Ashlyn Forsyth believes she and her husband have come to idyllic St. Simons Island to restore romance to their flagging marriage. Then, without warning, Craig hands Ashlyn, divorce papers. In shock, Ashlyn watches him drive off with a female colleague from his office. She soon discovers he is being pursued by the Russian mafia and investigated by the FBI for money-laundering.
Abandoned on St. Simons Island, Ashlyn faces not only emotional turmoil but financial ruin, the shipwreck of her career, harassment by the FBI, and pursuit by the Russian mafia. Even as her ordered life plunges into chaos, she finds herself increasingly attracted to Remy Jeandeau, a shrimp boat captain.
Will she find the spiritual resources needed to overcome adversity? Will attraction blossom into romance?
Craig and I were standing in the congregation at First Baptist Church on St. Simons Island, Georgia, singing when he stopped and handed me a sealed envelope.
“What’s this?” I whispered as I turned to him, but he was already striding up the aisle towards the exit.
My stomach knotted, the bulky envelope growing heavy in my hand. I stared at it, unthinking, and then glanced at the heavy oak doors. Craig was gone.
Forcing my mind to focus on something other than the confusion and dread swimming through my head, I realized that the music had stopped and I was the only one standing. With a flush creeping up my neck, I grabbed my purse and fled. Fortunately, this wasn’t our home congregation in New York where everyone knew us.
Outside, I caught sight of Craig getting into a silver sedan. I peered at the driver. A woman. Marlee, one of the investment advisors in his firm? What was she doing here?
Marlee stared at me over her shoulder, grimaced, and then hit the gas. The wheels kicked up gravel as she accelerated out of the parking lot.
I stared after them with my mouth open until the fluttering clouds of Spanish moss hanging from the ancient oaks hid them from view.
I gazed at the envelope, and then jammed it in my purse. No need to read it—yet. Instinct told me what it contained.
Sorry, Ashlyn, but this is not working. I’ve tried, but I just don’t love you anymore. I want a divorce. Blah, blah, blah.
Our attempt to recover what we’d lost by spending two weeks on romantic St. Simons Island had failed. Was this it, then? Twenty-one years and two kids meant nothing? How would I explain to Tiffany and Tyler?
Something black and terrible began to gnaw at my insides as I searched the parking lot for our car. Tears coursed down my face. At least he left the car.
I fumbled in my purse for the keys, opened the door, and jumped in. Skidding out of the parking lot, I drove with one hand and pounded the dashboard with the other. The arrogant brute. A dear-John letter during a church service. Real macho. Well, two could play at that game. If he thought I’d just roll over and play dead, he was sadly mistaken. I’d make him regret this day.
Gritting my teeth and swiping at the tears I couldn’t quell, I drove without thought while rage ricocheted inside me. When I ran out of road, I screeched to a halt, slammed the door and set off down the beach. Oblivious of cruising terns and diving pelicans, I walked aimlessly on the hard sand kicking every shell I saw, imagining it was Craig’s vaunted manhood.
In spite of my attempts to avoid softer patches, the heels of my Sunday pumps sank into the sand, and I tumbled backwards. For a few minutes I lay there, not caring about the effect ocean water would have on my best dress. Then I sat up, slipped off my pumps and stared at them.
Aren’t heels archaic anyway; as archaic as marriage? As outmoded as promises—’til death do us part, for better or worse, in sickness and in health? Is that what I am, prehistoric? The model Christian wife; gentle, obedient, faithful? Well if I get my hands on him again, I’ll show him how gentle I am—and how faithful.
Tears began to stream down my face anew. I thought of all the advice I’d given clients in my family therapy practice. Just be patient with one another. Hah. Forgive one another. Double hah. Not so easy now to spout glib clichés about being forgiving.
As I sat there in the damp sand feeding my rage, the scrape of a beach chair on a deck made me aware of how strange I must appear from the cottages fronting the ocean. Grasping my shoes in one hand, I leapt to my feet and set off barefoot down the beach.
I must have walked for miles, oblivious to my surroundings until I found myself on a wooden pier staring at the water swirling at my feet. How had my life come to this? The face that stared up at me looked otherworldly, a phantom with red-rimmed brown eyes, wild fawn-colored hair, and a brooding mouth. I reached up to touch the mole on my left cheek—to see if it was really pulsating or just a trick of light. I shivered.
