I went to a stunning one-man performance of “A Christmas Carol” yesterday, done by the great-great-grandson of Charles Dickens. What a treat! Such a moving story it is–a curmudgeonly miser is given the gift of reflecting on his past, present, and future; of seeing from a different perspective; of having a second chance.
Gerald Charles Dickens, the masterful actor who dramatized the story, played 28 different characters over the course of 90 minutes. It was striking to see him as a steel-hearted businessman one minute and a bright-eyed, innocent young cripple the next.
In life, we all play many different roles, don’t we? Sometimes we are the ruthless villains who humbug our way through life, and other times we are the vulnerable underdogs who do their best, but are ultimately at the mercy of the powerful.
Too often, I play the part of Scrooge without even realizing it, hardening myself to the needs of the world and refusing to show mercy. Thankfully, there is hope for my repentance and ongoing transformation, just as there was for Scrooge. But perhaps the story asks more of us than just personal transformation. What if we were to play the parts of Jacob Marley and the three ghosts?
We all know some Scrooges. People whose most distinctive qualities are greed, meanness, and misery. I couldn’t help but think about the Scrooges in my life as I watched the play. At first, they may seem utterly hateful and without excuse. But if, in the spirit of the ghost of Christmas past, I imagine them as they once were, I can see the lonely schoolboy no one wanted to befriend, or the young apprentice who thought he needed to be rich in order to be happy and successful.
What if I had the chance to speak into the life of a Scrooge, to play the role of a prophet, to warn of judgment to come, and to offer hope that there is still time to change?
I felt an impulse to write a letter to a few Scrooges. Their stubbornness of heart may be such that I will never share it with them. But I wanted to write it anyway, as an act of hope that even the vilest prodigal can come home, and as a prayer that God would grant them the grace of a stern warning and another chance.
I don’t know what kind of childhood pain, rejection, and loneliness you experienced, but I have some inklings. You are deeply wounded. Life punished you at the outset, though you had done nothing wrong. I am very sorry for this.
You hardened yourself as a defense mechanism. I don’t blame you for this. But now that you are safe from those who first hurt you, you are still brandishing your defensive weapons. They were meant only to protect you from those who were stronger than you, but you are now using them to hurt those who are weaker than you. I understand that this is a pattern you inherited from others, and you are not at fault for that. But it is not a pattern you have to perpetuate, and you are, in fact, at fault for this.
There is healing, if you will search for it. There is another way, if you will seek it. New life and immeasurable joy are available to you. You have rejected it till now and clung to the familiarity of diminished life and the sickly pleasures of self-pity and lording it over others. But the future may yet be altered.
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart.” Today is Christmas day. There is still time.