by inhonoredglory

A dim-lit room is occupied by two men: Joshua in a bed, facing the audience, and Thomas standing by his side. A window in the upper left of the room has its shades open, but clouds cover the sunlight. Overcast light shadows the room.

Joshua (weakly): I know it’s been a long time, son.

When the dark reveals the light

Thomas: Yeah, Dad.

Joshua: But I’m glad you’re here, now; it’ll make me feel better.

Thomas: Let’s not talk about it. Happy times.

Joshua: I understand, son. But—

Thomas: Like the reunion at Jim’s. Or—

Joshua: Thomas.

Thomas: Dad.

Joshua: Thomas. (pause) Thomas, I know it’s uncomfortable. I know we’ve never wanted to talk about it. And I understand that. It’s just . . . I’m not going to be seeing you.

Thomas: Do you really want to talk about—

Joshua: Yes, Thomas. Yes, before it’s too late. I want you to understand something. I want you to know the peace I’ve—

Thomas: I know where you’re going with this. Please, Dad, I want this to be happy. Let’s not go there.

Joshua: I understand. (pause) Thomas, I’m going to do something to spare you pain later.

Thomas: What—?

Joshua: Remember your grandfather?

Thomas: Well, uh, yeah. Yeah I remember Gramps.

Joshua: He died in our house, you know. I was there.

Thomas: And how does this relate to, to what you said?

Joshua: Patience, son. Well, Father – you’re grandfather – I was with him in his last moments. You could never see so much agony. Because he was unsure – he didn’t know where he was going.

Thomas: Dad, stop.

Joshua: He wanted to believe. He wanted peace. But something kept bothering him. He couldn’t give his heart to God not knowing how to answer the pain in his life, the evil in the world, the suffering. (pause) And I know you think the same way.

Thomas: Dad, stop it.

Joshua: That’s why you’ve never wanted to come up after your mother died. Maybe that’s why you joined that group in the hills. Maybe that’s what’s giving you pain. With the divorce. . .

Thomas: Please, Dad, I’ve got my own life.

Joshua: Maybe, but you haven’t got your own happiness; you haven’t got your own hope. You haven’t got your own peace and love inside.

Thomas (quietly): Dad?

Joshua: Son, I understand what you’ve been through. I walked down your road when my father died. I cursed God, just as I’m sure you have. How could He take him from me, I asked. How could He be good if He did that.

Thomas (quietly): God doesn’t care.

Joshua (coughs): That’s what I said.

Thomas: But what’s left? I didn’t know what to do. Clara brought me to the Society. I wanted it to fill me, but it didn’t. But God didn’t care. What could I do? Where could I go? The world is empty. Dad, what’s the answer? How could God do that? You said you’re at peace— How? How could you when the world is nothing, all evil?

Joshua: Son, Thomas, I know the answer. God knows the answer. We just must listen. I was angry at God because I didn’t stop and let Him tell me His point of view. I was just thinking of my position. (coughs, then continues exasperatedly) Son, let me tell you. No, let God tell you. (He takes a thin Bible from under his bed covers and taps it lightly.) We pass judgment on God without letting Him take the stand. But He tells us why. He wants us to know. That’s why His testimony is everywhere – in this Book.

(coughs hard. Thomas holds his jerking body.)

Thank you, Thomas.

Thomas: But how can God explain it?

Joshua: Thomas, I am ill, only because I know what is health. The blind from birth cannot understand vision because they have never experienced it. Son, God does the same. How can we know love and good and beauty if we are not given pain and evil and ugliness? We cannot know the light without the dark. We cannot find the truth without there being lies for us to avoid.

Thomas: Why didn’t He make us all perfect to begin with?

Joshua: He couldn’t. God’s people would be blind then. They could not appreciate His great goodness without knowing the abhorrent evil that is not Him. Even the angels, unknown to sin, must be shown the panorama of mankind, in order to learn the evil of the other side, and the beauty, holiness, and grace of God.

Thomas: What about good people? Why are they punished?

Joshua: We are all children, even the men and women who know the truth of evil. We sometimes go wrong, forget the blackness of the mortal world, lose faith in God, maybe forget about Him and begin trusting ourselves. God is like a parent – our Father. He teaches us through circumstances. He wakes us up with pain. Happy times don’t get us thinking; hard times do. Maybe we need a slap in the face, to get us thinking about the eternal things, not mortal ones. We need a reminder of the unworthiness of the world and the worldly; we need a reminder that God is the only One we must depend on, the only One who gives us peace and hope. (coughs hard) You see, son, God knows everything. He knows us. Oh, He knows us all too well. He knows we are doubtful, that we question Him. He knows our hearts, our fear of Him, often our hate of Him and His watching of our personal evils. He knows that if He didn’t allow evil people to demonstrate that evilness, we would never understand His punishment of their hearts. We would never understand His justice against that blackness in the world. We would never understand the holiness that is required of coming to Him. (inhales deeply and reaches feebly for a glass on the dresser)

Thomas (quietly): But why mother?

Joshua (holding Thomas’s hand tightly): Thomas, it’s very hard, but we all need to experience evil. We all need to feel the power that it possessed in a world against God. Through our closest losses, we know that no one is separate from sin, that sin is what takes us all away. But such a loss is also an example to us; we understand just a little of the sacrifice of God for us – sending His only Son, the closest One to Him, to die for us. We can grasp the greatness of His love to die for someone who is not even worthy of salvation. We know at last that, though sin kills, there is Someone Who is greater than sin, Someone Who has led that powerful evil captive.

(Joshua coughs hard. Light begins to emerge from the window. Thomas looks down from Joshua’s eyes.) Son, God told Ezekiel and Paul that we shouldn’t ask God for explanations of the evil in this world. But even still, God tells us. God wants us to know Him, but He also wants us to know ourselves, too, that we are bad, in our very hearts. Even the most holy men recognize their unworthiness in the face of the great goodness of God. But God has chosen a portion of the wicked clay to mold into vessels of glory for Himself. He knows that we could never understand His eternal plans; we are mortal. But God never does something without a cause, even the evils, He tells Ezekiel. He provides us reasons for the things we can’t understand. He gave us a Book; He gave us His Word; He gave us His Son. Don’t ignore it, son. You can believe in God and in the sacrifice He made to set us free.

(He grasps his son’s hand.)

Thomas, believe.

Thomas (looking into Joshua’s eyes): Dad.

(The light from the window becomes brighter. A warm smile breaks over Joshua’s face. Then, as he is looking in his son’s eyes, the focus leaves his own. He stares softly, with a smile, into his son’s face.)

Thomas: Dad? (looks closer) Dad? (touches Joshua’s face) Dad, it’s not— not when you’ve just— Dad, (kneels beside bed, arms around Joshua) not when I can now see, now know. (looks up into brightening light and down to his father) God, forgive me. Dad. Oh, Lord. Father.

(The curtains move slightly; the light brightens around the bed, around the thin Bible near Joshua’s hand. Thomas pulls the Bible closer to him; it slides from under Joshua’s hand.)

God, forgive me. I have peace now, of knowing. Dad’s with You, Lord.

(He looks back at Joshua, suddenly smiling through moist eyes)

And, God, so am I.