a play based on the book by Dr. Larry Crabb
Waterbrook Press 2001
Copyright 2009 by Douglas Batson, National Certified Counselor
Synopsis: A chance airport encounter with Linda, a former high school classmate, prompts Edward, a jaded Christian counselor, to reflect on his own disappointment with God. A familiar Charles Dickens theme transports Edward to his own past, to Lindaís future, and to the unfamiliar, sidebar story of widowed Naomi in the otherwise familiar Book of Ruth. Eloquent Old Testament saints, a German pastor, and a gung-ho Army sergeant in Iraq remind Edward that, in spite of painful life circumstances, God is an Ebenezer, a stone of help in times of trouble.
Cast of Characters
Edward Greenhough: the protagonist, a 48-year-old divorced man
Linda DiFatta: Edwardís former high school
*Morley Jacobs: Ghost of Edwardís college days acquaintance
*Ghost of Christmas Past:
*Ghost of Christmas Future:
*Ghost of Christmas Long Past:
*may be portrayed by offstage voices only, as in this version, or be fully animated characters
Minor actors can also play the four ghosts above to keep the cast at 10. 6-8 minor actors, half male, half female, sing acappella as a group, provide offstage voices, and play numerous bit roles. Minor roles with speaking parts are denoted by ***.
***Sue Fitzgerald, named teenagers in a church youth
Pete, Peggy, Charles, group
Todd, Amy, Russell:
***Pastor Wigg: Edwardís former pastor
(speaks only in German)
***Craig DiFatta: Lindaís son, a gung-ho Army Sergeant
***Sue Fitzgerald, as an
adult home group leader:
***Naomi: an Old Testament widow
***Ruth & Orpah: Naomiís daughters-in-law
***4-5 Townspeople: dressed for Bible times
***Boaz: Naomiís kinsman and Ruthís new husband
Scene: An airport passenger waiting area. Time 2009
AT RISE:Edward sits alone reading, two passengers cross the stage behind him, hauling their luggage. A low volume airport security announcement plays, after which Linda strolls by with suitcase in tow. She does a double-take as she passes Edward, stops
and eyes him until Edward notices that someone is standing close by. Edward looks up.
You are Edward, arenít you? Why, Iíd recognize you anywhere. Oh, you probably donít remember me. Iím Linda DiFatta; my maiden name was Johnson. We were high school classmatesÖ
(Edward neither recognizes
nor recalls her, stares
silently at her).
Itís okay that you donít recall me.
We ran in very different circles in those days. But we do have a mutual friend in Sue Fitzgerald. Sue is my best girlfriend since Iíve become a Christian. And she told me that she took a class from you at the seminary---and that you are a Christian counselor!
(Edward stands and extends
hand, they shake hands)
(still not recognizing her)
Linda, well, this is a surprise. Yes, the teaching and the counseling are just a few of the part-time jobs Iíve had for a while. Do you have time to sit down?
Yes, Iíd love to.
(They both sit; Linda
becomes more energetic).
Oh this is just unreal! Not long ago Sue and I were reminiscing about our high school days and your bold
witnessing for the Lord. It didnít matter that they called
you Jesus Freak or snickered at you. Why, I bet youíre still talking to everyone you meet about Jesus,
even strangers in the airport!
(Without pausing hits
Edward on the knee)
Oh, Edward, Iím on the high school reunion committee, and with our 30th coming up, I bet you just brim with ideas how to weave a Christian testimony into the reunion program---like one of those evangelistic Super Bowl parties! I went to my first one last year and the neighbors had no idea that the Gospel was coming at halftime. A blindside blitz, isnít that what you call it? Why, just like what happened to me last year.
(interrupting her for some
So, Linda, you are a new believer then?
Yes, Praise the Lord, about 16 months now. And Iíve been growing so muchÖ
(interrupting to get a
How has your family taken to the change, I wonder?
Mike, my husband, well, he doesnít know what to think of me at times,
but my son, Craig, has been listening to me since his deployment to Iraq. You know what they say: there are no atheists in foxholes.
Sue told me that you also were in the Army.
Yes, I retired after 22 years.
(changes topic back to her son)
Oh, I just know that God will bring Craig back to me safely.
Uh-hmm. Linda, can I ask the reason for that hope?
Of course, Christ promised me an abundant life!
(pauses, looks at wristwatch)
Oh, 4:30. I had better get to my gate.
(Both stand. Jacobs character
enters, sits in chair opposite
Edward, facing away from audience,
reads his newspaper)
Oh, what a blessing to reconnect with such a strong Christian like you.
