When Devon got home he decided that he had to tell Jessica what had happened. He had not even spoken to her since Monday morning, before he had spoken with Pastor Benson. He thought it would be best to tell her in person instead of on the phone. On the way over to her apartment he felt extremely nervous and more terrified then he had ever been in his life. He didn’t know whether she would want to slug him or to slam the door in his face. One thing was for sure, their engagement would be over, he was certain of that. Jessica loved him he knew, but she was also very no-nonsense: when she found out that he had taken pictures with two of his ex-girlfriends naked, she would definitely break it off with him. When Jessica opened the door she was almost frightened by the look on Devon’s face.
“Hi honey,” she said with a smile. “What’s wrong? You sounded horrible on the phone and now you look even worse then you sounded.”
“Jess”, he began hesitating with his words. “Yesterday, Pastor Benson was waiting for me when I got to my office to show me some extremely sexually explicit pictures of me and Michele, plus another woman named Megan, who is another one of my ex-girlfriends. When Pastor Benson showed me the pictures I couldn’t believe it. I had never seen them before, I don’t know who took them but all I know is that in no way, at no time, did I do what the pictures imply that I had.”
Devon took a look at Jessica. Instead of the anger and shame that Devon had expected to see on Jessica’s face, he saw her head in her hands and she burst into tears. It was worse than he thought, anger and hatred would be easier to bear but he couldn’t stand to see Jessica crying so bitterly. He got up from the couch where they were both seated, fearing that she would want to punch him after she had been crying.
“I know what this means” he said, “and I don’t blame you at all. Just know this: you are the greatest blessing that’s ever come into my life and I would never do anything to intentionally hurt you. I will love you forever and maybe one day we can look past this and be friends, even if it’s just on a casual basis.”
"Devon” she said through her tears. “Come sit down here. Are those pictures real?” Jessica looked him right in the eyes. “Tell me, did you do it?”
“Jessica, I didn’t do it.”
At that moment Jessica was sure that Devon was being totally honest with her. Looking into his eyes had convinced her right away that he was innocent. Something also happened in that moment that had not occurred before in their relationship. Devon collapsed into tears on Jessica’s shoulder and it was as if, with both of them sobbing heavily in each other’s arms, the Lord was allowing them to not only comfort each other but also to gain strength and intimacy with him as well. After the crying was over Devon lifted his head and sighed, his face still stained with tears.
“I don’t know why Michele would want to hurt me; I’ve done nothing to her.”
“We’ve done nothing to her,” Jessica corrected. “This is my problem too, remember.”
“You mean you still want to marry me?”
“Of course,” she smiled. “I love you too much to let you go, you’re stuck with me forever.”
“I should warn you that there’s going to be a lot of unfavorable things said about me at the church, probably about you too, if you stay with me.”
“I love you and, most importantly, I believe the accusations against you are false. I saw that in your face before you broke down. Whatever it takes, just know that I’m here and I will stand by you and we will ride through this mess together.” Soon after those words were said Devon left Jessica’s apartment and headed to his car, relieved that his visit had gone better than he had even hoped it would.
By the following week news of the photos had spread throughout the congregation. When Devon walked in with Jessica on his arm on Sunday morning, people all had different reactions. Some turned away while others snickered or were angry. Anyone walking into the room would have thought that Devon had committed a murder and that Jessica was his accomplice. Being from such a large congregation Devon had thought that he, Jessica and Pastor Benson could deal with this matter privately, but it now seemed that this was not going to be possible. After service usually everyone would greet the couple, but today no one did; every time Jessica or Devon would go to greet someone they would either make some excuse or give them a weak handshake and hurry off.
On Monday Devon received the first of many email messages saying that he should get out of town and Jessica should find someone who was decent and didn’t sleep around on her. That was the nicest email he received for the entire week. Some of them went so far as to say that he should be shot for what he had done. All of the letters were from former friends and people in their congregation and he soon started getting emails from members and even pastors from other congregations, that were just as hateful and mean-spirited as the ones from his own congregation. Out of all the letters and emails, not one was positive spreading love or support.
