To heal you must feel
And he sobbed.
—The narrator, on Scrooge in G-Past moment where he is alone in the boarding school
Some would call it a chink in his time-rusted armor. Ghost of Christmas Past brings Scrooge back to the boarding school where he had once lived as a boy, and it touches Ebenezer deeply.
Touches him. The Spirit’s gentle touch, writes the narrator, “appeared still present to the old man’s sense of feeling. He was conscious of a thousand odours floating in the air, each one connected with a thousand thoughts, and hopes, and joys, and cares long, long forgotten.”
For the first time ever, Scrooge is reconnected with long-forgotten feelings. What that means is, for the first time, he can get better.
This is a man with deep hurts, mind you. Presumably, he lost a mother when he was young. His father was cruel; most likely, the man was “lost” to the boy in many ways. He lost a sister, Fan, who died as a young woman. And he lost Belle, a young woman who wanted to spend the rest of her life with him.
And how did he deal with this? By not dealing with it. Instead of dealing with his feelings, he stowed them away in his life’s attic and, to forget, busied himself about the business of making money. But that didn’t mend the wounds. It only hardened his heart.
In essence, the Spirit takes him to that attic and says: You can’t move on, you can’t get better, you can’t overcome the past until you deal with this stuff. And it’s the beginning of Scrooge’s metamorphosis into a new man.
In 2012, I had the privilege of going on one of those Honor Flight trips in which World War II soldiers are flown to Washington, D.C., at no charge, and are given tours of the memorials that honor them. It was emotional for most of them, but one Marine remained stoic as the day unfolded; nothing was going to get to him.
Then we arrived at the Iwo Jima Memorial in honor of the U.S. Marine Corps. He took one look at that massive sculpture of the soldiers raising that flag and his head slowly tilted down. His eyes grew misty. And he reached for a handkerchief.
That was Stage One of his feel-before-you-heal moment. Stage Two came when a Vietnam-era Marine saw what was happening and put his arm around the man to support him.
When we feel, we get real with ourselves. When we get real, we humble ourselves. When we humble ourselves, we’re open to being helped—by God and by those around us. But we can’t be helped unless we welcome that help, which usually means acting on a feeling.
Some churches frown on feelings. We are to be faith- and fact-based followers. People of action. And I get that. But we too often fail to acknowledge that which inspires our actions, choices, and tendencies: feelings. Whenever people stand in front of our church and give their testimony, the catalyst for their transformation was daring to feel deeply the pain they were experiencing. And deciding enough was enough.
In the movie Joshua, a Jesus-like man comes to a small community in which a local priest—a sort of modern-day Pharisee—resists the newcomer. In the end, after the priest is trying to have this guy ousted, Joshua looks him in the eye and says gently but firmly: “You’re afraid to love.” The priest breaks down, for Joshua has shined a light on something that he knows to be true but has hidden his entire life.
So, that tear on Scrooge’s face is no chink in his armor. On the contrary, it’s a badge of honor. Light in the darkness.