Yes, well, weíll certainly keep Craig in our prayers. Itís quite a surprise that you recognized me after 30 years. (pause)
Linda, to be honest, I am not nearly as evangelistic as I was in my youth. I donít find myself talking to strangers about Jesus. Nor do I brim with ideas about turning a high school reunion into something that it is not. People donít like ďBait & SwitchĒ gambits. But, I am so glad that you have come to faith in Christ. And do give my regards to Sue.
(somewhat disappointed in
Yes, Iíll do that. The school website will post the reunion date. I do hope you will come. Well, bye, Edward. (extends hand; they shake)
It depends on the date, so weíll see.
(realizes that he has been
dour so now smiles and
Goodbye, Linda. Blessings and traveling mercies to you.
(Edward remains standing
facing the audience. He
smiles, shakes his head
in bemusement from his chance encounter with Linda. He sits, sighs, placing his arms behind
She will end up like most of your counseling clients, disappointed in the Christian life and angry at God for allowing ďthisĒ or causing ďthat.Ē At least Linda did not ask you any family questions. You dreaded having to tell her that you are divorced after she had put you on such a pedestal.
(wide-eyed with amazement,
struggles to turn around,
but is unable).
If I could turn around, Iíd ask you how it is that you know my thoughts.
(struggles in the other
direction, and to get up,
Why canít I turn around? Who are you?
I was once your prayer partner, Morley Jacobs.
Jacobs? Jacobs? The Morley Jacobs from the college retreat?
Canít be! Didnít I hear that he died in a car accident?
Seven years ago this very night.
Is that why I cannot see you? Why I cannot turn around? Why no one is reacting to my thrashing around
(raises voice to a yell)
or to my raised voice?
They have no consciousness of us. If you saw me, Edward, your mind would be fixated on my appearance, and on those of the three spirits who will visit you, and not on the lesson to be learnt so that you might escape my fate as a joyless Christian.
Morley Jacobs (pause) is Jacob Marley. Three spirits? That would make me Scrooge, wouldnít it?
That is not at all funny, Jacobs. I am not a mean, miserly Ebenezer Scrooge!
OFFSTAGE VOICE OF NAOMI
Ebenezer, my Ebenezer, you are my Ebenezer!
What? What was that?
No, Edward, you are not a Scrooge. You would scoff at the notion and not consent to go on the journeys with the three spirits. But answers to the vexing questions, why your Christian life has been an underwhelming experience, and why your counseling clients resist change, await you. And if I tell you that your counseling ministry is more Buddhist than Christian, well, you will insist on going!
Me? a Buddhist counselor? Why thatís so ridiculous, I donít know whether to laugh or cry.
I strongly recommend the latter.
(passes clipboard over his
shoulder to Edward)
You will have to first sign the waiver and release forms.
(takes documents and
stares in disbelief,
thumbs through the pages)
Do you have a heart condition? Are you pregnant? Are you prone to fainting or motion sickness? You have got to be kidding!
Say, if I am not Scrooge, why the Christmas Carol story? And, Jacobs, Iím incredulous that you called me a Buddhist counselor! And just because Iím looking over these forms does not mean that I believe in you either!
Of course, I could be a bit of undigested beef fajita. Because the Christmas Carol story is one of your favorites, it stands to be effective. The bottom of page three is tailor-made for the likes of you, Edward Greenhough. Concerning whether you believe or not, you can check the middle option, ďLord, help thou my unbelief.Ē At the end of your journeys, simply sign the release form that all work has been completed in your heart to answer your deepest questions, and your response automatically changes to ďYes, I do believe.Ē Itís what you call a win-win situation. (Edward signs papers and
passes them back over his
Lastly, Edward, if the truth be told, you are such a Buddhist counselor that when you practice, you should wear the orange robe of a Buddhist monk so that your clients might have a clue what they are in for! When the first spirit appears, remember toÖ
THIS IS AN AIRPORT SECURITY ANNOUNCEMENT. PLEASE REPORT ANY UNATTENDED BAGGAGE OR SUSPICIOUS BEHAVIOR TO LAW ENFORCEMENT OR TSA PERSONNEL IMMEDIATELY. YOUR COOPERATION IS GREATLY APPRECIATED.
Jacobs! I cannot hear what you are saying. What am I supposed to do? Jacobs, are you still there?
(Edward struggles to turn
and get up. When the
announcement ends he is no
longer restrained to the chair.
