Extract from a novel entitled Matthew Deen
Jim Ferguson (Creative Writing: University of Glasgow)
The fasting was something though, for the Deen, the Matthew boy, Matt the prophet was going right into God's heartland, here on earth too. And only a tender teenager. There was a lot to be said for being able to go without food. It built the strength. The strength of the Spirit Inside. Built up the independence and self reliance of the Inner Faith which all Christians had to nourish. To add to his endurance, he walked it back home to Auchenback across the Gleniffer Braes. The stomach. The stamina. The walking at speed too. No leisurely strolling. In all weathers. On an empty stomach he marched.
This was his Spiritual Quest. His search.
Here he caught his first glimpse of Boab Wae The Bad Leg. Boab didn't say anything. Only appeared momentarily: but for a long time. Boab was an apparition. It puzzled Matthew as to how he knew Boab's name. It was the Holy Spirit of course had planted the knowledge there for him. Maybe Boab was going to reveal further Holy Scripture and give Divine Inspiration unto Matthew Deen. He didny know. For Boab was only a shadowy figure limping over the park. Nothing like your traditional angel or that. Boab could easily have come straight out of a book by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Boab limped in shadowy timelessness, not for very long though. Matthew was out of his head with lack of food and exertion: how was he to take note of the time it took for a timeless, shadowy, limping apparition to put in an appearance and subsequent disappearance? He wasn't. He had to pray for guidance.
His knees sank into the sodden turf. He looked to the sky. Clasped his hands -- JESUS, JESUS GIVE ME STRENGTH. IS BOAB A SIGN? IS BOAB A SIGN...?
He collapsed onto his side, knees soaked and mud-stained. And he wept. Jesus, he wept and wept and wept. There was guy with a dog too, walking towards him. The dog came up and sniffed at his nethers, it was a real dog.
-- Jack, here, the guy shouted.
The dog went back to its master. Matthew prayed quietly, asking God to make them go away but they didn't -- You awright pal?
-- Fine thanks.
Matthew wiped the tears off his face -- I'm okay honest, just a stomach cramp.
Immediately he began to pray for forgiveness for lying to the guy. It was a white lie right enough. A lie in the service of the Lord even. The guy and the dug moved off. Matthew heard the guy chuckle. It was an evil sounding noise. Soon dog and master disappeared over a small hill. Who sent them? Maybe the Holy Spirit, maybe Satan. Matthew didn't like this experience one wee bit. He wanted to eat because he was upset but that was weakness and Satan loved weakness. Weakness was there to be exploited by the forces of evil. Maybe he should read the Old Testament more.
The ground was soaking. Wetness seeped through his flannels and his good velvet jacket. If he lay there much longer the gear was going to be ruined. That didn't matter though. Material things. All that really mattered was the Spirit. The goodness and overwhelming love of the Holy Spirit. And Boab Wae The Bad Leg, he mattered. Boab, the messenger of the Holy Spirit. He knew that for a fact. Boab Wae The Bad Leg was definitely the divine messenger of the Holy Spirit.
Onward. He got up and walked just like Jesus had said in Matthew Chapter 9-- Arise and walk. Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thyne house.
And the man with the Palsy was healed.
Onward Matthew trudged towards Auchenback. His pace less sprightly than before: his mind arace with thoughts one second then adust the next. All was perplexity. And Matthew was fiery of mind. Not calm. Not soothed of the balm of oils so to appear as to men he fasteth not but his face was contorted, his countenance disfigured so that he appeared tormented of mind. And in the state of fasting. And this, according to Matthew Chapter 6, was the behaviour of a hypocrite.
The Lord was testing his faith.
It was sore.
He longed to be home. Home and at prayer in the comfort of his bedroom. Home in bed. Onward he trudged till he reached 19 Braeside Drive. Everyone needs a refuge. That was what he had learned. And he thanked God for showing him the meaning of the great gift of sanctuary. Everyone needs a refuge.
eSharp issue: autumn 2003. © Jim Ferguson 2003. All rights reserved. ISSN 1742-4542.