserve, and that’s why mercy is so wonderful.”
“You deserve to be happy!” The comment came out in a sort of muttered growl.
“And I don’t deserve to be punished for letting your father do what he did to us?” Paul’s head jerked at the question, which came out much more like an accusation.
“You were the victim!”
“And yet I let him do as much to you.”
Paul shut his eyes and took a deep breath. He hadn’t forgotten how he’d treated her as a child. He did whatever he wanted and expected her to let him. Then he got angry at her for giving him exactly what he wanted. It never made any sense. It only got better when he and Jordan became friends.
“That’s not the same,” Paul said.
“It can’t be both ways, Paul. We either all get everything we deserve, or we all need mercy. But I’m of the opinion that if everyone got exactly what they deserve, we’d all be in a great deal of agony. And before you make some crass extreme counterargument, I acknowledge that some people are far more evil than others, but that’s not my point.”
“There is no one who is good,” Paul said.
“That’s,” she paused in shock. “That’s exactly right. Have you been reading the Bible?”
He’d never even considered telling her before this moment. It never came up. “I read the whole thing around the time he was arrested.” Paul refused to speak his name, and he’d die a million times over before he acknowledged that man as his father.
Not that it worked. He was literally just like him, and he deserved exactly what that man got.
A memory flashed in Paul’s mind. It was the night of Nobody’s first visit. The bastard had passed out drunk, and a bottle had tipped over. Paul set it right to be positive the alcoholic wouldn’t trip and hurt himself.
“Paul, are you there?” He’d been years away in the past and hadn’t heard his mother.
“Sorry,” he said. “I zoned out for a second.”
“I was asking why you read the Bible then?”
That answer would lead to a lot of other questions. Paul had eluded to Nobody once or twice, but he’d never told the whole story. As he thought, he figured he should have lied to his mother, saying he’d read the Bible after he got close to Bill, but he couldn’t bring himself to lie to his mother or about Bill.
“I was looking for answers.” That was at least a part of the truth. “I didn’t find any. I read the whole thing. I think I’ve read it two or three times, but I don’t believe any of it.”
“Because of what happened to Bill.” She said it as gently as she could given her tone, but talking about Bill was always a way to get Paul angry.
“Yes.” Maybe by being curt, she’d know to change the subject.
“We can’t accept just part of the Word,” she emphasized the capital. “It’s all true. It’s true that he’s sovereign. It’s true that he’s loving. It’s true that he’s the righteous judge, and it’s true that he calls us when it’s our time. We don’t get to pick when, and, to be honest, I don’t know that we’d ever accept the explanation even if he bothered to give it to us.”
“That part is for certain,” Paul muttered.
“I’m going to ask about this girl now to shift the subject.”
Paul laughed. She could have just done it.
“I’m not doing it because I’m afraid or unwilling to debate or discuss this with you,” she explained. “I doing it because I’m trying to be patient. You’ve been patient, hearing what I’ve had to say. I think any more on this subject would just be an argument neither of us wants.”
“Yeah,” Paul admitted.
“I imagine Stacy is willing to allow you this chance to change,” his mother said.
“But why? If I’m capable of doing what I did tonight, what else am I capable of?” And there it was. The last part of his question came out in whine of agony. He was a monster. He should be locked up before he hurt anyone. He wouldn’t be sorry if a bolt of lightning struck him down. He needed to be punished. He needed to be stopped before he became that man.
“We’re all capable of horrible things, Paul,” his mother said. He couldn’t know for certain without activating the holographic feature of his PID, but he thought he heard a smile in her voice. “But you’re every bit as capable of becoming a kind, loving, patient man. If she’s ever willing to talk to you, maybe ask her why she was so willing to give you such precious gift as her own body. Why was she willing to be your girlfriend? I imagine it’s because she saw the man you could be, the other man you could be. I just wish you’d focus on becoming that man instead of avoiding the other.”
Paul glanced out the window as he ran a hand down his face to dry his tears. He caught the exit to his school from the corner of his eye, but he needed to admit something to his mother. “I’m so afraid of being him.”
“But if you focus on him, so that’s your target,” she said. “You have so many better options to focus on.”
“Bill is the only better option I have, maybe Jordan or his dad,” Paul said. “I don’t know about so many other options.”
“I do,” his mother replied. “You’ve read the Bible. You have Enoch and Noah, Moses and David, the apostles and, most importantly, Jesus.”
“I thought you were changing the subject.” Paul muttered.
“I did, for an entire minute.” She sounded pleased at her quip. “And before you argue about it for the sake of arguing, go back and look at just one of those people. Would it really be so bad to be like them?”
Paul opened his mouth to say, “yes,” but that lie wouldn’t form on his lips either.
“Then there’s Paul,” his mother said. “Now there’s a case I think you could study. You could ask yourself why he called himself the foremost sinner, and yet he was still chosen to be an apostle to the Gentiles.”
Paul didn’t know what to say that wouldn’t either start an argument or get more Bible references. His contemplative moment turned into a period of silence.
“I’ll leave you to think on it now, but I hope you will,” his mother said. “We didn’t name you after the apostle, but you seem to focus on the punishments people deserved. It would do you some good to see the value of what mercy can do.”
“Ok,” Paul said.
Wait? Did she take that as a promise to look into it? “Mom —”
“I’m sure you’re near the school now, and you should see if Stacy is willing to talk to you,” his mother said.
“Mom, I —”
“I’ll talk to you later. I love you always, my son.”
She hung up. That was a dirty trick! She hung up before he could explain he was only acknowledging that he’d heard her. He shook his head. He didn’t actually promise her anything, and she knew it. He wasn’t obligated to study any of that stuff.
The car indeed pulled off the exit and started to pull around to one of the campus’s entrances.
… to be continued …