Nightwatch! by Pete Snyder
"And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch! (Mark 13:37)
I fell asleep and dreamed a dream. There in the dream I saw a Pilgrim who was given keys to the Father's House by a brilliant angel named "Vision." Before Vision departed, Pilgrim was given one simple instruction, "Occupy until I come!"
Pilgrim wondered, "So, what does THAT mean? I suppose it means to just sit here and wait!" So that's what he did - well, at first that's all he did. But he got wise in a hurry. For as he waited, many demons and spirits paid him visits. He began to know them all by name.
Lord Heckle and his wretched son Prince Guffaw were regulars. They would show up at the first sign of unbelief. This morning was no different.
"Knock! Knock! Knock!" went the door.
Pilgrim went to answer it.
Only a single phrase was spoken that bitter, cold morning, "Hi Guy!!" Heckle wailed at the top of his lungs, extending his greasy, limp hand.
"BANG!" went the door, "click" went the bolt!
This was supposed to be Pilgrim's day off, and all of the devils in hell knew it.
"I better get out of here while the getting is good!" Pilgrim exclaimed, and went to the closet to take his coat and hat. But no sooner than he threw the scarf around his neck and unlocked the door to go out, Old Legalist met him on the porch with a grin. Legalist would usually walk his dog, "Break-wind," by the house in the morning. In times past, Pilgrim would let him in since he was always dressed up like a Senator and looked so important. Then usually, Legalist would sit staunchly in Pilgrim's parlor for hours stealing the entire day from him. Legalist would always choose the upright antique chair, as he would sip his Earl Grey tea.
This particular day, he pushed past Pilgrim on the porch and entered the house without invitation! He sat in "his chair" with his dog at his feet, groaning, "Where's my tea?"
"Well, I was on my way out!" Pilgrim snapped.
"Oh really? Is THAT why you have your coat on in the house?"
"Yes, I was on my way out!" Pilgrim repeated.
"Ha! It is too cold to be running around outside in the snow, old chap! Let's chat!"
As always, Pilgrim gave in to the appearance of such an erudite minister. He sighed while reluctantly setting the tea on the table and taking his chair opposite Legalist in broken surrender - so much for his "free" day.
Legalist began the conversation by questioning Pilgrim's initial step of faith "outside" that day. Then he would peer deeper, wondering why Pilgrim would ever deem himself fit to inherit anything beyond his most basic fundamental needs. After all, Pilgrim did have all he needed right there in the house. Why go anywhere?
When Pilgrim began to defend himself and his high hopes in Christ, Legalist would point his crooked finger at Pilgrim's sin and chuckle at his foolish persistence in such 'elusive' matters of faith. This persistent chiding made Pilgrim angry. He had heard it all before and was not about to dialogue with this devil any longer.
Pilgrim finally jumped to his feet and blasted, "How dare you come into my house and criticize me? You get out!!"
This was quite out of character for Pilgrim, who took Legalist by the bony arm, led him to the door and threw him out! But Pilgrim was angry, and for the first time, could see right through the wretched lie of the Legalist! The dog snapped at Pilgrim and broke wind in the house. Forthwith, Pilgrim gave that ugly cur a good kick and sent HIM a-flying, too.
Pilgrim was determined to leave this time. He just HAD to find Vision. He was losing his hope!
No more than Pilgrim had closed the door behind him, two young men jumped to the porch in a great hurry. They were Salesman and Activist. They were known in town as the "go-getters." They convinced Pilgrim to go back inside for "just a moment." They had something urgent to show him. So, Pilgrim walked back in!
"What is it?" Pilgrim asked, annoyed.
The two men paced the floor nervously. Although they said they had come to bring Pilgrim a message of great importance, they said nothing for the longest time except, "Just wait till you hear this!" or "Are you sitting down?" or "You just won't believe this!" They were constantly looking at their watches and then at Pilgrim.
Pilgrim finally blasted, "Well, get on with it! What is it that you came to see me about?"
Activist jumped to the center of the room and screamed, "Well!!? We just came to find out if you intend to DO something? Are you just going to sit there?"