He stands up, two passengers,
dragging luggage, hurry across
the stage behind him. He looks
(END OF SCENE)
SETTING: airport passenger waiting area
AT RISE: Edward remains standing. A different hooded
individual [can be same the actor who, while lights are dimmed, changes color of his upper garment] is reclined across the chairs behind Edward, out of audienceís sight.
That was so bizarre! Morley Jacobs? A guy I met once on a weekend retreat---and that was 25 years ago. An undigested bit of beef fajita.
I have to admit, that line was very clever.
(After composing himself,
Edward sits. Simultaneously,
the figure, sits up in the
But I signed those papers!
GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PAST
And Iím so glad you did, Edward. Let me introduce myself, I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.
(struggles to turn around in
both directions, and to get up,
but quickly realizes he cannot)
The Ghost of Christmas Past? Long past?
(Softly) Love Him in the morning / when you see the sun arising; / Love Him in the evening / 'cause He took you through the day / (Louder) And in the in-between time / when you feel the pressure coming, / Remember that He loves you / and He promises to stay [print license # 337871]
(when singing stops, excitedly)
My own youth group! I came to faith in this place. I was a boy here!
Look, there is Sue Fitzgerald as a teenager, now Lindaís best friend.
(raising her hand)
How are we to think about Jesus when we feel terrible, like when we pray for a long time and nothing happens, or when we feel alone or fearful, and then He disappears? Are we really expected to still like Him, you know, like a really close friend?
Itís a Happy Road that Iím traveling on / Just canít help myself, you got me singing a happy song; / When your Son keeps shining, I know it wonít be long / Before your happy road is, taking me home. [print license obtained]
Hit it, [name]!
(designated soloist stands/sings)
Well, Iím now out on the highway / in my teenage years / Iím just gettingí underway / Iíve shared a lot of sorrows, Iíve shed a lot of tears / but then you came and you took them all away, itís aÖ.
(group repeats chorus;
Edward claps along with the second chorus)
Those were some great times, some great kids.
Would you care to know what happened to them?
(light on Pete and then on
each subsequent youth)
whose dad died the following summer.
For 30 years Pete has longed for a close relationship with an older Christian man. He expected to find one in the four churches heís since attended. He hasnít. Peggy is now 48 and single. Her job is decent, she likes her dog, and she keeps herself busy. Whenever Peggy watches a movie where a man pursues a woman, she cries. A part of her heart remains untouched. She wonders why God doesnít bring along a good man who would want her, or help her to feel more fulfilled in Christ. He has done neither.
Charles wanted to be a missionary after school, but could not raise the support dollars he needed to go. He has felt like a failed Christian ever since. These are all good, legitimate, even God-pleasing dreams. Certainly, God had the power to fulfill those dreams, but He chose not to. Likewise God could have prevented Todd & Amyís
two miscarriages and subsequent divorce; prevented Russell from contracting Multiple Sclerosis; Sue from being sexually assaulted,
(Edward reacts, shocked)
and you, Edward, from being laid off from work. But He didnít.
Your lip is trembling, and what is that upon your cheek?
(wipes tear away)
Trusting God is dangerous business, very dangerous unless we are trusting God for the one thing He has promised to provide this side of Heaven---and that is soul-pleasure---and nothing else. Your friends from the youth group like most of your clients, and like you, Edward. They are believers, yes, and most still attend church, but the fire is gone. They can look contented, but inside they feel let down, even betrayed by God.
So, Edward, when fellow-believers come to you for counsel, how do you anchor their hope in God when dreams shatter? When sickness advances? When debts mount? When loneliness deepens? Shattered dreams, Edward, are never random. They are always a piece in a larger puzzle, a chapter in a larger story. They are, in fact, the truest blessing when they help one discover that very Hope. Shattered dreams destroy false expectations such as the so-called victorious Christian life with no real struggles or failures. When things always go well one is unlikely to discover a desire for God. Without pain and disappointment in this life, no appetite is ever developed for dreams bigger and better than our own.
Then that song, Happy Road, doesnít it set believers up for bitter disappointment?
On the contrary, it is mercifully instructive. It is a happy road that takes one into the Fatherís joyful presence here and now, but in order to value that encounter supremely itís a road on which one might find: come on, sing it:
(snaps fingers, sings)
Shared a lot sorrows, shed a lot of tears. Plus, in Heaven all your dreams will come true!
