“Not evil for evil.”
This is a response, rather than a summary, or a review.
A few days ago my mom told me about a conversation she had with a woman who goes to her women’s Bible study group. My mom has been looking to give away my brother and sisters guinea pigs because she and my brother are allergic to them and my sister is the only one who can take care of them. She asked the women if her children could have the guinea pigs. The woman laughed as she told about the fate of their gerbils which she ultimately had given to a boy who kept reptiles. The gerbils that once were pets, became food. When my mom told the woman that my brother and sister would not handle their pets becoming a meal for those reptiles well, the woman referred to my brother and sister and “wusses” and “sissies”. My mom simply replied, “Compassionate.” Coincidently, the same woman has admitted before that her children have a constant spiritual battle and that her daughter is very mean. My immediate response to hearing this story was “how dare she say such a thing!” But I was very proud of my mom’s one word response. My brother and sister are, indeed, compassionate. This may have set some people off on a rant about the food chain and how rodents are food for reptiles anyway, and I understand. However, would you eat your family dog? I doubt it. The reason I bother to share this story of my mom’s conversation is because this happened in the same week I was given a book, which I now treasure as one of my favorites: “The Immortal Nicholas” by Glenn Beck.
To give a summary of this book will give away spoilers no matter how I go about sharing. I am generally the type of person that can estimate the plot, the ending, and who is going to die only to be right and get really frustrated that I was right. I will say, for “The Immortal Nicholas” I was enthralled the whole time, and did not predict any of the events. This well told story is simple enough to read to a child, and yet profound enough that as an adult, I was drawn to tears in many situations. I hope to read this to my younger siblings soon, as it is a tale they could greatly learn from, though it be a work of fiction. We never did the whole “Santa Claus” thing with them in order to focus on Jesus and the story and celebration of his birth. However, they have also been taught the traditional story of how St. Nicholas really was a man who would fill needy children’s stockings with food and toys for them to find in the morning, which is why many parents and grandparents tell their children their gifts are from Santa. (If you don’t give them some sort of Santa explanation, they will be that child that goes around telling everyone “my mom and my big sister say Santa isn’t real!”)
I wondered from the beginning where Nicholas was going to even come in and how his tale and Jesus’ could be intertwined. No, I’m not telling, but I will say that it is worth finding out. The immortal aspect of St. Nick is something many have tried to explain through a wide number of stories, only to lead to nonsensical ways new people become Santa or unlikely explinations for his immortality. This includes the story of Krampus, who is a lovable character and not a monster. This story that begins in loss, death, and mourning turns into a humbling tale of forgiveness and giving. Compassion. This leads me to another word which describes my ultimate response to this book. A word that many refuse to understand, and that frightens those that do because it requires a response, and that response is usually to change something about ourselves or something we are doing. It is conviction. There are a few definitions of this word. It could mean to be found guilty of a crime or wrongdoing, or it could mean “the feeling of being sure that what you believe or say is true”, as described on Merriam-Webster.com. As complicated as it can be for a person to explain the feeling of conviction rather than the act of having been convicted, it is actually a very simple thing. It is similar to the feeling that keeps my brother and sister from being okay with feeding their guinea pigs to snakes. The internal revelation of right and wrong. I believe that this is what the main character, Agios, went through during the story. After losing his wife and children, even with the feeling of guilt and worthlessness, he found reasons to keep living in the memory of his son. Though he lost each person he found to live for, even Jesus, there was some feeling of purpose.
With the many burdens Agios faced, he thought himself “cursed.” But, he was told he was blessed! I often wondered as a follower of Christ, how in the world could there have been people that saw Jesus’ works and experienced the miracles still have doubted. And yet it is written in our Bible of the people who called His works witchcraft and blasphemy. I wonder, if I had seen from the sidelines and traveled along with the followers, what would I have thought? I only know that from my own experiences, I have to believe. I am just glad it took me only the first 12 years of my life, and not 300. In the search for forgiveness it is easy to lose site of one simple truth: God forgave you first. Forgave, past-tense. It happened already before you even sought to ask for forgiveness, before you even realized that you needed it. What a revelation! This is something I already knew, that many Christians already knew, but until it is experienced and needed it is left on the back burner. How sad for something so important, to be forgotten. Jesus walked this earth healing and forgiving, and yet his simple teachings are so complex for many adults to understand. In this situation, Agios is someone many can relate to. I can’t think of a person who hasn’t battled with themselves over past tragedies and wondered what in the world they had to do to earn back their lives. To be worthy. The answer to battling the terrible memories and guilt is found only through the eyes of a child.
While I do not have my own children, I am 13 years older than my younger sister and my brother is one year younger than her. I have helped take care of them from the time they existed. I have also worked as a teachers aid, and even taught in a private school. Every time the allusion of a child came about in “The Immortal Nicholas”, there was always a child in mind. Even with Krampus. I remember a little girl with down syndrome in the PE class I aided for. For the first several weeks, it felt like she simply did not like me. Until one day, she was sitting on the floor, gesturing her little hands around and working on something very diligently. The other teacher who knew her better told me, “She’s making soup.” When the girl was done, she cupped one hand for a bowl, and used her other as a pretend ladle. Then she walked up to me with her hands out, the biggest smile on her face, and said, “Here, soup.” Children often leave me with wondering, “why do I make things so complicated?” In the end, the simplest things in life can lead us out of the darkness, and into the light.
Left with the imagery of snowy mountains, tall trees, and the winter setting in, I closed “The Immortal Nicholas” and went on to sort through my thoughts and come to a conclusion for my response. I was reminded of a conversation I had with me little brother when he was eight. I was driving him home from our grandma’s house and we passed by the same trees and land we always pass. This is a trip we take often. I heard him chime up from the backseat. “Lorri, did you know that all these trees were once my size?” I said “Well yes, they had to start somewhere.” He just said, “I know, me too!” He was so excited at the thought. I don’t even know if he remembers the conversation, it was a whole year ago, but at that time he was so excited. My hopes are to find joy in the simple things; such a cliche thought, and yet still so important. To spread love and patience rather than seeking revenge and holding onto anger; more violence and strife will not heal damage done by violence and strife. I feel as if I needed to hear in the simple reminder that Krampus gave to Agios, “Not evil for evil.”