Early one afternoon I received a call from Glen’s landlady. I
was alarmed as she had never called before and there was the thought that something had happened to my old friend.
“Could you drop in on him and talk to him”, she asked, I’m really concerned about his health and his attitude. Something is bothering him and he won’t say what it is.”
Shortly after I was at the door and she opened it with a look of anxiety that alarmed me. “Before you go up, I just want to say that he needs to stay in bed. I think he is resting and then I hear him get up at any time of the day or night, moving around in his room.”
“Another thing, you know how he loves those grilled cheese sandwiches. Well, I made one for him yesterday and when I went up to get his dishes he hadn’t even finished it! Half of it was on his plate. He asked me if I would put it out for the birds to eat..”
“I told him I didn’t think birds would eat cheese but he asked me to put it out for them anyway.”
I turned to go up the steps and she added, “Oh, and please tell him that two starlings did eat that half of his sandwich.”
I walked up the stairs and down the hall to his room. The door was partly open and I could see Glen lying on his cot reading.
I knocked on the door and he spoke without looking up, “Come in, come in!” When he saw that it was me, he started to rise. I waved him down.
“I thought it was my landlady coming to check on me. She worries about me, bless her.”
I explained that she was concerned over his health and restlessness and so was I. He put his book aside and sat up in bed. He looked gaunt and strained. He had a stubble of gray whiskers on his usually clean shaven face.
“Guess it’s accurate to say I have been a little restless of late, but for good reason. I have reached the point where I feel compelled to say something about this holiday business.”
I remembered how he always said we are not to fret about the world and its follies, and told him so.
“You’re right, you’re right” he spoke with his old vigor, “Don’t think I’m turning into some kind of reformer. It’s just that I really hate to see the church mixing this holiday garbage in with our faith. That’s where I draw the line.”
“Let me show you something”, he threw off his blanket and sat up. He wore his khaki pants and a blue shirt with the tail hanging out. He reached out to put on some felt slippers. “She bought these for me. Afraid I would catch cold.” ‘If your going to be up and walking around all the time, put these on’ she told me, so I do.”
He tried to rise unsteadily and sank back down. I was alarmed to see how weak he was. He tried a second time then rose and walked to a table covered with papers. He turned on two pole lights and motioned me to a chair. “What do you think of this!” He placed a card with a cover of a Christianity Today magazine taped to it. The cover illustration showed Santa Claus, arms outstretched, tied to a cross with strings of Christmas tree lights. Santa’s head was bowed apparently in death. Glen pointed to the lights. “Look, they’re lit! Kind of a nice touch don’t you think.”
The bitter tone of his voice upset me, it was not his usual gentle manner of speech. Then, with a flourish, he placed an art poster atop the image of Santa. “This one really amazes me,” he said with enthusiasm. “You know those little shops that sell paraphanalia, pipes and stuff. I don’t know what you call them, but you know.” I nodded and he went on.
Well I saw one at the mall and was looking at a decal in its window. It turned out to be the rose window of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. I asked the young man behind the counter what it was for. He told me you meditate by looking at it. Its symmetry is supposed to sooth people with jangled up minds. I told him that must be a lot of people.
He and his customers looked kind of nervous. Guess they wondered what an old guy like me was doing in there. Then I started looking through a bunch of art prints they had in a rack. That’s where I found this.” He touched the drawing. It showed a traditional image of a tomb such as Christ had been buried in. The great stone door had been rolled away, and out of the opening hopped the Easter Bunny with a basket of eggs on his arm! It really hit me, these alternative culture people saw right through what we Christians tolerate without a thought! I was so happy to find this I bought it without delay.”
He placed the two illustrations side by side. “I was thinking, you’re a teacher, don’t you think I could use these two to illustrate just how off the mark we are when we mix paganism with the pure truth of the Bible?”
What could I say to my old friend? I was so sad to see his bitter spirit even though I knew from where it sprang.
Glen sensed my disapproval. After a long silence he spoke. “I’m over the edge aren’t I? I’m the one who always said, Don’t rage against error, just teach the truth so people can see it for themselves. Now I have turned from being a teacher to being a scold.”
There was an awkward silence, he had made the point I had wanted to say, and I was glad for that. I spoke after a time. “Your friend asked me to tell you that two starlings ate the sandwich half she set out for them.”
His eyes lit up. “Good for them.” I’m so glad they didn’t let it go to waste. Starlings will eat anything, bless them. He paused and then added, Roger Tory Petersen’s Field Guide says, they are the only black bird with a yellow beak, that’s how to tell them.”
He was silent for a time. “Do you think my mind is going?” he spoke with uncharacteristic anxiety.
“No, I don’t Glen,” I told him, “But I do think you are eaten up by your concern that the church prefers error to simple Bible truth. But I worry that you are trying to correct a condition that you know will occur no matter what we do. Your field is prophecy, you know what I mean.”
He reflected a moment before he spoke.
In the latter days some will depart from the faith.
How can I forget what that great man of the Word said? Guess you know I just wanted to do something to try to fight it.”
You told me many times, Glen. God does not call us to be successful, he calls us to be faithful.
He sat down on his little bed, took off his slippers and lay down. He covered himself with his blanket and looked up at me. “I am really glad you dropped by and heard me out. You’re right of course, we shouldn’t worry about stuff like I was, we should just do our job.”
I turned to leave. “Glen spoke once more, “Tell her next time she makes me a sandwich I’ll eat all of it.”