SEPT / OCT 2017: BY JESSICA PRESCOTT
How old were you when you first realized good people do bad things?
Call me a late bloomer, but I was eighteen.
I was savoring my last summer before college; doing the thing I loved most in the whole world: reading. I was in the middle of a 600-page Western military epic called A Distant Trumpet, by Paul Horgan, and my precious, darling hero—Second Lieutenant Matthew Carlton Hazard—had just finished cheating on his fiancée by committing adultery with another officer’s wife.
Talk about a wake-up call, folks.
Not that I didn’t realize stuff like this ever happens in the real world. I wasn’t quite that naïve. Yet, somehow, I’d always imagined that such grave evil was the sole province of … well, bad people. People who spent their whole lives doing evil rather than good; people whom you could just take one glance at and “know” you shouldn’t trust. And Matthew Hazard didn’t seem to fit that description. He was kind, caring, diligent, brave—someone I admired; someone I loved, even. He’d always done the right thing … or tried to, anyway … even when it was hard … and now here he was, breaking every promise he’d ever made his girlfriend and helping another woman break her promises to her spouse. It was a little much for eighteen-year-old me to handle. I almost stopped reading, to be honest. I had never felt so betrayed by a book or an author; and, even worse, I had never felt so confused.
At this point, another character caught my eye: the wife of Matthew’s commanding officer; who, in the midst of all this moral disarray, stepped in and began quietly working behind the scenes to put matters right. She did not choose to condemn; she did not choose to condone; she simply reached out a hand to help both the guilty parties heal the damage they’d caused. Even when I, as the reader, had lost almost all faith in Matthew’s story, she never lost her own faith. She saw good remaining in him, despite his very real flaws, and set to work to salvage that good.
Her name was Jessica Dryden Prescott; and I have never forgotten her.
I’d be hard-pressed to come up with a fictional character who’s taught me more. Jessica Prescott’s story gave me my first glimpse into the true nature of human evil—it’s not something you can hide from, and it’s not something you should hide from. Even when you surround yourself with good people, those good people are going to disappoint you. They’re going to fall short of your expectations. They’re going to break your heart, maybe. To put it bluntly, they’re going to do bad things, and they won’t be alone in that, because you might do bad things, too. None of us are perfect and none of us are immune from sin.
And yet, as Jessica Prescott taught me, we don’t have to let the power of evil overwhelm us. We don’t have to let it destroy our faith in humanity … or in God. On the contrary, when we stumble, when we fall, when we lose our way—that’s the time to take a deep breath, get back on our feet, and try again. And to help others do the same.
That takes strength.
It takes strength to look the darkness, the ugliness, of our society straight in the face and still search for the light. It takes strength to admit humans are truly evil, yet still believe humans can be truly good. It takes strength to follow God in a fallen world. It takes strength to be a woman like Jessica Dryden Prescott—which is why I dream of one day being like her. I’m not there yet; but I started when I was eighteen and I’m still trying.
I even use her name as my pseudonym … maybe that’ll help.
I can always hope.