“For sound advice is a beacon, good teaching is a light, moral discipline is a life path. They’ll protect you from wanton women, from the seductive talk of some temptress. Don’t lustfully fantasize on her beauty, nor be taken in by her bedroom eyes. You can buy an hour with a whore for a loaf of bread, but a wanton woman may well eat you alive. Can you build a fire in your lap and not burn your pants? Can you walk barefoot on hot coals and not get blisters? It’s the same when you have sex with your neighbor’s wife: Touch her and you’ll pay for it. No excuses.” (Proverbs 6:23-29, MSG)
Some years had passed since the path had seemed so clear, so certain. The future had looked so bright! The path was level, bordered on both sides by lush green foliage and bright, colorful flowers. They were happy on this path. As time went on, there was the new job, a new house, nice cars. They turned aside on the path occasionally to open a flower they knew was theirs to open. These flowers contained new life, a beautiful baby that looked just like them. Life was good!
Vulnerable and Clueless seemed to be happy and well on their way to a great life with much promise. Vulnerable hadn’t seemed to notice when the leaves began to turn brown and the path became strewn with rocks. Clueless still saw the greenery and the flowers, but Vulnerable ceased to see them anymore. When had things changed? When did life become so drab? Vulnerable’s marriage was boring. The job was filled with stress, and dad gum it, the compensation no longer matched the amount of work required. A future that had once held so much promise now looked bleak.
One day as Vulnerable prepared for the day ahead, he noticed that the path had some forks in it he hadn’t noticed before. He stopped at the crossroad and stared at all the new options. One path looked pretty appealing, but Vulnerable knew he would have to quit his job and take a leap into the unknown. This new path promised a better salary, but he would be gone from home a lot. Maybe not such a bad idea. He knew he would have to convince Clueless that this would be a positive move for their family, but he was sure once she saw the potential she’d be all for it.
He noticed that Clueless was still on the same path as before. There was a third, mysterious path where a solitary man with holes in his wrists and feet stood beckoning him, but the more Vulnerable thought about it, the more he was convinced that they needed to be on this new job path. He would talk to Clueless tonight.
“No. This might look good to you, but I’m not so sure about it. The kids need their father. You’d be gone so much. We’re doing ok. See- this path still has a bright future for us” stated Clueless. Vulnerable was becoming frustrated with Clueless’s lack of ability to see. “Don’t you see all the rocks on this path now? The leaves are beginning to turn brown. If we continue down this road, life could become difficult, even unbearable, for us!” shouted Vulnerable. The argument continued, but eventually Clueless relented and told Vulnerable to do what he wanted. The stage was now set. The path chosen.
Vulnerable was happy for the first time in a long time. This was the life! He was a valued member of a great team. Raises were in his future. Granted, he missed some things about being home every night, but he certainly didn’t miss the yelling, and the messes the kids made that Clueless took forever to clean up. As time went on, he didn’t even seem to miss Clueless that much.
As Vulnerable moved down this new, exciting path, Clueless seemed to hang further and further back. She no longer saw the greenery, nor the flowers. She poured herself into her own life- her work, her home and her children.
Vulnerable noticed along his new path that there were many other paths. Some of these looked very inviting indeed! One path in particular grabbed his attention. It was labeled “happiness”. “Who doesn’t want more happiness in their lives”, thought Vulnerable. He noticed 2 men standing near this path. He inquired their names, but they seemed reluctant to say. Instead they began to tout the virtues of this new path. They both assured him that this path re-connected with the path that he was already on, so he would not lose anything! They also stated that there were hidden treasures on this path that he would miss out on if he didn’t take it. In fact, according to these guys, this was THE happiness path for his life. There would never be another opportunity quite like this one.
Vulnerable was taken by their persuasive speech. Deep, deep down inside something was bothering him, but he ignored the feeling. He neglected to inquire after their names, and chose to follow them down the path called “Happiness”.
It was there that he met “Seductress”. That was not, of course, the name she gave him. She told him that her name was “Beautiful”, and she certainly was! Wow! How lucky could a guy get! Beautiful hung on his every word. She sympathized with him when he told of his previously boring life. She assured him that she was his long, lost soul mate. He hadn’t noticed that the 2 men who led him down this path had morphed into smallish imp-like creatures that now perched on his shoulders and whispered in his ears. Had he persisted after their names, he could have found out that one was named “Discontent” and the other “Deception”. They were often found working with their sister, Seductress, to lead unsuspecting men down this path and into their lair.
Vulnerable spent more and more time with Seductress and less and less time at home. He felt as though he had been transported to heaven. Of course, he wasn’t really sure about God, and heaven, and hell, and all that religious stuff, but he was convinced that if there was a heaven, this had to be it.
