Frankie McKeehan sat on one end of her living room sofa, her feet tucked underneath her. She had a cup of coffee and her open NIV Bible on the end table beside her. The Bible was opened to the book of James, which she knew was being discussed across town in the Faith Community Church Women’s Weekly Bible Study. Frankie also knew she was expected to be there. She glanced at her young son, curled up on the other end of the sofa. His head was resting on the arm of the sofa, his arms cradling a green-brown plush T-Rex. Wrapped up in his favorite dinosaur blanket, Clay had fallen asleep watching Disney cartoons. As much as she hated to see Clay suffering, she was secretly glad for his low-grade fever. It gave her an excuse to stay home that morning.
Richie, Frankie’s husband of 6 years, paused on his way through the living room. “I thought you were going to that Bible study,” he said. “Did something happen?”
“Clay isn’t feeling well,” she said. “He asked me to stay home with him, and I couldn’t say no.”
“Sure you could,” Richie said. “It’s a tiny word, easy to say. You just didn’t want to.”
She shrugged and looked away, glancing at her open Bible.
“You at least going to do the reading?”
“I should,” Frankie said.
“I know you should,” Richie said, sitting in the empty space on the sofa between Clay and Frankie. “You should have done it before now. But I asked if you will read it, not if you think you should.”
“You are as bad as my mother,” Frankie told him. “Nagging me to read my Bible all the time. I thought I had left that behind when I married you.”
“I just worry about you, Frankie,” Richie said gently. He leaned close to his wife, tenderly kissing her cheek. “You are the one who brought me to Christ in the first place. It is so hard to watch you struggling in your relationship with Him now.”
Frankie swallowed the lump that was forming in her throat. “Everyone struggles a little bit every now and again.”
“True,” Richie agreed. “But I just have a feeling this is more than a little struggle. You just don’t seem yourself lately. It’s like you are lost or something, not sure how to find your way back.”
Not sure if I want to find my way back, Frankie thought. What she said was, “I just feel very confused right now. I have so many questions….”
“You know where to find the answers.” Richie stood up. “You might find some at that study this morning. I’ll be OK with Clay while you go.”
Frankie shook her head. “I already called Mom and Mrs. Davis,” she said. “They said they would pray for Clay to feel better. Besides,” she gave him the biggest smile she was able to, “you have work today. Don’t you have a deadline soon?”
“Yeah,” Richie said with a sigh. “I have to have three chapters to my editor by next Saturday. When I am done with this book, I am taking a month off of writing.”
Frankie laughed to herself as Richie walked out of the room toward his den. It wasn’t the first time he had said something like that. This was the third book Richie had written since their wedding. Each time, he said he was going to take a break from writing after he was finished. And each time, it took him less than 2 days to be back at the computer screen, typing out another story or a devotional idea or magazine article. Frankie knew, no matter how stressed he might feel by the deadlines, that her husband could no sooner stop writing than he could stop breathing. He was good at it, too, and had been blessed with steady paying work. Nothing regular enough to allow Frankie to quit her job at the call center, but he was working at it. His goal was to be able to support the family on his income by the end of that year, so that Frankie could work at a job she enjoyed more. Already, things were working out that way. In just two weeks, she would be moving down to part-time status. Only having to argue with others and beg people to pay their utility bills for 20 hours a week instead of 40 was going to feel like she was on a permanent vacation.
Clay whimpered softly in his sleep. Frankie leaned over him to touch his forehead. He didn’t feel any warmer than before. She tucked his blanket under his chin. She had to admit, if only to herself, that she did feel slightly guilty for skipping out on the Bible Study. Growing up, the only excuse her parents ever accepted for missing church was hospitalization. She was sure her mother would have something to say about missing the Bible study just because Clay had a slight fever.
Frankie settled back into her seat. Once upon a time, she knew she would have agreed with her mother. Clay was not really sick, nothing that should keep her from doing what she wanted and needed to do anyway.
The problem she had was that she was not sure she wanted to go to the Bible Study.
