Without warning, temptation blew into the office of the Main Street Baptist Church. It was like a tornado, unpreventable and unstoppable. This natural catastrophe was an “Act of God.”
Mary was not ready. Her resistance was low. She was in trouble.
Temptation arrived on two legs and dressed in a suit that suited his strut. He opened the door and walked in with a swagger she had never known in a church boy. She couldn’t take her eyes off of him. He was eye candy. His naughty-looking grin made her spirit jump.
He recited his name as though he were President of the United States. “I’m Marcus Headley. I am twenty-four years young, from the big city, and your new youth pastor.”
Staring at her shoes, she faintly stuttered, “M-m-my name is Mary Little. I’m-m the Sunday school Director. I’m pleased to meet you.” Mary quickly became aware of her appearance and her thoughts. Both were disheveled. “Please excuse my messy desk and the clutter of paper. I was asked by the Pastor to write a personal story for the church bulletin. ‘The topic is ‘Church leadership: what is a good role model?’ It should reflect my personal life and church involvement. But I haven’t got past the first sentence.”
This should have been easy for Mary. She was a twenty-year-old church girl. She never had a boyfriend. Never been kissed. At that very moment, the early damaging effects of the storm were beginning to wreak havoc.
Marcus wasted no time in spouting his opinion. “Rightfully so, the reputation bar is raised high for women in the church. It is important for women to commit to being godly role models.” Mary found it interesting that Marcus spoke only of women. There was no mention of the roles of men. Marcus continued, “My passion is to lift up a church full of strong Christians…who honor God’s words. Mary Little, will you join me?” She silently moved her head up and down. She heard him. But his good looks and maleness made her lightheaded.
Marcus instilled in her feelings she didn’t know she had. Mary was totally smitten with him. He possessed qualities she dreamed of in a man. Mary felt the Christian men at her church were way too passive. They lacked adventure. Marcus looked and smelled exciting.
Director Marcus instantly became a favorite in the church. The young, the old, the married and the single had their eyes on him. One by one, Marcus collected the sinners, the devil’s kids, the anointed ones and Mary. He promoted a lot of energy in the Lord’s house! She began to inhale and exhale Marcus. She wanted to claim him as her very own.
Marcus and Mary worked closely together. They coordinated future youth programs and fundraisers. Marcus called them meetings. In Mary’s head they were dates. She eventually calmed her nerves long enough to ask him to come to dinner. He accepted. Marcus laughed and talked with her parents as if he had known them for years. Mary mostly stared at him and hung on his every word. After dinner, Marcus suggested they drive to Garret Park and go for a walk.
Mary nearly screamed with delight. In her “love-infected” head she thought this must be a sign that he wanted to capture a romantic time where he could hold her tight. Mary wondered if today was the day they would tenderly kiss. For sure, he would profess his love for her. From the second Marcus smiled at Mary, her thoughts weren’t hers anymore.
They sat on a park bench underneath a blooming magnolia tree. The view was picture-perfect. Marcus looked her straight in the eye and said, “Mary, you have been a faithful member to the congregation for years. Your dedication to the church youth is outstanding. You are a great example and role model for all the women of the church. I look forward to working with you for a long time.”
Suddenly, Marcus began to speak in a voice so low and deep it reminded Mary of rolling thunder just before a Florida storm. His speech, like thunder, caught her off guard, and before she knew it lightning bolts were flashing. She looked up at Marcus. She felt the earth move. He said,
“Temptations do take place way too often in the church. Great men have been tempted and many have fallen. But I won’t be one of them.” He continued, “I’ll always be professional. Compassionate. I do not want to appear detached. I’m aware that I have admirers.” He took hold of her hands and continued, “The charisma around youth pastors is appealing for some women.” He lowered his head and almost whispered, “Sometimes the temptation to sin is overwhelming. My position is to remain faithful and do what is right. Men in the church must also be good role models. My dear Mary, let’s just be friends.”
She felt humiliated and at a loss for words. Mary looked past him and murmured, “I understand.”
Out of nowhere a low-hanging dark cloud of despair appeared. It fit Mary’s frame of mind. They didn’t speak on the way home. Mary chewed her cuticles to pacify her nervousness. She was disappointed that Marcus did not whisper sweet nothings in her ear or touch her inappropriately. His goody-two-shoes speech made her sick. She wanted him to talk about his love for her. An unsettling chill overcame her. Her head ached with grief. Did something or someone just die? Suddenly it seemed to Mary that getting a man to care for her was beyond her reach.
He opened the car door and gave her a pecking kiss as though she were two years old. Mary didn’t say a word. She slowly walked up the steps and went inside. With great force, Mary slammed the big wood door on Marcus and any future love interest.
Mary went to the kitchen and cut herself a slice of apple pie. She sought comfort. Her dad joined her at the table. He sensed her sadness. Searching for words, he said, “Nothing like apple pie to cure a sweet tooth.”
Mary replied, “I’d prefer sweet words from Marcus. Dad, I got dumped. Marcus said, ‘Let’s be friends.’ I want him to love me. I want to be his wife.” She looked up at her father and wished she had not so readily exposed her feelings for Marcus.
Her dad said, “Mary, you are a good girl. I think Marcus is a fine young man. He wants to do good things in the church. Marcus has backed up further than you have gone forward. He is not the man for you. Move on!”
Mary’s tears flooded her pillow that night. Marcus was the salty-sweet mix she wanted. She asked herself, “What did I do to turn him away?”
Unable to sleep, Mary thought about her unfinished report. She turned on her laptop and gazed at the title, “Church leadership: what is a good role model?” She began to type.
“I believe the starting place for any leader or role model is to give themselves a check-up from the neck up and examine their integrity. Integrity is who you are when no one is looking. Leaders don’t just talk about integrity, they live it. Church leadership is like a checkbook; you have to make deposits before you can write checks. Model your faithfulness to your values. Role models uphold high ethical and moral values. They are good examples for others to follow. How they speak and act show who they are. Role models focus on others as opposed to themselves. Good role models show that certain behaviors are acceptable and others are not. I’ve learned you have to climb the ethical ladder to reach high moral grounds. Like the song says, ‘You can’t always get what you want…but, if you try, sometimes you just might find, you get what you need.’”
Mary turned off her laptop, climbed into bed and quickly fell asleep. She awoke to the sound of the weather report on the clock radio. They were heavenly words to her ears. “Expect great weather to continue through the week. There is a warming trend with relatively no humidity in the air. It will feel very comfortable. Look for sunshine and clear skies.”
Her morning prayer was full of gratitude. She thanked Marcus for gently putting the lid on her schoolgirl fixation on him. Mary was grateful to realize that overcoming temptation makes you stronger. She was thankful for weathering the storm for a bigger life purpose; to walk the talk of a respected church leader.
Story by: Melvia Zeigler
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