He didn’t see the window in Seductress’s bedroom. He thought the affair was concealed from Clueless’s eyes. After all, she WAS clueless! He didn’t know that Seductress had already met another on this same path. “Selfish” had been even easier to convince than Vulnerable had been. Deception convinced his sister that it was time to expose Vulnerable. After all, they had their marching orders from their boss “Covenant Breaker”. It was time to move Vulnerable from Seductress’s bedroom into “Divorce’s” room. They still had to complete Selfish’s deception after all, and orders were orders.
Clueless was working hard to keep home and family intact. She was not as happy as before, but she would make due. Then she saw it. At first she didn’t believe her eyes. This could not be happening! Vulnerable with another woman? There had to be some mistake. Clueless was the faithful wife. The mother of their children. They were supposed to grow old together! Clueless had no choice but to confront Vulnerable. Surely he didn’t understand what this adulteress was up to. Homewrecker! She had to be stopped!
The confrontation didn’t go as expected. At first Vulnerable was surprised that Clueless had found out, but now that the cat was out of the bag, as they say, Vulnerable stood his ground. After all, he was entitled to some happiness! He informed Clueless that she was holding him back. He also told her that she had let herself go- become drab and frumpy. Then he dropped the bomb shell: He was no longer in love with Clueless. “Beautiful” (aka Seductress) was his soul mate. The one he had been longing for his whole life and he was NOT going to let her go. He wanted a divorce.
Clueless cried her eyes out. She shipped the kids off to her mother’s, telling Mom that she needed some time to herself. She cried all day, all night, and into the next day until she fell into a fitful sleep. Her dreams had become nightmares. Surely when she awoke, it would all have been nothing but a bad dream and her life would be intact. When she woke up, however, the ugly reality of what her life had become settled in like the ominous clouds of an approaching thunderstorm.
Clueless wondered what to do. Word spread like wildfire among friends and family. Gossip and advice flew through the air piercing her already broken heart. Some said that there must have been something wrong with her for him to run off with another woman. They accused her of allowing her marriage to die. Others said that she was too good for the likes of him and that she should forget about him and move on. “Ruthless” and “Revenge”, who were also in the employ of “Covenant Breaker”, moved into her home. Clueless listened to their advice. “Take him for everything he’s got. Clean him out.” they whispered.
Clueless hired a lawyer and began the proceedings. Her parents, friends, and family were angry. Her children- inconsolable. Some of Vulnerable’s friends and family took his side. Others were too ashamed and embarrassed to take anyone’s side. These remained distant waiting for the storm to blow over.
Covenant Breaker gathered his troops together for the celebration. Seductress took center stage along with Discontent and Deception. They reveled in their victory. Divorce was present along with Depression and Discouragement. Ruthless and Revenge stood off to one side talking among themselves. They thought that maybe it was a little premature to celebrate, but they had been at this little game for thousands of years and had been rather successful more often than not. Besides, Covenant Breaker was the boss of this particularly nasty horde, and no one was willing to confront him or even voice displeasure.
One night after the children had gone to bed, Clueless was up in her room. A friend had given her a book to read. She said that the answers to her long, dark night could be found in this book. When Clueless initially looked at the book’s cover, “Holy Bible”, she had declined. She said that she wasn’t interested in religion. She gave her friend all the standard excuses: Religion is a crutch. Churches are full of hypocrites. All they want is your money. Where was God when Seductress had her way with Vulnerable?
Clueless was tired. She was weary of the fighting. She was worn out from crying, from being depressed. She barely had the energy to care for the kids anymore. The excuses had rung hollow in her heart even as they were uttered from her lips. What did she have to lose? Was there the possibility of a light at the end of the tunnel? Could she be happy again? Would she even be able to trust again? She opened the book and began to read.
She read in Jeremiah: “I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out–plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” (29:11, MSG) “Young women will dance and be happy, young men and old men will join in. I’ll convert their weeping into laughter, lavishing comfort, invading their grief with joy.” (31:13, MSG) She read Psalm 30:5- “The nights of crying your eyes out give way to days of laughter”. (MSG) Could it be? Could it really be? Would she laugh again? Really laugh? She read on.
“For your Maker is your bridegroom, his name, GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies! Your Redeemer is The Holy of Israel, known as God of the whole earth. You were like an abandoned wife, devastated with grief, and GOD welcomed you back, Like a woman married young and then left,” says your God.” “It’s with lasting love that I’m tenderly caring for you.” (Isaiah 54:5-6;8b, MSG)
Clueless thought “You mean God Himself wants to be my husband? The God of Angel armies who created the whole universe really cares about me? All this time I thought that if there really was a God, He created this whole mess and abandoned us to fate.”
The more Clueless read, the more she wanted to know about this God she had basically ignored all her life. There began to be a lightness about her, a sense of something bigger than herself that was taking hold. She wondered how all this could be. Then she read John 3:16: “God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life.” She also read Acts 2:21: “Then whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” (GW) She said to herself “Is that all I have to do? Believe in Jesus and call out to Him? After all these years of ignoring Him and doing my own thing, going my own way, that’s all I have to do?” Hoping against all hope, in the dead of night alone in her room, Clueless cried out to the One who had made her, and she was clueless no more. Jesus gave her a new name that very night. Clueless became “Beloved”.
