Web writes: "Myself and wife Norma are lay leaders in our church, but I have friends and colleagues in other denominations and realize there are moments when they need help, too."
Today—as grim as it turned out to be—had been the day. I had looked forward to it.
You see, I—Gilbert Smith a lay leader in a Gresham-area Presbyterian church—was going to visit Trembley, a man I truly respected and loved.
I have been a Presbyterian most of my life. Trembley, a Lutheran. But I didn’t give a whit. Because basically I have always been an ecumenist.
In other words, it had never mattered to me what brand of Christian one was. The important thing was that he would be a Christian. That he would be willing—yay eager— to take God’s word for everything. Even though, I have had my own problems with the Bible, I have always believed “the word” as God would direct it.
My problem has been that I have often viewed part of the Bible as
allegory. For example, it has been hard for me to consider the Garden of Eden, with man, woman, and the snake.
Oh, I have always believed that mankind had sinned greatly, but it has been hard for me to imagine that it all had pivoted on one such garden event. I also believed I could be wrong. It’s just been hard for me to imagine.
Like all humans, my vision has been and still is limited. What’s more, I would not have had it any other way. I’d hate to think I have everything figured out… that I have all the answers. Because what a sorry state the world would be in, if I did. Scary.
I need someone like God and his son to set me straight. I am very pleased with that. ‘Tis comforting. Moreover, it helps me bring some light to the person not yet converted.
Like I stated above, today (a Wednesday) I intended to visit Trembley—that is, the Rev. Trembley Henderson, pastor of St. Mark’s.
I did what most people would do—drove half way across town, found the church, and its driveway. Took that lane out back to where there is a gravel parking lot shaded by some wonderful cedars.
I mused: Ah, the Cedars of Lebanon.
I shoved aside my Russian language muttering and knowledge of my once brief sojourn with the Eastern Orthodox Church and its wonderful people, as I braved my way in the side door.
Once in the hallway, I went straight to Trembley’s room.. I didn’t check in with the front office, did not pass go, did not collect any $200.
Just went straight to Trembley’s domain.
As I entered, Trembley rose to meet me. But wait a minute! There was something terribly wrong. Trembley did not look good. Usually cheerful as a perkey, grinning cheerleader, he at that moment had a hanged-dog look.
I could tell he had not had much sleep and had been crying.
“Trembley, what’s wrong?”
“Oh, never mind. Come on in. Have a seat. I’ve been looking forward to this visit.” He now beamed.
However, it was difficult for me to get beyond his initial sad countenance. So I hemmed, hawed and badgered. Every so often I would return to asking him what was going on in his church or in his life.
I had known him for several years—since when we both were members of a Rotary club. We both dropped away from the club and the club eventually folded. However, we still visited occasionally.
Like two Sundays ago, his two daughters—with splendid, thrilling voices—, sang with our choir in our church service. Moreover, he showed up as their support. He was fine then, Perhaps a little wistful—he had just announced his retirement several weeks hence—and it was beginning to work on his morale a little. Yet, he was reasonably gleeful and awfully glad to see me.
This time when I went to visit him, however, something definitely was out of round. His demeanor was more out of whack than a blown-out tire; flatter than cigarette paper mashed into a wet cement sidewalk.
Through extensive questioning and diligent conversation, I learned that his wife was terminally ill with Alzheimer’s, in a hospital’s rest home, and unable to recognize anyone, including him and his children.
Last week there had been a family meeting on what to do about his wife, Helen. It ended in severe disagreements and discord with a lot of hard feelings between family members. His two daughters a few days later, told him they had decided to abandon the church.
His wife’s illness plus his impending retirement in two weeks, plus his daughters’ decision to not only quit his church but avoid all Christian churches, was just too much for Trembley to bare alone.
It indeed looked like the end. He needed a friend to talk to. That’s perhaps why somebody upstairs—we know who—guided me to him.
Now, I had a fist full of questions about the Bible and the whole Judeo-Christian story, and was prepared to ask Trembley to help me clear my confusion and square my thinking.
But things were so horrible in his life, I was reluctant to ask. However, in discussing his situation along with my confusion, some of it came out, anyway.
After an hour and a half I had to leave, I departed with the assurance that at least some of the Bible (the Old Testament being a history of the Jewish people in their relationship to God) could be considered allegory. However, it came to me that the Christian spirit is more than just a spirit but a living reality, whether people chose to believe it or not.
Moreover, through our conversation he said, “It is difficult for people in Western civilization to believe in the Garden-of-Eden story.” He also offered that God, Christianity, and the afterlife comprise a mystery. And that we will never figure it all out. We just have to have faith that God is in control, and that God is perfect.
We, of course, talked about Trembley’s situation. Sure, it was terribly depressing. But I think Trembley thought better of things after talking about them, We agreed that God is in control.
Afterward as I drove homeward, a feeling came over me that ministers of the faith are humans like the rest of us, and there are times when they, too, have depressing doubts and need a little help from others.
All I can say now looking back on it is I am glad we had that visit. And my guess is more are sure to come.
(© 2013 Web Ruble – All rights reserved. Written material may not be duplicated without permission.)