"About WHAT?!" Pilgrim cried.
"Well, wait! I mean, do something, rather ANYTHING," Activist began. "EVERYTHING!!" Salesman added.
Pilgrim became confused. He could not believe the audacity of these two fellows adding to his confusion. He did not answer them at first but only reasoned within himself, "Do what? Those hypocrites! They profess to be doing so much but what are they really accomplishing? In fact, what is their argument with me? These two seem to be experts in making everyone feel bad for living and resting in the Promise alone."
Pilgrim remembered when Mall Man had made him feel so guilty that he ended up running on a wild good chase around the town selling artificial Christmas candles. The worst of it was when he realized that he had been abandoned by Mall man as he continued to do all the work.
When Pilgrim woke up to his present dilemma, he realized that he was being suckered again into needless work.
"You ask me if I am just going to just sit here?" Pilgrim replied at last, "Actually not! I have something else in mind...."
Immediately Pilgrim grabbed those impertinent, shiftless intruders by their "cheap suits" and sent them a-flying across the same threshold that the Legalist had just passed....
In the blink of an eye, the dog, Break-wind, ran into the house and ran out again. You can imagine what he did. It was so cold, but Pilgrim opened the windows anyway.
It was not more than two minutes after the last two dolts had been sent packing, that an old friend ventured by.
"HA! HO! A friend at last!" Pilgrim cried as he opened the door wide.
Little did Pilgrim know, that although "Friend Reason" was indeed his closest pal, he was to learn a deep, dark secret about him that day. For you see, this 'bosom buddy' was also a Jew-hater, an anti-semite, and an enemy of all the children of Abraham who would attempt to walk by faith.
Oh, the sparks were soon to fly if "Friend Reason" would get wind of Pilgrim's new convictions to seek Vision. Pilgrim worried at first about this, and wondered if he should share his good news of faith with his old friend. He reasoned, "This man has been a helpful friend to me in the past, why should he be an enemy now?
At any rate, Reason got wind of something else!
"Wheeeew! What's that loathsome smell?" he asked.
Pilgrim never answered, but was deep in thought, "I just won't tell him about my new step of faith - at least not now. He is welcome to stay in my house, and I'll do my best to side-step him during breakfast and dinner. I don't really need to go anywhere today. It's getting too late anyways. We can figure this thing out together, then I'll be better equipped to leave tomorrow.
The day sped by, and Friend Reason never left Pilgrim out of his sight. In fact, he would interrupt Pilgrim when he would begin to pray. Then, when Pilgrim would sit down to read the Word of God, Reason would look over his shoulder and blow his bad breath in Pilgrim's face with such irrelevancies as, "Do you believe in the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch? What about the Theophany at the bush?"
"I'm not interested in those issues right now, I'm searching for something deeper than that," Pilgrim answered. "I thought you were here to help me."
"Deeper? Like what? Like what?" Reason demanded.
"Never mind," Pilgrim groaned and took his leave to the bathroom, shutting the door and sighing in resignation. At last! He had found a solitary place to read and pray.
Having thus found a moment of silence, the doorbell rang!
Out from the bathroom came Pilgrim. Reason followed him to the door, and what do you know? Who should come in but Reason's brother, Scrutiny.
"Reason!" Scrutiny wailed, "I've been looking all over town for you!" he bellowed as he pushed past Pilgrim with a grunt and a glint. He entered the room.
Scrutiny wasted no words when he began, "I heard through the grapevine that your FRIEND over there was on a quest of faith, seeking that elusive Angel, Vision!"
Reason's jaw dropped in disbelief, as he yelled across the room, "I knew it! I just knew it!! Why ELSE would you have been trying to avoid me, Pilgrim?" But immediately after Reason's 'unreasonable' outburst, his demeanor changed. Instead of anger, malice or scorn, Reason very seriously approached his old friend, Pilgrim, with a warm, brotherly gesture of good will.
Sit down Pilgrim. Let's have a talk," Reason insisted.
"Indeed!" Scrutiny growled.
