Susan came into the den dragging the vacuum cleaner behind her. She plugged in the cord and got behind the machine with a hand on the handle. She looked at me.
“If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Move your books.”
I looked up at her from the recliner. “Are you really going to interrupt vital research?” There were at least five books on the floor beside the chair. I had lost count. Some were tomes the size of unabridged dictionaries. Others were paperbacked lightweights. All had random scraps of paper sticking out of them marking bits of information I had deemed important.
She put one hand on her hip, tilted her head, and sighed. “What are you doing?”
“I told you. Research.”
“No, really.” She waved at the clutter of books. “This is way more research than you’ve ever done. I think it’s turned into something else.” She fixed a come clean gaze on me.
“No, no. I’m not joining a cult if that’s what you mean. It’s just that I’ve got to make this convincing and I don’t know much about religion or the Bible or Christianity or any of this stuff. There’s a lot to know. One thing leads to another. And to tell the truth, it really is kind of interesting.”
Susan looked at me, waiting for me to get nervous and rattle on, incriminating myself. She liked to do that. After several seconds of me getting more tense and Susan getting more calm, I spoke. “Do you know anything about the Bible?”
Susan pushed the vacuum handle forward till it locked and sat down in the rocking chair. “Yeah, I know something about the Bible.” She sat on the front edge of the chair, leaning forward, like she didn’t want to stay long.
“Did you ever, you know, go to Church or anything?”
She sat back and relaxed, her eyes on the shelves of books on the other side of the room instead of me.
“I wish you’d met my dad. He was a Sunday School teacher and a deacon.
Kindest, gentlest man I ever knew.” Her eyes wandered over the books, around the room, calm, thoughtful. They settled on me.
“Yeah, I went to Church. Was there every time the doors opened. I even taught a class of Junior High girls for a while. Then I went to college.” She looked down and brushed some imaginary lint from her pants.
I waited. She sat there purposefully not looking at me.
“What happened in college?”
She looked at me and attempted a who cares smile. “I guess I grew up. I quit believing fairy tales.” A long pause. “I went to a Church school. I liked it till my fourth semester. Then I got in a class on comparative religions. The professor started pointing out the similarities between the various religions. It’s surprising they allowed him to teach there. He made me realize that nobody has the complete truth, that we can’t know where we came from or why we’re here or if there is even a god or not. The religions of the world may have pieces of the truth but nobody has the full story. I dropped out and transferred to a state school. It broke my Daddy’s heart.”
“Do you still feel that way?”
“That there is no complete truth.”
“Sure. I guess so. I haven’t thought about it in a while. Once you see it that way you can’t go back to believing fairy tales.”
“But are you sure its just fairy tales?”
“Well, yes. Don’t you think that way?”
I pushed the footrest of my recliner down and sat up straight. “I don’t know. I guess I did without putting it into words like you did. But now I don’t know.”
Susan looked at me with new interest. I continued.
“Isn’t it possible that one religion has the complete truth? Just because all of them have elements in common doesn’t mean that one of them can’t be the whole story.” I was surprised by the tone of pleading in my voice. I wanted Susan to validate what I was thinking. “As a matter of fact if God exists and He created us then you would think He would want to get the truth to us in some way. Wouldn’t He? Why would He want to hide from us?”
“I don’t know. Maybe He’s mad at us and He just wants to confuse us.”
“If that’s the case then we’re in a world of hurt anyway. But what if He’s not mad at us? What if He’s got our best interests at heart? What if He loves us and the corruption of this world has hidden that from us?”
Susan smiled. “That sounds like a Sunday School lesson from my childhood. It sounded good then.” She shook her head. “But now…”
I picked up a Bible from the stack of books on the floor and opened it to a scrap of paper near the back. “Look at this.” I could not keep the excitement out of my voice. “It’s called the Scarlet Thread of Redemption. There is a reference to the redeeming work of the Messiah in every book of the Bible. Some of them are veiled but they’re there. People talk about the wrath and violence in the Old Testament but if you look at the Old Testament from the perspective of the New it changes everything. The hidden references to Christ are not so hidden anymore. The Old Testament becomes a picture of the frustration God felt in trying to get Himself across to mankind. It becomes a demonstration of our need for Christ’s redemption.”
Susan looked at me with something approaching pain in her eyes. “I’ve heard those arguments before. I believed them. I wish I could still believe them. I wish with all my heart that it was true.”
“What if it is?”