Vulnerable lost his job. His boss said that the scandal of his affair with Seductress was damaging the company’s reputation, but Vulnerable wasn’t so sure. He had heard rumblings of the boss wanting to strategically place his nephew in the company. He suspected that this was the real reason for his being laid off. No matter. The timing could not have been better. Now his soon to be ex-wife, Clueless, would not be able to get as much money from him as she had been demanding. He had also acquired considerable skills in his last job that would make him highly valuable and sought after in his next position. Plus, as soon as the divorce was final, he’d be marrying his dream girl and all would be right with the world.
Vulnerable never saw it coming. He didn’t know that Seductress had another lover. She was, after all, his soul mate. When he saw Selfish with Seductress, he did a double-take. He had been friends with Selfish. At first he thought it was just an innocent meeting of 2 friends, but then he saw them kiss. Not just a friendly peck, but that deep, prolonged kiss he thought was reserved only for him. He was livid! He saw his mistake as soon as he confronted them. Instead of the apology and back-peddling he expected from Seductress, she laughed at him and called him a fool!
Vulnerable became blinded by jealous rage. He headed for the bar and poured out his frustrations and anger on his friends. He got drunk- very drunk! He ranted and raved about how he could ruin Selfish. He bad-mouthed Seductress. He wanted the whole world to know exactly what kind of woman she was. He wanted them to feel pain just as he was feeling pain. He spent the next morning sitting on the bathroom floor nursing a pounding headache amidst the incessant vomiting.
Suddenly, Vulnerable had lots of time on his hands. No matter how hard he tried, no one was as enamored with his job skills as he was. He remained unemployed. Eventually, he got over Seductress’s betrayal. He told himself that she really wasn’t all that anyway. Just a whore, really. He told himself that he didn’t need or want her, but jealousy still stung his heart every time he ran into her.
From time to time he would pick up the kids for the weekend. They were the bright spot of his now bleak existence. He never realized how much he loved them. He also never realized how much he missed his wife and the life he had thrown away. Friends and family encouraged him to make amends with his ex-wife, but he couldn’t. He just couldn’t. He didn’t see them, but serpents of shame had entwined around his legs keeping him captive. He felt like he was slogging his way through thickened mud, but making no progress. He took a dead-end job. It was all that was available for him. He was glad to have the job, but sickened by the direction that his life had taken.
His ex-wife seemed to be happy. He couldn’t understand it. She was working to make ends meet, taking care of the kids, and on top of everything, she was not only attending church, but volunteered at the church as well. She had no time for herself, but he had never seen her so happy and fulfilled. What happened to her? He had to find out.
As he talked to her, he realized that she seemed different. She still looked pretty much the same, but something was different. She told him that all was forgiven. She explained that she had to forgive because Jesus had forgiven her. She also had to forgive not for his sake necessarily, but for her and the kids. She said that she had a long way to go before she would be able to trust again, but Jesus was walking her through that process as He had walked her through forgiving him for what he had done. She talked about how her life had meaning now. She understood why she had been born, and even had a glimmer into why she had to suffer such betrayal and abandonment. Mostly, she said she had true peace and the hope of eternal life in heaven.
Vulnerable went home to his lonely, empty house. Had it only been some months ago that he thought he was in his own personal heaven? How had something that had felt so right gone so wrong? Had he really allowed demons to take him over, lie to him, and lead him down this path to destruction? Beloved, his ex, had quoted scripture to him as she explained how she had come to forgive him. She had said “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:12, NASB). Was he, even now, captured and enslaved by these demons as Beloved had suggested? It was too much for him. Shame encircled him like an ever tightening noose. He contemplated suicide, but discarded that idea when he thought of how his children would react. Vulnerable went to bed and cried himself to sleep.
I wish I could tell you that Vulnerable started going to church with his family, gave his heart to Jesus, and asked Him to fix his broken life, but I can’t. Vulnerable struggled against the serpents of Shame and dreamed of revenge against his old friends Seductress and Selfish. He also drank himself into oblivion losing yet another job. Several months went by before he finally came to his senses. Beloved and her ladies prayer group prayed for him continuously. Then Vulnerable finally came home where Jesus gave him his new name as well.
So, what about Seductress and Selfish? Seductress moved on to her next victim, and Selfish found himself penniless and divorced, his ex-wife bound by Ruthless and Revenge. Jesus said He would that all should be saved, but alas, all are not.
“Be ready! Let the truth be like a belt around your waist, and let God’s justice protect you like armor. Your desire to tell the good news about peace should be like shoes on your feet. Let your faith be like a shield, and you will be able to stop all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Let God’s saving power be like a helmet, and for a sword use God’s message (Word) that comes from the Spirit. (Eph 6:14-17, CEV)
Oh…You wanted to know Vulnerable’s new name? It was his true identity from the start: “Dragon Slayer”!