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Tough Love In Christ's Millennium

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Excerpt from Book Two, Chapter Fourteen

In Chapter 14, "A Desolate Place", Lydia’s unsanctified intellect spars with Susanna’s childlike wisdom.

Susanna’s 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, you’ve got no chance at all. Maybe Mr. Saul wouldn’t feel the same after all this, but at least you’d live if you repented. I don’t want you to die!”

“Well, Aunt Mildred sure does,” said Lydia. “In her book, I’m not fit to walk the earth.”

Perhaps a little empathy would work. Susanna lingered in the doorway. “Oh, but don’t you see, Miss Lydia? Nobody’s good enough for that woman. I can feel for you. I’m on her blacklist, too.”

“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 didn’t, Susanna. Now do you see my point? Religion ruins people! You’d better stick with me, kid, or you’ll end up a vicious old vulture like her!”

Susanna shook her head. “, Miss Lydia. That poor woman’s sick inside. Mom knows it, I know it, and most importantly, God knows it. Aunt Mildred’s 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, she’s just a jealous reject,” snorted Lydia. “Saul told me what’s 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 sheep’s 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 he’s just an inferior fill-in for all the fun she missed out on. The Bible says: Love never fails. Yeah, right! Here’s 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 she’d love to see me now,” sighed Lydia. “I’ve got no escape hatch at all. I’m 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 Daniel’s got him. And Bruce is gone forever.” Her face crumpled up.

Susanna lightly embraced her. “Miss Lydia, we can’t do nothin’ about poor Bruce, who never could fit in, here in God’s world. But you can do it. Come back with me, and we can make a fresh new start together.”

“I can’t go anywhere, Susanna. What’s 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, don’t you owe me your loyalty, after the hell you put me and Saul through?”

The girl winced. “Miss Lydia, that’s not fair now, playin’ on my guilt. You can’t cancel out one sin by committin’ another. You know full well I can’t protect you from God. And as for the rulers, they’ve gotta answer to Him, just like Mr. Saul’s workers have to do as he says. They’re 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, it’s 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, they’re just jealous because they remember what life was like when they were mortals. They didn’t live as long, and what few years they did live weren’t worth the bother. My theory makes sense. They hate us because God didn’t 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 don’t 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 might’a looked when they walked the earth ages ago. And whenever I watched Prince Daniel on TV, he’d always look so happy, even when he wasn’t really tryin’ to smile. Not once in all the years I’ve 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 don’t 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 God’s way. And those lions he got thrown to didn’t live off grass. He had to earn his crown, I think.”

“That’s 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 us.”

“Miss Lydia, my Mom got to go hear St. Paul speak at a conference years ago, over in Greece. She just couldn’t 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 wouldn’t bet on that, Miss Lydia. Mom told me how he counted it all joy that he shared in the sufferin’s 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 didn’t give him the Paradise on earth I’m lucky to have, then Christ must be a lot more important to keep me happy than this Paradise I’m 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? It’s 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 wouldn’t 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 wouldn’t take a bath until he got so dirty his own mother couldn’t stand the smell of him.”

“Well, isn’t that vindictiveness on God’s part?” Lydia snapped. “Exiling people from Paradise, and letting the devil wreck this world?”

“You know,” Susana reflected, “it’s 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 she’d been taught as a child.