In Chapter 14 Lydias
unsanctified intellect spars with Susannas childlike wisdom.
Susannas heart ached for her, but she must walk through that
front door, and leave the rebellious woman alone. She hesitated
to make another plaintive appeal: Forgive my boldness, Miss
Lydia. But if you stay here, youve got no chance at all. Maybe
Mr. Saul wouldnt feel the same after all this, but at least
youd live if you repented. I dont want you to die!
Well, Aunt Mildred sure does, said Lydia. In her
book, Im not fit to walk the earth.
Perhaps a little empathy would work. Susanna lingered in the doorway.
Oh, but dont you see, Miss Lydia? Nobodys good
enough for that woman. I can feel for you. Im on her blacklist,
You? laughed Lydia. Baby-faced, sunshiney little
Susanna. Why on earth would she look down her nose at you? What
did you ever do to Aunt Mildred? Pinch her brass brooch?
No, Miss Lydia. She never had much to do with my family to
begin with, but we heard from her right after my dad died. We got
a nasty sympathy note from her sayin we were all better off
without that devil in our house, and maybe God could finally smile
upon our home. At first my mom cried, then she called that old biddy
up and preached her a spirited sermon on godly love. But I guess
it never did sink in.
No, it didnt, Susanna. Now do you see my point? Religion
ruins people! Youd better stick with me, kid, or youll
end up a vicious old vulture like her!
Susanna shook her head. No...no, Miss Lydia. That poor womans
sick inside. Mom knows it, I know it, and most importantly, God
knows it. Aunt Mildreds just like that hoity-toity Pharisee
who bragged to the good Lord that he was too good to need His mercy.
God is nothin to her but a mask for her meanness.
Yeah, shes just a jealous reject, snorted Lydia.
Saul told me whats eating her. When she was a young
girl she made a play for Jethro Gilroy, a gorgeous hunk she met
at tabernacle. She invited him to a family feast. So what did he
do there but make sheeps eyes at her cousin Phoebe, and end
up marrying her instead? Mildred never did forgive that hussy.
Just think, Susanna. Poor, salt-of-the-earth Uncle Pete! He
knows hes just an inferior fill-in for all the fun she missed
out on. The Bible says: Love never fails. Yeah, right! Heres
a better one: Beauty never fails. It sure did gall her, how easily
I bagged my prince. But all she got was a frog. Ha!
Susanna bristled to hear Lydia mock a man who had been a tremendous
blessing to her and her family. But she simply said: You just
cleared the mystery up yourself, Miss Lydia. Aunt Mildred feels
so homely that she uses religion as an escape hatch.
My, but shed love to see me now, sighed Lydia.
Ive got no escape hatch at all. Im hemmed in by
the enemy on every side. My, how that witch would gloat. I no longer
have her precious nephew in my clutches. Prince Daniels got
him. And Bruce is gone forever. Her face crumpled up.
Susanna lightly embraced her. Miss Lydia, we cant do
nothin about poor Bruce, who never could fit in, here in Gods
world. But you can do it. Come back with me, and we can make a fresh
new start together.
I cant go anywhere, Susanna. Whats left of my
life is here, in this bombed-out hole.
You can too go, pleaded Susanna. My mom said God
can reconfigurate our souls, just like Mr. Saul can do with a renegade
Nerve-plex that skips off on a tangent.
Lydia was desperate enough to fight dirty. Susanna, dont
you owe me your loyalty, after the hell you put me and Saul through?
The girl winced. Miss Lydia, thats not fair now, playin
on my guilt. You cant cancel out one sin by committin
another. You know full well I cant protect you from God. And
as for the rulers, theyve gotta answer to Him, just like Mr.
Sauls workers have to do as he says. Theyre not out
to get you, Miss Lydia. They used to be mortals themselves, and
they can feel for us.
Girl, said Lydia with a chilling laugh, its no
use arguing with my superior intellect. I can read people like a
book, and I know exactly what motivates those strange beings.
