I believe in God the Father Almighty . . .
I took a look into that mirror, and through the splinters of my reflection—what did I see? A believer that accepts, encourages, and even declares my self-degradation as honorable?
I’ve just filled the cracks in with glue, replacing meaningless self-destruction with what I find to be a meaningful form of shame. What was I doing? What was I looking for? How did people think I could help them, when I was caught up in a pit of my own problems?
Please, God, please help me. Help me get back up. Help me stand up and take back the reins of my life. I need you. I need this.
I am Adam. Old friends called me a saint. I could help. I could guide others. I could be a mentor. Couldn’t I?
Someone was at the door. They kept knocking. Why couldn’t they just leave me alone? Why did I have to give them answers, the ones who never had been able to help me, and claim that their faith will enable the final needed leap? Asking for me to dive into it once more. I approached the door, my thoughts stumbling down the staircase of my mind.
Say it, dammit.
With confidence in my tone, once again, I started with my greeting question:
“Hello?” a man said from the other side of the door. “Can you please let me in? It is a bit cold out here, Adam, and I really need to talk to you.”
As soon as I opened the door, he walked right past me and into my house. What was I going to do? Step in his way? He was slightly disheveled, with broad shoulders, quite a bit taller than me, with a messenger bag hanging at his side and a haircut that looked as if he may have done it himself.
“You realize you cannot just walk into someone’s house like that?” I said.
“I’ve been looking for you, Adam. I was worried you wouldn’t even answer my call, yet here you are answering the door!”
“Did you call?”
“No,” he said, staring down at his shoes.
“For the record, I have been known to take calls. I need your name.”
“My name’s Glenn. It’s nothing like Adam,” he said. He raised his gaze and smirked. “It’s not a biblical name like yours.”
I offered an outstretched hand. “Nice to meet you, Glenn.”
He looked at my hand as if I had insulted him with the cultural taboo of another land, then he laughed. Swatting my hand away, he hugged me.
“We’re human, right?” he said, slapping my back. “This isn’t a business transaction.”
He let go and started walking around my living room.
“Right. Of course,” I said.
Glenn was eyeing my bookshelves, his hands held behind his back, leaning toward the shelves as if pulled by a gentle magnet. He let out many “hmms” and even an “interesting.”
“How can I help you, Glenn?”
“Oh,” he said. “Help me? I’m not here for me, Adam. I’m here for you.” His eyes didn’t leave the rows of books.
“Really, now? For me?”
“I’m like the grim reaper, Adam. Only I’m not here to take your life in literal terms. I’m a bit less grim, I don’t carry a scythe as a cane, nor do I wear a terribly comfortable bathrobe as I imagine he likes to wear.” Glenn turned toward me, looked down at his jacket, then shrugged. “This is nice. But not that nice.”
I’ve spoken to others before who felt they wanted to counsel me, only for them to realize they had come to me for guidance. Initially, a part of them felt that no guidance was needed. If they were to admit this, they felt it would be admitting to weakness.
“What would you like to talk about, then?” I asked, motioning toward two chairs before a fireplace. The setup of my living room was exactly how I pictured proper guides in my imagination: two souls speaking with each other, staring at crackling flames.
Glenn’s face lit up. He seemed delighted to take a seat. He sat down, let out a sigh of indulgent ecstasy, and said, “Nothing beats creature comforts.”
I walked over and turned on the fireplace with the simple push of a button.
Glenn let out a laugh. “Miraculous! Sometime ago, a person would have thought that—what you just did—was witchcraft. You wield some incredible black magic here, Adam.”
“People are definitely skeptical and, at times, fearful of what they do not understand,” I said, sitting on the chair across from Glenn.
“I’m glad to find that you treat me so well, and seemingly as an equal, even though you don’t know me,” Glenn said, his tone becoming serious. “Continue to do so, no matter how confusing and difficult things become.”
“Fine,” I said, waving a hand. “We should be good now.”
“Did you just . . .?”
“Maybe,” I said.
We both laughed.
“So,” I went on, “let us jump in. Where do you want to start?”
“With a disclaimer. Hear me out on this.”
“We are, at this very moment, in a badly crafted treehouse.”
“Not only are we in a treehouse, but we are on the massive Tree of Myth. This branch that we are on is part of the splintered cluster of Christianity. There are so many branches in this cluster that I find that the names blur together.”
Glenn looked away, squinting, and said, “Lutherans, Catholics, Orthodox, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons . . .”
“Now hold on, I wouldn’t say Mormons are part of that cluster.”
“How un-American of you, Adam,” Glenn said, raising an index finger. He wagged it back and forth, in sync with the shaking of his head. “Tsk tsk.”
“Okay. I’m in a treehouse.”
Glenn’s eyebrows narrowed. “Your branch is unique, Adam. It is spewing forth from this cluster.”
“Spewing? That sounds a bit nasty. I simply adhere to text and tradition. Truly following the word of God is to release ourselves from many of our worldly possessions. Either I take up the nomadic path of few possessions or stay here in my study where I can be of useful guidance. I’d rather help others take a deep look at themselves, and for them to know where to find me.”
He was starting to upset me. I was already getting defensive, when I should have been keeping my calm. Glenn was fidgeting in his chair, having a difficult time getting comfortable.
“It’s not that, Adam.”
“Then what are you going on about?”
“Phoebe told me to see you, so that’s why I’m here.”
I hadn’t talked to Phoebe in a long time. A tingle crept up my back, the tiny hairs standing up.
I had told her once that I wanted to talk to someone who wasn’t a believer, so that I could be challenged. If you surround yourself with people who perceive the world with the same vision as yours, then your vision never changes. We can’t truly develop any further if we only surround ourselves with neighbors. I’ve always said these sorts of things. This was quite an introduction to actually doing it.
“So, you are here for some kind of debate?” I said.
“Adam, I’m not here to mock you. I know that your belief in God is a powerful one. God becomes the meaning behind everything. Why get out of bed in the morning? Why does the world exist as it does? Why are we thrown through such trying events? I know you found a meaning behind all things before you had God. One that fell away and left your world empty.”
“What are you talking about?”
Glenn reached into his messenger bag, pulled out a book, inspected it closely, then placed it back inside. He did this several times, with books of different-colored covers and sizes, before he came to one of which he approved.
“I have several stories for you, starting with this one: The Good Book.”
“What’s the name of it?”
“That’s what it is called: The Good Book.”
“I know about your daughter, Adam,” he said, with his eyes drifting to the flames. “I know what happened to her.”
What does he know?
Maybe Phoebe told him, or he may have researched me.
He could have just looked it up.
People can find out anything.
But then he said something.
Glenn opened his book, scratched the back of his head, and looked up at me.
“I think I’ve been damned to nihilism. I mean, I feel that I have been forced to look at an image I can’t unsee.” His tone shifted as his playful gestures came to a complete stop, and I could sense he was becoming defensive. “But you’ve done it somehow. You are a nihilistic Christian, walking a meaningless stroll toward death—a place where only God knows the hidden reasons behind all of this absurdity.”
Glenn was flipping through the pages of the book.
“Sounds more than a little pessimistic,” I said. “Must not be much fun thinking everything is meaningless.”
He went back to the opening pages.
“This is it. This is it. This, here, is it.” His finger tapped the first page, like a lawyer excited to display their evidence. “Yes. It is. This isn’t just a book. This is The Good Book.”
I rested my head back, closed my eyes, and felt myself become absorbed by an ability I had perfected over the years: I listened.