I have never understood the role of suffering in the believerís life---even in my own. Amazing! Was this the only time I was exposed to this view of the Christian life, that there is happiness in trusting a God who allows us to cry today, knowing He will wipe away all our tears tomorrow?
(Lights dim. Youths rearrange
themselves into an adult
choir with hymnbooks. One
male exits, dons a
gray-haired wig to return
shortly as Pastor Wigg.
As a matter of fact, Edward,
(lights on choir, singing starts)
as a young man you heard this truth even more emphatically.
O du frŲhliche, o du selige, Gnadenbringende Weihnachtszeit! / Welt ging verloren, Christ ist geboren / Freue, freue dich, o Christenheit!
O du frŲhliche, o du selige, Gnadenbringende Weihnachtszeit! / Christ ist erschienen, Uns zu versŲhnen / Freue, freue dich, o Christenheit!
Do you know this place?
The little church in Marburg, Germany! Know it? I was an apprentice here! Why itís old Pastor Wigg!
(Wigg enters pulpit/center stage)
Bless his heart, Pastor Wigg, preaching again! And my old buddy, Dirk (in the choir). He was very much attached to me; insisted that I learn German, he did.
Precisely why we are here. I want you to translate for me the Pastorís message, coming up now.
Ich erhoffe mir mehr von Freunden als von meinem gesegneten Retter Jesus Christus; und dennoch weiŖ ich ganz sicher dass weder sie noch irgendeine andere Person auf Erden fŁr mich leiden wird oder leiden kann was Er fuer mich gelitten hat. Warum also sollte ich ihn fŁrchten?
Pastor Wigg is quoting Martin Luther: I expect more from my friends than from my blessed Savior Christ Jesus; and yet I know for certain that no other person on earth will or can suffer that for me which He has suffered. Why then should I be afraid of Him?
O Seine Gnade und GŁte uns gegenŁber ist so unermesslich groŖ, dass sie ohne groŖe Angriffe und PrŁfungen nicht verstanden werden kann.
O His grace and goodness toward us is so immeasurably great that without great assaults and trials----
it cannot be understood.
But you, Edward, and scores of other Christians see no value in assaults and trials; you believe that suffering doesnít rightly belong in your lives. The wailing prophet Jeremiah tells us that God never stops doing us good. And His goodness to us is often so much greater than relieving our suffering. The problem is with your blessing-based, happy-feelings expectations of His goodness. It is entirely too small, resulting in small dreams, smaller prayers, and tiny, half-pint testimonies. Lutherís idea of Godís goodness was that it is so big,
(inadvertently lapses into German)
so riesengross, I mean so gigantic, that without great assaults and trials it cannot be understood.
So riesengross, huh? Spirit, you did not need me to translate that message.
No, I did not. I needed you to get the point, and voicing it yourself often does just that. Now, if you can complete this thought, we can move to our last destination:
We will not encounter Christ as our best friend, as the source of all true goodness, as the One who provides the most pleasure to our souls, until we abandon ourselves to Him. And full abandonment, real trust, rarely happens until we meet God in the midst of shattered dreams, until in our brokenness we see in Him the only and overflowingly sufficient answer to our---ďwhat?Ē Edward?
to our? to our---soulís deepest cry?
Edward Greenhough, go to the head of the class.
SETTING: Iraq: military equipment/tents/
AT RISE: Spotlight on a solitary soldier in desert uniform waiting impatiently.
Not long ago you watched this television spot unaware of the young manís identity, but you will soon make the connection.
Can you hear me now? Am I on?
This is Army Sergeant Craig, a.k.a. Crocodile, DiFatta with HHT 1st Cavalry Division Forward. Kickiní butt, then kickiní back, here in Camp Suleyman Iraq! None of that Happy Holidays Humbug from me, but rather a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to my mom & dad and twin sister, Joyce. Mom, I promise to be with you at grandmaís house next Christmas. God Bless us, everyone! Hoo-ah!
(light dims on Craig, exits)
As it turned out, SGT ďCrocodileĒ DiFatta is Lindaís son.
Yes, as it turned out, he is. Then, as now, you marvel how much the young sergeant resembles your own son in appearance, but not at all in personality. Then, as now, you think had there not been the divorce; had you the opportunity to be his father, your son would be a different person today. To escape the pain, Edward, you have suppressed your desire to be a father to your son, and then wonder why you donít enjoy God.
(breaking down, hands in face)
Remove me, I cannot bear it!
(pauses, raises head)
But first tell me whether SGT DiFatta, Craig, will survive his tour in Iraq. Tell me, Spirit, will the boy live?