Devon was lying in bed at night and he prayed,
“Lord, why are they doing this to me? People that used to laugh and smile with me now hate me. I didn’t do anything wrong, in fact this all happened because I did the right thing. I don’t know how long I can go on like this. Right now I’m afraid to leave my apartment because who knows, somebody might take a baseball bat to my head and beat me.“
At that moment all the hurt and all the anger that had been boiling over for the past few weeks came to a head. Devon started pounding his pillow so hard that soon all the down that was in it started exploding out and then, when he couldn’t pound it anymore, he threw it against the wall. He looked around his room and saw the certificate that he had received when he became youth leader. Without thinking he darted from his bed, yanked the certificate off the wall and smashed it onto the floor. He did the same to all of his volunteer plaques and certificates that he had received for volunteering in various ministries. Then he went to his desk drawer that was on the other side of his room, got the scissors and started cutting up every picture of every church function he could find. All the memories and the joy they had shared with church brothers and sisters in an instant were shreds of paper in the garbage can.
After Devon had cleaned up the mess he had made, he collapsed on his bed in tears.
“Why why why?” he screamed at the top of his lungs. Just then the phone rang.
“Hello?” Devon said, still with tears on his face.
“Dev, its me” a familiar voice said on the other line.
“Hi honey” he replied.
”Babe, I think we need to leave and find another place to worship. This morning I came outside and my car tires were slashed.”
“You heard me, they were slashed. I had to take the bus to work this morning.“
“Why would someone do that? The problem is with me, not you. Why would someone want to hurt you, I don’t know. Have you tried calling the police?”
“I have, but since I don’t know who did it, they can’t do anything. I can’t even begin to narrow down the list, there are so many people out to get the two of us that it could be anyone.” And then she noticed a little tremor in Devon’s voice as if he had been crying.
“Are you alright?” she asked concerned.
“Yeah, I’m fine, I just don’t understand how people that don’t even know the truth can treat us so badly. These are people that used to be our friends and I thought that they would always help us.”
“I know,” Jessica agreed. “It’s awful. Even if you did have an affair it isn’t anybody else’s business except ours. It would be up to you, me and the Father as to how we worked it out.”
“You know, when I wasn’t saved and I got into trouble, my friends were there for me. They would take a bat to anyone’s head if I asked them to. It’s getting so hard knowing that people are saying stuff about us behind our backs and we can’t do anything to stop them. The one question I have is about the wedding. Although everyone else has been hurtful to us, Pastor Benson has been great throughout all this. I don’t know how many times he’s had to drag somebody into his office to reprimand them has just plain told them that they had to leave if they were going to talk that way about us. Since this has happened he has done countless sermons and talks on brotherly love and covering someone when they fall, but he can’t keep doing it or else he’s going to lose all his members and it would partly be our fault.”
“I agree: Pastor has been amazing. He has stuck by us through it all, it’s true.”
Devon cleared his throat. “What do you think of Pastor Benson doing the ceremony before we leave with just our family members, since all of our friends have turned their backs on us?”
“I think that’s a wonderful idea,” Jessica agreed. The next morning Devon told Pastor that he was leaving and that he and Jessica wanted him to perform their ceremony. It was a bittersweet moment for Pastor Benson: saying goodbye to Devon and Jessica would be difficult because he had looked upon them as a son and daughter, but there would also be the pleasure of joining them as man and wife.
“I would be honored.” Pastor Benson and Devon embraced. A month later, with their families looking on, Jessica and Devon became Mr. and Mrs. Morris. Since there were only about twenty people at the wedding, most of them being close family members, the couple did not bother to have a wedding reception. Devon and Jessica met in Pastor Benson’s office for the last time.
“I’m so proud of you two and let me give my apologies on behalf of the congregation and others whose behavior is despicable. Let me promise that I will continue talking to them about their behavior long after you have gone.”
“Thank you so much” Jessica said, reaching out her hands for a hug. ”We really appreciate all you’ve done for us. We will never forget you.”
“You’re welcome,” Pastor Benson laughed before saying, “And take care of him for me. Make sure he doesn’t get into trouble and if he does, you know where to find me!”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Jessica said, smiling and crying at the same time.
“What can I say? There is so much,” Devon began. “Without you, only the Lord knows where I would be. You have been my mentor, friend, Pastor, and most importantly my brother, and for that I will always be grateful. In fact, without you in my life, I doubt I’d be married to this beautiful intelligent young woman standing beside me today.”
Devon looked over at Jessica and smiled. “Thank you for everything and remember, if you need anything, anything at all, don’t hesitate to call.”
Now it was Pastor Benson’s turn to speak.
“What do I say?” he began. “The two of you have been saying how much I’ve added to your lives. Well, you’ve added just as much or even more to mine. Just in the past few months alone you have shown more strength than I see in some people over a lifetime. Continue to be friends, continue to love each other, continue to stand by each other. May the Lord bless you and your children and your children’s children. I’ll be praying for you.” Jessica and Devon hugged Pastor Benson and, with all three of them crying, the newlyweds left the office