:: peace like a river/pages 180-222 - devil ::

["Man on a Swing" by Francisco Goya, courtesy of The Frick Collection]

I've said before that I was a minor asthmatic as a child, and somewhat in my 20's. Reuben is a pretty severe asthmatic, but even so, when he describes what it feels like not to breathe, my lungs hurt with remembrance.

"I dreamed a devilish little man came and stole my breath. He stepped through the door with a skin bag strung limp over his shoulder and with dispassionate efficiency crouched back and slugged me in the stomach. Such an incredulous exhale! And so complete; not a wisp of air remained. .... The little man crouched again and looked at me closely. He was a pale one, a horror. Years later I would describe him to Swede and she would point him out to me, or his close cousin, in a book containing the works of Francisco Goya."
[page 183]

To me, that was some of the most vivid imagery in the whole book. And evil imagery, I might add. I know Reuben dreamt it, but with his Dad's supernatural abilities and all, I stopped to wonder if Reuben actually caught a glimpse of an evil spirit. Especially since he later pointed out the devilish little man's cousin in a Goya lineup. But describing how no more breath could be found in his lungs; how Jeremiah prayed for him bedside, Roxanna whacked, and Swede cried - it sounded like a very dire situation.

I don't recall Reuben ever falling into depression after his asthma until then. The next day, he wakened to utter fatigue, shallow breath, and Roxanna & his family outside in the gleaming, white snow. He felt abandoned. His thoughts seemed very dark:

"I crawled back in bed under the weight of the sun and joy and adventure happening outdoors, and I thought dangerous things to myself. Back to mind came every hurt I'd endured for my defect, every awaited thing I'd missed. It seemed to me such wrongs were legion in my short life. It seemed that I'd been left alone here by the callousness of my family; that should the man with the skin bag return I might not fight so hard next time; that this house was so empty even God was not inside it. He was out there with the others, having fun."
[page 185]

But after such a horrific dream and serious asthma attack, I can understand his dark thoughts. Whether you struggle with a long-term illness as a child or in adulthood, I do think there comes a time (even to the most saintly) when you feel as if God has abandoned you. You know better, you remember Scripture saying otherwise, yet try as you might, it feels like God isn't listening anymore. Like He skipped town. As y'all know, I'm dealing with several health issues which I do believe God is healing, but very slowly. I'm ashamed to admit that I've frowned often, complained, and wondered where in the heck God was (when He was right there).

And then I realized, I relate the most to Reuben in this book. I'm not exactly sure why; he's a boy, after all. One thing I've concluded is that I watch everyone like he does; quite intently. But I do relate to this young man, and I'm wondering, do y'all relate to a particular character? Why?


Libby said...

Wow thanks for the picture! That is amazing seeing it after reading his description.
I have been there like Rueben and you . I loved how he described it -him thinking dangerous things to himself etc how the battle so starts in the mind of the downward spiral. ugh how i've been there too! Thank you for being vulnerable and so real about that struggle.
I think I could relate to Mrs DeCuellar-i'm not spelling that right.I love how she wasn't able to have children,like myself, yet she loved children and lavished affection on them versus cutting her heart off from them. She resonnated with me.
I don't know if you would ever want to share the health issues you struggle with but i'm here to listen via email. Someitmes it helps to have at least one place you can just pour it out. I don't want to intrude though and know health things can be very personal and it can feel risky sharing them. Anyway love the book

jenni said...

Thank you, Libby. I've written a lot about my health on my other blog, so I'd rather not do so here, in detail anyway (for my readers' sake). But I have a yeast (candida) overgrowth in my body which I'm killing (fun, fun), adrenal fatigue, and low thyroid. All together it is too much sometimes. But I'm thankful for a great doctor, great treatment/meds, and an end in sight - when God is ready.

Crystal said...

Although Reuben never comes out and says it I think that he is feeling the same things we are as we read. "Why hasn't my Dad healed me?" He knows he can do it. For Reuben it isn't just a matter of God abandoning him, but also his father (using God's power or course). Talk about reason for doubt and depression. Although, I will agree that Reuben only seems to fall into that dark trap once throughout the ordeal...which is more than I could probably say for myself in the same situation.

jenni said...

I agree, Crystal.... Reuben displayed there what we all feel towards God quite often, "But why not?"