"I have nothing to say to either of you about my faith. You couldn't possibly understand it," Pilgrim answered solemnly, and closed his mouth in firm resolve.
"Indeed!" Scrutiny growled again. "Just as I suspected!"
The most awkward silence ensued for the longest time. It became an embarrassment to Pilgrim, but to the Greek brothers, they seemed to have all the time in the world, and they felt neither awkwardness nor obtrusion.
At last, Scrutiny reached down and pulled up his briefcase.
"I've something to show you both!" Scrutiny grunted as snapped the briefcase open and produced his calculator, charts, graphs, bankbooks and pocket-watches. He threw them all on the coffee table and kept repeating the same phrases over and over again and again and again as he muddled through the pile.
"It won't work, won't work, won't work! It is IMPOSSIBLE, futile, and it won't work, won't work. It is absurd, ludicrous and foolish!"
"I know, " Pilgrim echoed, "and it won't work!"
Scrutiny stopped and looked up from the pile, "That's right! That's what I just said!"
The day wore on. It was late and Pilgrim would listen no more. He sat in sorrow as these two faith-killers continued lambasting his faith. At last, Pilgrim got up and went to bed without as much as a "Good Night" to anybody. Though it would not have mattered much anyway since these two Greek brothers were themselves locked into great debate.
And so it was, when Pilgrim fell into bed that night, all kinds of deviltries entered through the door downstairs. Yes, the doorkeepers that night were Reason and his brother Scrutiny.
In they came, like ghosts through the shadows of the night. There were demons, witches, hobgoblins and little sylphs no bigger than your thumb! They danced in a whirl of lascivious frenzy throughout the night, and although Pilgrim was trying his best to sleep, he knew that this deviltry would keep him awake no matter how hard he would try to relax.
In they came, Youthful Passion, Heckler, Entertainment and Giant Media. Next came the Whore of Babylon riding the Scarlet Beast. The ghost of Karl Marx pondered his next move on the chessboard. Across from his sat the ghost of Thomas Jefferson with a black baby on his knee. Hitler sauntered by the table and kicked the entire chessboard across the room, sending the pieces flying - there were knights, bishops, pawns and rooks fighting an unseen war in the heavenly places of the room. They never fell to the ground! It was the black against the white - all through the night.
Thrift and Worry argued in the den. Fool was singing as loud as his lungs would permit while Ineptitude played the piano. Klutz broke the dishes and Duty cleaned them up.
Oh! What a jumbled riot of rot!
On the porch (yet to enter) stood Economist, Computer Nerd, Politician and that famous hypocrite of all times by the name of Religion. Two other 'Elders of the Cloth' accompanied Religion as they walked behind - Archbishop, Pharisee and Antichrist. Lifting their long trains over the threshold was their toady, Deacon! These "regal" men wore huge crosses of pure gold around their necks that weighed them down to an unseemly posture of worship as they walked in a solemn procession to the dark den in order to count their money and assess their situation.
Lady Feminist barged past them all and bounced over the threshold with, "Tah- Daaaahhhh!" She was wearing her tight cocktail gown from the World's Fair in Paris of 1890, exposing her bare breasts to the freezing winds. She dawned a diamond pin on her scanty lapel as the only thing that spoke of the modern world. It read:
"Save the Trees - Kill the Babies!!"
The Ex-President of the United States came out of the closet, and though pretending to go to another closet, he eventually made a bee-line toward Lady Feminist. The Ex-President was the first to offer her a chair, but the Pervert Twins, Lust and Lewd (directed by their father Sex Maniac) yanked her to another chair. A brief fight ensued, but everything ended up just fine between all five of them that night - in the bedroom together, giggling in glee.
The only one downstairs not having a great time was Paycheck, who just kept looking at his watch, thinking about his work in the morning - while counting his losses and gains. He seemed frazzled as he scratched his head, stood up, sat down, looked at his watch again, stood up again and heaved a sigh. He could find no peace whatsoever. But what made matters worse for him was the one who should come in the house next.
"Oh My! Oh Dear! Its the Boss!" Paycheck jumped up and cried, "Wooooaaaah!!" as his head hit the ceiling! As soon as he landed, a false grin cropped up on his wrinkled face - and the show was on!