She picked up her cup of coffee and took a sip or two. Frankie thought for a moment about picking up her Bible, but decided against it. Her heart just wasn’t in it that morning. In fact, her heart had not been in her Bible study or her church activities for quite a long time.
Raised in a Christian home, Frankie had always had some sort of a relationship with Christ. She was 12 when, at a particularly emotional summer camp meeting, she gave her life over to Christ “for real this time”, as she would tell her parents. Her father often talked about the time Frankie, at just four years old, wandered into the living room during a football game and announced, “Daddy, I just asked Jesus in my heart. I hope it is OK with you that He lives here now.” Frankie didn’t remember that much, but she could clearly recall summer camp. It was the first time she had really felt God calling to her. She had been one of the first to kneel at the altar that night and one of the last to leave it. When she got home, she didn’t make a deal about the changes she was feeling. Her parents knew, of course, and Frankie often discussed it with Claudia, her best friend. After all, Claudia’s dad was a pastor. But she was careful not to boast about the changes she felt. One thing the evangelist had said during camp was that a relationship with Christ was about letting His light shine through, not bragging about what a good person you are now. Frankie was determined to let her new actions and attitude speak for themselves. If anyone asked, she would tell them about Jesus. But she was not going to force her new Friend on anyone.
After fourteen years, much of the shine of her walk with Christ had worn off. Frankie had seen too many things within her own family and with her friends that made her question a lot of what she believed.
Frankie saw her “Christian” parents slowly growing apart. Her dad had never been very vocal about his feelings for anyone—not Frankie, not her younger brother Wyatt, and definitely not their mother. Her mother tried to act like everything was normal, but Frankie knew things were changing. Mom started to spend more evenings with Frankie and her family, while Dad was taking more and more business trips. Once Wyatt graduated from high school and left home for college, it seemed that Dad was gone every other week. Frankie wondered if there might be something more than just business going on during those trips.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” her mother had said with a laugh. “We’ve been married for 28 years, Frankie. Your father and I are happy with each other. There isn’t another man for me or another woman for him.”
In her job at the call center, Frankie was able to work with Shane Hartley. When she first heard that he would be working in her department, Frankie was very excited. She admired the man who led the youth group at Faith Community Church. She sure heard enough about him from Wyatt. Frankie really looked forward to the chance to get to know him better.
They had not worked together for long when Frankie lost some of her admiration for Shane. She noticed that Shane would laugh along with the off-color jokes and stories their co-workers told. She mentioned it once to Richie, who said she was probably just overreacting. Up until the day she overheard Shane sharing some x-rated web addresses with a co-worker, Frankie hoped she was.
What was hardest for Frankie, though, was seeing what her best friend was going through. That was what made it difficult for her to join in the ladies’ Bible study. After the death of her grandmother, Claudia had made some bad choices. Even she would admit that, Frankie knew, if anyone were to ask her about it. Frankie had spent a lot of time on her knees for her friend. Claudia’s response to the grief was to drink until the pain was numb. When the alcohol didn’t help, she turned to men for comfort. And now she was pregnant. That was probably the best thing that could have happened to her, since the pregnancy forced Claudia to give up on partying. Frankie was sure her friend would find the way back to God because of this baby. She thanked God for finding a way to get through to Claudia.
Things changed when Claudia told her parents about the pregnancy. Or maybe things did not change, and that was the problem. Frankie still didn’t get it. She looked at her son, still sleeping soundly on the end of the sofa. She knew in the years to come Clay was likely to make bad choices. She was sure he would even make some good choices that she just was not going to agree with. But she couldn’t imagine ever shutting him out of her life the way that Claudia had been shut out of her parents’ lives.
Knowing how Claudia was being treated made it almost impossible for Frankie to sit in that Bible study, listening to Lorna Davis talk about God’s love and forgiveness. She fully understood now what that camp evangelist had meant all those years ago. Reverend and Mrs. Davis sure did a lot of bragging about their good deeds and Christian life.
What they didn’t do was show Christ’s love in action.
“If that is what being a Christian really means,” Frankie whispered, setting her coffee mug back on the end table, “than I don’t think I want any part of it.” She closed her Bible, picked up the remote, and flipped on the TV.