And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. Galatians 6:9
“I’m worried about Glen” said Joy, leaving her stool in the doorway and walking to the front window. She looked out at the empty sidewalk hoping to see his sturdy body chugging along as she had so many times. “He’s usually here by now. I wonder if he’s all right?”
“I’ve made some fresh coffee” said Sue, putting the little coffee measure into the can and setting the can on the shelf above the table in the back room. “You know how he likes to drink coffee and look out the window at the birds.”
“Maybe he’s busy teaching” said Gary from behind his Bible counter, “Or maybe he’s preparing his lessons up in his room?”
“It’s not that” said Joy returning to the big stool. “I mean even when he’s here he seems a little down. It’s not like him to be that way.”
“We all have our ups and downs” said Sue.
“Not Glen” said Gary. “If he’s down it must be more than a mood change. I talked with him about that once, how peoples’ moods swing.. He said “Swings are for kids, and I’m no kid any more.” So it must be something more than that..”
Sue unwrapped a little lamp shade for the light bulb on the wall sconce. She unwrapped the cellophane from the shade and crinkled it up before she dropped it into the waste can by Gary’s counter. “We used to leave it on” she said. “One time I brought a friend home from school and she saw we still had cellophane on our lampshades. She was so shocked, she told me how low class that was. I guess we were kind of out of it, culturally.”
She adjusted the shade so it cast light on the books in Glen’s “prophecy corner. “He hardly stands here any more” she said, wistfully. “I guess he’s read everything on the shelves.”
She looked out the window in the door. “Here he comes now!” she exclaimed. Glen walked slower than usual, with his hands thrust deep into his pockets. He looked as if he was lost in thought.
Soon he was at the door, jangling the little bell as he entered. He looked around the room at each of them and walked towards the chair by the coffee urn. Then he looked back. “Howdy” he said, almost as an afterthought. He sat down heavily by the window, looked out at the bird feeder for awhile, then poured out a cup of coffee but didn’t drink any.
“How’s it going, Glen” said Joy, turning on the stool to face him.
“Oh, it’s going” was all he said. Sue, Gary and Joy looked at one another but no one spoke.
Glen took a sip of his coffee as he looked out the window. “You ever notice how cheerful birds are?” he said. “Seems like they’re never down. You take those slate-colored juncos. They are so shy and quiet, but they always find something in all that dust, they just keep pecking away. I don’t know what they get. But they do alright, you know. They find enough to keep on going and then, early on, they take off for Canada. Ohio is like Florida to them, so much warmer, you know.” He put his cup down on the table and looked out at the birds again.
Sue took his words as a cue. “Maybe God made birds as a lesson for us” she said quietly. “I mean you never see a discouraged chickadee, little as they are.
I guess He is telling us not to give up, since they don’t.” Gary and Joy smiled at this. It was a good thought.
“Can’t argue with that” said Glen. “The lesson is there, alright. But sometimes doing it is hard, even when you know about it.”
“You left your notebook here said Joy. You left in such a hurry. You said your landlady had made a casserole and you didn’t want to miss it. So how was it?”
Glen was watching a downy woodpecker at the suet feeder. “You know they get so occupied you can walk right up to ‘em sometimes. They get lost in thought and don’t pay any attention.”
“Like somebody I know!” said Joy. “How was the casserole, Glen?”
“Oh” he said looking away from the window for a moment. “It was great. It was little pieces of beef on noodles with mushroom sauce. I told my landlady how good it was and how I appreciated her going to all the trouble making mushroom sauce. She just laughed. “A lot of trouble! I opened a can of cream of mushroom soup and mixed it in.”
“She won’t let anybody praise her” he said. “She’s Catholic, you know. I think she believes you need to be humble, somebody taught her that. It’s refreshing. Anyway, it was good. I like casseroles, you don’t have to use a knife. You just eat ‘em. You can read while you eat, they’re so easy”. He smiled at the thought. “C.S, Lewis said one of the great pleasures of life is reading while you eat.”
“I hope you don’t read while you eat at your landlady’s table” said Joy rather sharply.
“Oh, I tried it once and she gave me one of those looks”, Glen smiled. “I never did it again.” Sue walked to counter and picked up Glen’s notebook. “You left this here, last time.”she said. “I see you quit at number five. Did you mean to go on? You got us thinking” she looked at Joy and Gary. “You said you wanted to look at every place in the Bible that people quote to prove we have immortal souls.”