Fame attempted to lock Temerity out on the back porch after a scuffle, but Temerity was drunker than seven fools and broke through the kitchen window! Seizing the butcher knife, he started a rampage through the house. There was murder in his eyes.
Alone upstairs, Pilgrim's attempt at sleep was fitful at best. No one ventured up to his room except Family Man. Yes! That familiar spirit who knew everything about Pilgrim He would report every detail to Legion in the basement, and from there it would circulate throughout the entire house.
"Hey Pilgrim!! Ain't ya coming down?" Family Man cried. "Dr. Compromise is coming over with his colleague, Insanity! They're gonna give a slide presentation in one hour on Inner Peace! It may be just the thing you need to get some shut-eye tonight, old boy!"
"Just leave me alone," Pilgrim cried, and rolled over. "I've been there before and I refuse to go back to that vomit! LEAVE ME ALONE!!" and with that, Pilgrim covered his head beneath the feather-pillow.
Pilgrim questioned his faith altogether that night. He questioned his hope and his promise, too. Wasn't his hope based only on his own wild imagination given by an imaginary Angel called Vision? Did God really care? Could God really answer his prayers? Tossing and turning, the torment continued. "And what if it was my own imagination? Oh, how the people will laugh at me! They will all say, 'I told you so,' and it will have all been for nothing!"
Pilgrim had another thought, "I may as well go downstairs and join the crowd."
Half awake, half asleep, Pilgrim groaned, "Oh, how did I get myself into such a mess to begin with?" and he rolled over on his stomach, burying his head in the pillow again. But the internal debate continued even louder in his soul. It was then that Pilgrim realized that Family Man had secretly sent one of his demons into his bedroom! He knew this demon well! It was Vain Imagination!
"Get OUT!!" Pilgrim blasted, and threw the feather pillow across the room at the taunting pixie. The harassing tormentor refused to leave, and Pilgrim groaned in despair. And as if all of this was not enough, the telephone next to the bed began to ring!
"Agh!" Pilgrim growled, and picked up the receiver, "Who IS it?"
"Hey! What's going on over there? Havin' a party downstairs? What do you got over there that I ain't got?"
Oh no! It was the prattler next door - Neighbor Envy!
"Is this a joke or what?" Pilgrim began. "What do I got over here? WHAT DO I GOT? What kind of a question is that?"
"Just give me an answer," the voice persisted on other end of the line. "What do you got?"
Pilgrim became very still all of a sudden, then from the depths of his soul cried out, "Nothing!! Nothing at all!! Only hope in a promise!! Only faith - a Vision!!"
"Well that's all I wanted to know," Neighbor Envy answered, and hung up with a loud "Click!"
The dial tone was Pilgrim's only tormentor that moment....
"That does it!" Pilgrim shouted, turned on the lights, and stormed down the steps.
"GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!!! NOW!!!" he screamed.
And the party was over.
Pilgrim began throwing those devils out one by one! Oh! It was a sight to behold! The yelling, the screaming, the warring - and the RESISTANCE! But at last, he threw every single one of them out the door into the cold winter night.
After that, Pilgrim fell to his knees, weeping and crying out to the Lord, "Save me dear Lord from myself, my unbelief. Save me from these demons! Oh, Lord, I believe the Vision! You know I do, but please forgive my unbelief."
There was a quiet voice coming from the corner of the room! It was Vainglory! How could Pilgrim have missed him?
"What are you doing here?" Pilgrim, fire in his eyes blasted.
In a sick, weak, pseudo-love, Vainglory minced his way toward the Pilgrim, and whispered, "I knew you would need a friend. You NEED me...."
"No I do not!! Now GET OUT!!!"
With that, Pilgrim grabbed him and threw him out the door, slamming it and bolting it from the inside.
Pilgrim looked around the room. It was a mess! But all the same, it was peaceful for a single moment in time Pilgrim breathed a sigh of relief, returning up the steps toward his bedroom.
"Knock, knock, knock!!" went the door.
