A Saturday One September
It began on a Saturday night. Our phone rang at about 10:15. When my wife Shirley answered the phone, Sarah Gil, a lady in our church said in a calm and considerate voice, “Hello, Shirley. This is Sarah. I hope it isn’t too late.”
As pastors, anytime we receive a call after nine thirty or so, we hold our breath. But Saturday nights are the worst because of the importance of the day that follows. A late Saturday night call usually meant an empty post in some area of ministry the next day, one we would have to somehow fill.
I wasn’t in the room when the phone rang. I was in our downstairs storage area getting ready for a camping trip I was going to be making in a few weeks, when I heard the phone rattle off its familiar series of rings. Because of the lateness of the hour, and realizing it to be a Saturday night call, my apprehension rose quickly to the concern-level, and I stopped what I was doing to listen. But all I could hear through the walls was mumbling. So I went on with what I was doing.
My wife said, “Hi, Sarah,” as she paused, knowing it was a bit late and that Sarah wasn’t in the habit of calling us at that hour. Then she asked, “Sarah, is everything all right?”
Still speaking in a calm and controlled voice, Sarah said, “Well, that’s why I’m calling. I thought I should tell you that Raymond just left me for another man.”
Shirley’s first reaction wasn’t shock. It was disbelief. Sarah’s proper, carefully spoken words, along with the unusual message she placed before my wife, caused her to think, just for a moment, that Sarah was kidding. But Shirley caught herself before she laughed, and responded, “Excuse me, Sarah. What did you just say?”
Sarah repeated herself, continuing to talk in an unusually controlled and formal voice for normal conversation, let alone for communicating the bombshell of a lifetime. She said, “I know it sounds a bit unusual, but you remember Daniel Rogers, don’t you? He visited our church a few weeks ago. Well, I told you about our dinner party tonight. Raymond insisted that Daniel attend. So I agreed. We all had a wonderful time. Daniel seemed to have a bit of a smirk on his face for most of the evening, but I didn’t think much about it because I was having such a good time laughing and visiting with our friends.”
Sarah went on, “After our guests left, Raymond asked if he and Daniel could talk to me for a few minutes. I agreed, and we sat down at the kitchen table. That is where he told me that he and Daniel were lovers, that he has had affairs with other men, and that he has discovered he is really a homosexual. He and Daniel want to go into business together, be lovers, and he wants me to start divorce proceedings this week. He left tonight to move in with Daniel.”
My wife took a long, deep breath, and then, after a longer pause, asked sympathetically, “Sarah, do you want Chris and me to come over to be with you and pray with you?”
That is when curiosity got the best of me. I came up the stairs and walked into the room just in time to see the puzzled look on my wife’s face. I could tell all was not fine. Shirley’s mouth was open in awe. As I came to a stop and stood in front of her, her eyes told the story. As if she knew exactly why I had come upstairs, they shouted, “This call does not represent your typical emergency. It represents more—much more!” Her eyes looking into mine, communicated a mixture of dismay, disbelief, and horror all at the same time. But I was clueless. I stood in front of her and listened with great anticipation in an effort to grasp some understanding of what was going on.
In response to Shirley’s question, Sarah said, “No, you don’t need to come over. Christina will be coming home from work soon, and I will need to talk with her. I think it is best that I talk to her by herself first. I guess I owe that to her as our daughter. I don’t think I’ll come to church in the morning if that’s all right. I want to stay near the phone in case Raymond calls.”
“I understand,” said Shirley. “Listen Sarah, we are busy all day tomorrow with a lunch and a leadership meeting, and we won’t be done until about eight thirty at night. We can come over then, or we can cancel our lunch after church.”
Sarah said, “No, don’t cancel anything. Raymond will probably come over tomorrow and if you are here, he might not come in because he feels ashamed in front of you. If eight thirty is all right for you, it’s fine for me too.”
Then, turning and looking away in an effort to regain her focus, Shirley said, “Sarah, let me pray with you.” She prayed a prayer that showed concern for Sarah and Raymond, but not with words that would clue me into the problem. Then she hung up the phone and stared straight ahead not saying a word. I waited as long as I could, attempting to allow her time to tell me the scoop on her own—perhaps five seconds. Then I asked impatiently, “Well, what is it?”
She answered, “Raymond…left Sarah…are you ready for this…for another man!”
I had to sit down.
Little did we know that call would be the beginning of a nine-day long journey for us to hell and back.