What, Miss Lydia?
Those rulers thrive on making us miserable, Susanna. If they
really are resurrected relics of a bygone era, theyre just
jealous because they remember what life was like when they were
mortals. They didnt live as long, and what few years they
did live werent worth the bother. My theory makes sense. They
hate us because God didnt care enough about them to renovate
Planet Earth when they were fully human like us, and this world
was just a big pile of horse __. She laughed giddily, certain
Susanna had no answer for that one.
Shocked, Susanna blinked, but she found her voice. Miss Lydia,
I dont presume to be as smart as you, but my mom always did
say I had more horse sense than anybody else in her family. I do
know this about immortals. They always look so contented, it makes
all of em look beautiful, irregardless of how plain they mighta
looked when they walked the earth ages ago. And whenever I watched
Prince Daniel on TV, hed always look so happy, even when he
wasnt really tryin to smile. Not once in all the years
Ive watched him did he ever bemoan all the trouble he saw
back in the Bible days.
He can afford to smile, Susanna. Look how God pampers him
by giving him such sway over us.
Oh, I dont know about that, Miss Lydia. That Prince
had to wait an awfully long time to get to rule over this gigantic
nation, and when he was a mortal, he had to work alongside some
nasty characters. Back then, he made lots of enemies just cause
he always did his job Gods way. And those lions he got thrown
to didnt live off grass. He had to earn his crown, I think.
Thats just what I mean, Susanna. Here we are, in a garden
Paradise of a world, with beauty all around us, happy faces, no
wars waging, lovely homes to live in, sweet birdsong floating on
the breeze. Take St. Paul. What did life hold for him? Hunger, stripes,
sickness, weariness, painfulness, enemies on the right hand and
on the left, utter destitution. Ugh! No wonder those rulers resent
Miss Lydia, my Mom got to go hear St. Paul speak at a conference
years ago, over in Greece. She just couldnt get over how joyful
that saint was, even as he told everyone about how God kept him
goin through so many perils. It was a pleasure to listen to
him, Mom said.
Even in the extremity of her own peril Lydia kept playing hardball.
Who knows, Susanna, but that guy has a nagging resentment
at the back of his mind for all God put him through.
Oh, I wouldnt bet on that, Miss Lydia. Mom told me how
he counted it all joy that he shared in the sufferins of Christ
his Lord. Somehow it made him feel closer to Jesus, I guess. All
I know is Mom said that everybody got blessed by what he said, even
though so much of his talk mystified them.
And no wonder, sniffed Lydia. The man must be
off his rocker, to be happy even when God puts him through hell.
It does make me wonder, Miss Lydia. If Paul could still love
Christ even when God didnt give him the Paradise on earth
Im lucky to have, then Christ must be a lot more important
to keep me happy than this Paradise Im livin in.
Whatever, shrugged Lydia, but chew on this one:
Everybody claims God is a God of perfection and order. So why did
he turn His back on Planet Earth for 6000 years and let the devil
trash it the way He did? Why, Susanna? Its just like a worn-out
mother who gives up on trying to control her children. So she just
sits back and lets her little hellions demolish the house like a
cyclone and smash up her dearest treasures. How , then, could God
claim to be in control?
Could be, said Susanna, mankind just wouldnt
learn its lesson any other way, so God just had to let the world
wallow in its own mess for 6000 years until it got so fed up with
itself it had no choice but to let Him take over. Makes me think
of the little boy who wouldnt take a bath until he got so
dirty his own mother couldnt stand the smell of him.
Well, isnt that vindictiveness on Gods part?
Lydia snapped. Exiling people from Paradise, and letting the
devil wreck this world?
You know, Susana reflected, its just awesome,
the way God outwitted Satan. He let sinners wreck His dearest Treasure_Jesus_just
so He could fix us up. Her eyes shone softly. She was so glad
she could remember the bedrock principles of salvation shed
been taught as a child.