No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. (Matthew 6:24, NLT)
I looked in the hallway mirror and buttoned my jacket. All set.
“Alright honey, I’m heading over to Eden’s for a bit. I’ll be back in a few hours.”
“Have fun!” Tara responded from our bedroom.
I slid into the driver’s seat, adjusted the mirror, and backed the car out of the garage into the quiet street. No one else was ever out this early on the weekend.
As I left my neighborhood behind, I remembered that Eden had texted me yesterday – I should probably respond before I arrived. Good, a red light. I pulled my phone out of my pocket and scrolled through the new messages she’d sent in the last few days. Oh, yes – there it was.
Good morning, my love!
As I read it, I could see her demure smile. She was too good for me. Quickly, before the light could turn green, I typed a response:
I love you too, Eden. Excited to see you today!
This light was taking forever. I glanced at the clock – 9:27. I was going to be late if this light didn’t hurry up. Finally it turned.
The florist was just up ahead on the right. Should I stop and get some flowers? I looked at the clock again – 9:29. She’d probably rather have me there on time than come with flowers, so I pulled into the apartment complex and parked as close as I could to our building.
Before I could knock, Eden opened the door, greeted me with that smile that I loved so much, and wrapped her arms around me. “I’ve missed you.”
As she pulled me inside the apartment, I thought I caught a flicker in her eyes scolding me for being so scarce recently. I wanted to apologize that I hadn’t stopped by all week, but didn’t know where to begin. I couldn’t keep saying I’d lost track of time.
“What would you like to do today?” I asked instead. “I thought maybe, since it’s nice out, we could go for a walk.” There was a city park just a few blocks away.
I slapped myself. She was wearing a slim, white dress and heels. If I hadn’t been so distracted by being late, I should have noticed that she already had something else in mind. She shrugged and kicked at a piece of dust on the floor. “Sure. We can do that. I’ll need to change into some pants, I guess.”
“No, you don’t have to change – we can do something else. What did you have in mind?”
“It’s fine,” she said. She looked up at me again and gave me a forgiving wink. “I don’t care what we do as long as we get to be together.” Eden slipped out of her heels and turned toward the bedroom but before she could get out of reach, I pulled her in and gave her a long kiss. She looked up at me and raised one eyebrow. With a twinkle in her eye, she pressed her finger against my lips. “You, sir, have been practicing.”
With that she turned to the bedroom, her toes padding lightly on the wood floors. While she changed, I went into the kitchen for a snack. I helped myself to a glass of grape juice and opened the pantry to see if there were any crackers to munch on. Not seeing any, I stuck my head into the hallway to ask Eden if she had any.
Before I could open my mouth, I caught a glimpse of her changing through the open bedroom door. Her dress dropped to the floor, exposing her pure, porcelain skin. Time froze and my mind flashed with memories of her soft flesh pressed against mine. My heart pounded as I noticed that her beauty hadn’t changed in all the years we’d been together. The sight of her standing naked, innocent, in front of me still stirred the passion, the lust, within me.
She knelt to pick up the dress and hung it back in its place in the closet. When she returned to the dresser, she saw me gawking and caught my eye for a moment before I could look away.
“You can come help if you want.” She always spoke just loud enough for me to hear – she never had to shout, even when I was all the way across the apartment. She leaned against the door. Even from the kitchen I could see the longing in her eyes. She craved intimacy. She wanted to feel me, to know me, to be one with me.
My emotions made no sense. I lusted after Eden and I wanted more than just her body. I adored everything about her: her eyes, her laugh, her beauty, her grace. I wanted her physically and emotionally and spiritually, but I knew I couldn’t give myself to her. She deserved so much better than me, yet she wanted me. She had chosen me. Why couldn’t I do it?
Eden stood waiting, enticing, for me to respond. She began walking toward me. Her eyes were torn between hope and sadness as she tried to discern what I wanted. But I didn’t even know what I wanted.
I couldn’t look at her right now, so I distracted myself in the pantry. Crackers! There they were! I reached for them and tore open the package. “It’s okay, I’m just eating some crackers in here! Just let me know when you’re ready to go.”
I turned and sat at the table, my back to the bedroom as I stuffed crackers in my mouth and sipped my juice. The soft sound of drawers opening and closing told me that Eden had returned to the bedroom and was getting dressed. Finally I heard the sound of her sneakers come down the hall. She sat in the chair next to mine and took a cracker for herself.
When I looked in her eyes, I expected to see anger or hurt, but instead I saw sadness and love. For some reason, she adored me. Neither of us said a word, but I was lost in her. There were no words to describe how enraptured by her I was.
Eden closed up the remaining crackers and put them back in the pantry, then placed her hand on my shoulder. I winced and closed my eyes. “Ready to go for our walk?” she asked.
Suddenly I had to leave. I just couldn’t be there – couldn’t be here with her – any longer. I stood and bolted from the apartment, not even bothering to close the door behind me. Her footsteps followed, trying to keep pace with mine. “Wait! Why are you leaving?” Tears choked her voice.
When I reached my car, I opened the door and looked back at her. She stood on the sidewalk unwilling to force me to stay. Her eyes, flooded with tears, pleaded with me. “Please, won’t you just come back inside for a few more moments?”
I had no answer. I saw her pain, her longing, and had to look away. As I pulled out of the parking space, I rolled down my window, shouting to her as I drove away, “I’ll see you again next week!”
I was a horrible person. I really needed to spend more time with Eden. After all, I loved her – I really did. As I pulled into my driveway, I took deep breaths. Tara would be waiting for me inside – waiting to hold me and kiss me. I was comfortable with Tara.
Before I could even turn off the car, she opened the door to welcome me. She had kind eyes. “How was Eden?” she asked.
I stood, closed the car door behind me, and took Tara’s hands in my own. “She’s good. Really good, I think. She never changes.” I pulled her in close and kissed the top of her head. “I love you, you know.”
She rested her head against my chest. “I know. And I’m glad you’re home.”
I closed my eyes and saw Eden crying, begging me to come back inside. Eden was too good for me. I would never be able to justify her love. So I wrapped my arms tighter around Tara. She returned the squeeze, then stepped back.
“Well, are you ready to go inside?” she asked. She sensed my hesitation.
“Every time I go over there…” I paused to figure out what I was trying to say. “Every time, I feel like a little part of me changes. I feel like I’m a different person when I’m there – a better person, I think. It’s just… it’s the strangest thing. I get a glimpse of this thing, and then when I come home again it’s gone.”
Tara placed her hands on my cheeks and pulled my face down until my eyes were looking directly into hers. “I hear the words you’re saying, but I’m not sure what you really mean. Be honest with me – would you rather live with her instead?”
I shook my head free of her grip, at the same time shaking myself free from thinking about Eden, and forced a laugh. “No, no – definitely not. It’s just strange is all. I’ll see her again next week, and that’s enough for me.”
But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there. …
She will give herself to me there, as she did long ago when she was young, when I freed her from her captivity in Egypt. When that day comes, says the Lord, you will call me ‘my husband’ instead of ‘my master.’ O Israel, I will wipe the many names of Baal from your lips, and you will never mention them again. …
I will make you my wife forever, showing you righteousness and justice, unfailing love and compassion. I will be faithful to you and make you mine, and you will finally know me as the Lord. I will show love to those I called ‘Not loved.’ And to those I called ‘Not my people,’ I will say, ‘Now you are my people.’ And they will reply, ‘You are our God!’ (Hosea 2:14-23, selected verses)