I see a vacant stare and a crutch without an owner.
(GCP disappears from view)
You said a vacant stare, not a vacant chair! What does that mean, Spirit? Will he live? And the crutchÖ will he be wounded?
THIS IS AN AIRPORT SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: PASSENGER DIFATTA, PLEASE REPORT TO THE TICKET AGENT AT GATE 74, PASSENGER
LINDA DIFATTA TO GATE 74.
(Edward struggles to turn
and get up. When the
announcement ends he is no
to the chair. He stands,
looks behind the chairs;
passengers, dragging luggage,
hurry across the stage
behind him, he looks around
SETTING: Lights on. As in Scene 3, a hooded individual is reclined across the chairs behind Edward.
Well, passenger Linda DiFatta, that is one fine boy you have there. And I pray that he is not killed in action or maimed.
Linda, you have dreams for your son, just as I have dreams for mine. When those dreams shatter, the realization that the Lord could have fulfilled those dreams pushes us into a pitched battle with a severe God. I just hope you fare better in that fight than I have.
(Edward hangs his head,
disillusioned. The figure
sits up opposite him.)
GHOST OF CHRISTMAS FUTURE
The past is irreparable; but the future is always available. And for believers, when their good dreams shatter, better ones are always there to newly value and pursue. And I can say that resolutely, for I am the Ghost of Christmas Future. Think of me, Edward, as the play-by-play announcer in that wrestling match with God you find yourself in. Wrestling with Him as did Jacob! Keep wrestling, I say, keep wrestling! Otherwise you will remain like the naÔve child who never wants to grow beyond the wide-eyed excitement of Christmas morning. Keep the blessings coming, keep the good times rolling.
Did you want to say something?
No, Spirit. I know your purpose is to do me good and I am thankful that you are speaking so frankly with me. Iím all ears; please go on.
When you signed on to the Christian life, thatís what you thought was the deal. Pray and fellowship regularly, read your Bible, have quiet times, then youíre entitled to sit
back and watch God stack the presents under the Christmas tree! You even invent so-called ďbiblicalĒ principles of a
helpful God to make your lives better: godly parenting, financial stewardship, business success and what-not, all with the aim that your happy dreams come true. Happy people, however, rarely look for joy because they are already content with what they have. Their life foundation consists of their blessings; they havenít been freed to
pursue a greater dream. Thatís why they cannot love well. Yes, Edward, God is severe. In his severe mercy, He takes away the good to create an appetite for the better, and then eventually, He satisfies the new appetite, liberating us to love as He loves.
(Edwardís cell phone rings)
You will want to take the call; itís from the future.
(offstage voice over)
You donít know me; I got your number from a friend. My name is SGT Craig DiFatta calling from Fort Hood, Texas.
(elated, sits up straight)
SGT ďCrocodileĒ DiFatta? Youíre alive! I mean, youíre okay! I mean, youíre back from Iraq!
Yes, Iím back.
Yea, they tried to blow me up over there, but missed every time. Still, Iíve had a difficult time adjusting since getting back. The docs say Iím suffering from PTSD, you know, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but thatís not why I am calling. Actually, Iím worried about my parents; they have more anxiety than me. Iíve never heard them argue like they do now, and it upsets me. So much so that I told
them Iím not coming home for Christmas. Well, that didnít go over well, and now they are not speaking to each other. I was wondering if they could get counseling from you. Iím afraid, Mr. Greenhough, that they might divorce over me.
Whoops, I have to go now. Sorry.
Craig, Iíd be very happy to see one or both of your parentsÖ.
Thatís super, thank you. I do have to go, but Iíll call you back, if just to find out how you knew my nickname. Ciao.
Praise God! Heís safe.
Yes, with adolescent maturity you publicly praise God when He cooperates to make life work the way you want: the exam was passed; the job came through; the biopsy was negative...the boy lives. But if God doesnít cooperate, well, thatís a totally different story. Far too many believers either become resentful or feel afraid of Him. Others lose their passion and keep their distance from a disappointing God who they believe offers no real help.
Edward, donít you see that if you are satisfied with the good things in life: good health, fine families, close friends, meaningful jobs, or successful ministries, you will never hunger for God Himself. You will never worship. Iíve come to see that only broken people truly worship. Unbroken people----happy folks who enjoy their blessings more than the Blesser---say thanks to God the way a shopper says thanks to a store clerk. Come now and see how the experience of despair is the initial movement in the rhythm of hope.