Snared by the Internet

It started innocently—but before I knew it, my online relationship consumed my life.

As an administrative assistant for a public school, I was able to communicate with our different buildings through the district's e-mail system. When we connected with the Internet, we were strongly encouraged to test it out. The information highway beckoned me, and I hopped on.

Because I was attracted to anything related to courtroom trials, I decided to tap into an O.J. trial newsgroup that allowed me to check out comments about the trial. Most of the time I only read others' comments. But once, after posting one of my rare comments, a thoughtful, friendly e-mail message appeared in my computer "mail box." I replied to the sender, and thus began my odyssey.

My new e-mail pal, "Ed," was energetic and witty, just the thing I find attractive. Our initial discussions centered on the trial, but suddenly, at the end of one of his comments, came the statement, "Tell me about you!" I ignored the request—but it continued to come like a sticky note stuck at the end of each of his trial-related comments.

I pictured my e-mail friend as a twentysomething computer hacker with a penchant for trials, and reasoned that when I told him I was a born-again, single, middle-aged woman, that would be the end of his questions. "I like it!" was his reply. He too was middle-aged, he said, and married. His marital status brought me relief. My overly cautious imagination had been working overtime. He wasn't trying to hit on me after all. He only wanted to discuss the trial.

He seemed to want a friend. I learned he had been raised in a fundamental Christian home and could relate to my spiritual beliefs. I shared with him that I believed Jesus was the one and only Son of God and that by acknowledging my sins to God and receiving Jesus as my Savior, I was assured of eternal life in heaven. He said he had gone forward as a child many times, not to receive Jesus but to keep peace in his family. Ed said he didn't have a lot of use for God today, but he seemed eager to discuss spiritual things. I became convinced this was the purpose for this strange encounter. God's using me to offer him another chance for salvation, I thought.

My crusade began. Now we not only discussed the trial but also salvation, God's commandments, obedience, heaven, and almost without realizing it, biblical standards on sex. In a typical discussion he would ask how Jesus' resurrection could be proven—then, as I was composing an answer, Ed would send another e-mail, asking me what the Bible said about masturbation, followed by "Do you do that?"

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May 25

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