“Are you all right, ma’am?” The shout woke me from my brooding.
I became aware of the reek of fish and the shrieks of seagulls wheeling overhead. I frowned as other sounds pierced my consciousness: the creak of ropes, the scrape of metal, the lapping of waves. I turned towards the voice. “What?”
Two piercing, sapphire eyes set in a leathery face looked down on me from the deck of a shrimp boat.
My mouth fell open. What was I doing here?
“Please ma’am, move back from the edge of the dock. It’s dangerous with the tide coming in so strongly.”
I stared at my bare feet. They curled over the very edge of the dock. I swayed. A hand reached out and grabbed my arm, pulling me back from the brink.
I turned towards the man who had jumped down on the dock to keep me from falling.
“I’m sorry. I was distracted...thank you.”
The man who held my arm in his massive, calloused hand had bushy brows and a stubbly, creased face. He wore a captain’s hat perched on sun-bleached hair. My nose wrinkled at the pungent odor of fish that wafted from his boat.
He dropped my arm and moved back a step. “I thought you’d fall. The water here in the sound is treacherous.”
I reached up and patted my windblown hair. “My mind was on some…some bad news.”
He cocked his head to one side and squinted at me. “Are you sure you’ll be all right? I can drive you back to your hotel.”
“No, no, I’m fine.” I grimaced. “Although I must be a sight.”
He crossed his muscled arms over his faded gingham shirt. “A sight? You are that; right perty.”
I looked down, and then turned away and headed back up the pier as a flush began to creep up my neck for the second time that day.
Question 1: In short order Ashlyn lost her credit cards, bank accounts, car, home and husband. Why do bad things happen to Christians?
Answer 1: Answer: Bad things happen to Christians because we, like everyone, live in a fallen, sinful world full of selfish and many cruel people. Terrible things happened to Job, although he did not deserve them. Paul, although one of the greatest and most godly men, wrote:
Question 2: Ashlyn went from being a highly respected and in-demand professional counselor to being the waitress in a small restaurant. As she got to know her new colleagues, Lottie Jane, Claude—the cook—, she realized she'd felt superior to those in the serving professions. Do we treat lawyers, doctors, financial consultants, pastors better than waiters, farmers, factory workers, mechanics, plumbers, etc.? How does God think of them? How can we avoid snobbery?
Answer 2: Society seems to exalt certain professions above others. It is our fallen nature to think highly of ourselves, to be proud, and to look down on others. If we're not careful we will absorb that attitude instead of the attitude of Christ.
Question 3: As a separated woman, Ashlyn was afraid of being gossiped about, looked down on, and ignored by her home church. How can we create a welcoming atmosphere in a church for divorced women, single moms, etc.
Answer 3: We need to remind ourselves of Jesus treatment of the woman caught in adultery, of Mary Magdalene, and of the demoniac. If possible we should encourage groups to minister to the divorced, single mothers, etc. We should endeavor to include them in our events and in our own hospitality. If Jesus can forgive a woman caught in the very act of adultery, who are we to reject forgiveness. We should hate the hypocrisy that makes us think certain overt sins are blacker than the hidden sins of pride, gossip, lying, pilfering from work, making inaccurate statements on income tax, hating people, or being prejudiced about certain races or classes. We must ask God to help us to look at others as he does. Does he accept them into his kingdom? Then we must too.
Question 4: Did Ashlyn have biblical grounds for divorce; for remarriage?
Answer 4: Answer: Since her husband Craig committed adultery with his colleague, Marlee, Ashlyn has biblical grounds for divorce.
Question 5: To avoid the boomerang effect of linking up with another romantic partner during a time of vulnerability, how long should the innocent party in a divorce, or an abandoned person allow for grieving before dating again?
Answer 5: This is difficult to gauge, but wisdom indicates that one should not become romantically entangled while one is still grieving a breakdown in marriage. Surely, at least six months or a year, hopefully more, should elapse before one begins to consider another romance. It would be wise for the divorced party to seek the counsel and fellowship of a close same-sex friend who can see things more objectively.
Question 6: What can we do to encourage people such as Ashlyn?
Answer 6: We all need encouragement.
Question 7: Why should we rarely say,
Answer 7: This may be a cliché that will sound jarring to the person, unless we have really gone through similar circumstances. Better to say something like,