Pilgrim clenched his teeth and plugged his ears as he continued up the steps, whispering, "I knew it couldn't last."
The knocking grew louder and louder.
"No!" Pilgrim cried to himself, I'll NOT let you in. I don't care who you are or what you want," and up to bedroom he went.
The knocking continued on and on and on, but he paid no attention as he turned out the lights and snuggled into the feather comforter with a smile and a yawn.
"Brrrrrriinnnnnnggggg!!!" went the telephone.
"What the....!?" Pilgrim began as he sat up in his bed with a start. The phone continued to ring and the pounding downstairs persisted.
"WHO IS IT?" Pilgrim cried into the telephone receiver, nearly waking the dead.
It was Neighbor Envy again. "Pilgrim, are you sleeping?" he asked, stupidly.
"Well, what ELSE would I be doing in the middle of the night?"
At first, Neighbor Envy did not answer Pilgrim, because Neighbor Envy did not like being yelled at. Then everything became extremely quiet in the house. Even the knocking downstairs stopped.
The silence was broken by Neighbor Envy who spoke quietly, "Well I was only calling to tell you that there was some nice fellow knocking on your door downstairs for the last ten minutes. It seemed urgent. Didn't you hear him? He looked like an angel"
"No I did NOT, now GOOD NIGHT!!" with that, Pilgrim slammed the phone down.
Pilgrim sat there all alone in his bed, perplexed. Something was wrong. Oh my, something was definitely wrong!
"Oh NOOOOO!!!!!" he screamed, jumped out of bed, threw on his pants and ran down the steps nearly falling and breaking his neck in the dark. He darted for the door and threw it open.
Pilgrim squinted deep into the dark, cold night.
"There he is! There he is in the distance! I almost missed him!! I almost MISSED him!!" Pilgrim wailed as he ran through the snow in his stocking feet to catch "Vision."
Out of breath and weeping, Pilgrim fell at the feet of Vision in the drifting snow and harsh winds of the night. Pilgrim's weeping turned into a strange combination of laughter and tears that fell from his eyes like a fountain.
Angel Vision stood surprised for a moment, looking down at the man kissing his feet, "Pilgrim is that you? I thought you were asleep! Nearly everyone I have visited tonight was sound asleep!"
Relieved, Pilgrim answered in tears of joy, "No, I wasn't asleep! How could I sleep through all that horrible confusion in my house?"
"Confusion? What confusion?" Vision questioned.
Pilgrim stopped laughing at once as a great truth pierced deep into his soul. He realized that if he had not been tormented by those antagonistic visitors, he would have slept right through the Vision!!
"What's the matter?" Vision persisted.
"Agghhh!" Pilgrim groaned, a shiver coursed through his being as he realized that those awful demons had actually kept him awake! The constant battle that raged in his house kept his mind and soul alert when others slept!"
"Don't cry! It's all over now," Vision assured and lifted him to his feet. Then Vision wiped his tears away with his fingertips. "It's all over!" he repeated.
But Pilgrim continued to cry, for all he could think of at this point was how he could very well have been found asleep like the others. What made him any different?
As Vision wiped away his tears, Pilgrim noticed scars in the wrists of Vision, but was so perplexed that he could not see who Vision really was. His "eyes were restrained."
"Are you cold? You shiver so!" Vision smiled in the moonlight.
"No," Pilgrim answered truthfully, but would say no more.
"We're going home now, to my Father's House and YOURS. Everyone is waiting for you there. You will see! It is just as you have believed all along, and even more so."
Pilgrim did not answer a word, but began shaking uncontrollably as he considered how close he came to losing everything in a single night!
After a long time of reflection on that cold, dark road, Pilgrim began to see the first signs of daylight in the eastern sky. He began to feel some new comfort and warmth from his friend Vision who held him up along the way.
Pilgrim spoke at last, venturing a single question.
"How far do we have yet to go?"
The beautiful smile of the Vision remained ever glowing as the first rays of the rising sun began to grace the horizon.
"It's just a little further. We'll be there soon."
"And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch!" (Mark 13:37)