NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday, April 15th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Andrée Seu Peterson now on the slow seduction of sin.
ANDRÉE SEU PETERSON, COMMENTATOR: She checks the car for telltale traces, then checks it again: a hotel napkin, a book of matches, an odor. Not that her husband is observant, but as the saying goes: “For want of a nail, a kingdom is lost.” Most of all, the children must not know.
It is Tuesday afternoon, the usual, pulling in just ahead of the yellow school bus, sporting the trinkets they wait for. She prides herself on this—her ability to manage it all, to not let her mothering slip.
There are times, to be sure, moments only, when one world veers too close to the other, when the whole fragile edifice almost comes undone. At Women’s Bible Study (that’s Wednesdays) they’re doing Proverbs, and by chapter 7 she feels a hot shudder and wonders if it’s noticed.
Nobody ever wakes up on morning and decides to become an adulteress. You must imagine, rather, something like the slow gestation in a serpent’s egg. There appears one day a thought that wasn’t there before—a disappointment, discontentment, rushing the vacuum where once abode gratitude; the cocktail of idleness and afternoon soaps that makes the unthinkable thinkable; a best friend’s well-meaning counsel: “You deserve better than him.”
There is this man at the gym. They talk. His marriage has been failing for some time. He says, “I can really talk to you.” She says, “If only we had met when I was free.” He says, “I had a dream of you last night.” She says, “I am attracted to you. But it’s not right.”
Not exactly a slammed door, this. Two-tiered messages fly back and forth for weeks, carefully crafted verbal maneuvers that preserve a moral rectitude but are no defense against the surging undertow. The Rubicon is crossed before flesh ever touches flesh. “For,” as the Bible says, “who can carry fire in his lap and not be burned?”
“Nobody’s perfect,” she consoles herself. “Jesus forgives,” she tells herself. She has developed her own complicated righteousness and within its laws and logic is as punctilious as a nun: faithful to her husband in her own fashion: keeping appointments, grocery shopping, making meals.
It takes a toll. One Tuesday afternoon while putting lipstick on she hears a verse inside her head out of the blue, from Women’s Bible Study: “The wicked flee when no one pursues” (Proverbs 28:1). She understands it now—the paranoia of the guilty conscience.
Turning the key in the ignition, she drives away now, thickly scented, to the place she’s been a dozen times before. See, nothing bad has befallen me and nothing will, she tells herself, rehearsing all the reasons that she’s justified. But all the same she casts a glance behind and to the side, wondering, distractedly, irrationally, if today might be the judgment day.
For WORLD Radio, I’m Andrée Seu Peterson.