“Yeah, I did.” said Glen with an air of resignation. “But I’m not sure it will do any good.” It was so unusual to hear Glen speak this way. He was always so determined to pursue his course, and now he seemed to say he no longer cared.
“You know, that just doesn’t sound like you, Glen” said Joy with concern in her voice. “I’ve never heard you back off when you were making a point. Sometimes I wished you would!” she laughed ruefully,”but you never did. Now I hear you say you don’t care anymore.”
“Oh, I care” said Glen,”But I just wonder if anybody else does. All I do is turn people away. You know you can take people only so far, then you lose them.”
“You’re not afraid of losing your popularity?” asked Gary with a smile.
“Oh, I’ve never been popular!”Glen said “.Never cared if I was. It’s just that when you get into the issue of the immortal soul belief you lose people. I mean you are threatening something that means a lot to them and they don’t want to give it up. This stirs up something in people that is really fierce. They turn on you like you’re their enemy. They won’t listen to you, they won’t listen to the Word either.”
“I remember when I was just starting out in the faith” said Gary.
“When was that, six months ago?” said Joy. Gary ignored her. “I was afraid I would find out the Bible wasn’t really true. I was afraid to really trust in it, like in evolution and creation, stuff like that. I guess it must be the same with the immortal soul?”
“Only in the case of the immortal soul” said Glen. “People are afraid the Bible is right. I told you about how humble my landlady is, won’t accept any praise, and with her it is real. But most people, myself included, reach a point where they rebel. That’s why I feel it might not be a good idea to pursue this” he held up his little notebook, “when our pride is involved our minds shut down”.
“Why do you keep saying pride?” asked Joy. “Isn’t it just that most people believe the Bible teaches our souls are immortal? Why is that pride?”
“I told you” said Glen” that when you even dare question if we are immortal, people get really mad at you, I mean hateful! This is not a product of the Holy Spirit, this is just the flesh, and this is pride. I know, Joy, I felt it myself before I learned differently.”
“If this is true, and I’m not saying you are persuading me, then why don’t you want to keep pursuing it?” asked Joy.
“First of all” said Glen”I’m not trying to persuade you, or anyone else, Joy. I learned a long time ago that Bible teachers shouldn’t try to persuade people, try to think for them. So all I want to do is get people to just look at the scriptures and see if the scriptures will persuade them. But people won’t even look. You can have a discussion about any other doctrine, it seems, but not immortality. And that is the clue to me, when people refuse to even look.”
“Maybe they’re afraid?” said Sue. “Maybe they’re afraid to look?” Glen smiled up at Sue, She had her own wisdom and he respected her for it.
“You are right, Sue” Glen said, “I believe people are afraid. And that’s why I’m not sure I should even try to bring up the idea that we are just clay, animated by the Spirit of God. People don’t want to hear it. I went through all that, I was a hard fish to land, but if you really look at the Bible, every place where our true nature is talked about, you’ll see. And when you do see, it humbles you and makes you more grateful than ever for the miracle of the resurrection.”
They were all quiet for a time, then Gary spoke. “When I bring it up”, Joy looked at him sharply, but he continued, “people say, ‘Do you mean to tell me my mother is not in heaven!’ What can I tell them? If she was a believer she will be, as we all will.”
“I know what you mean” said Glen. “If people won’t even look, what’s the use?”
Sue walked to the coat rack and reached into the pocket of her little blue coat. “In case you change your mind” she said, “we have some more scriptures for your list.”
Glen looked at the piece of paper Sue handed to him. Glen looked around the room, then back at the list. “Thank you all” he said, “It really encourages me that you would do this” he held up the pad. He looked at Joy,” I know you don’t believe as I do, Joy”.
“I want the truth too” she said.
“I know you do” said Glen and this is how we arrive at it, looking at every verse.” He looked at the first entry on the list:
5. The thief on the cross, Luke 23:43, paradise.
“This is a deep one” he said. “I learned so much studying on this.
Jesus says “paradise”. Paradise is only mentioned three times in the whole Bible.” Glen looked down the list they had made for him and his eyes were wet with tears.
“You know,” he said, until we go to heaven with Jesus, the Oak Street Bible Shop is paradise for me.”