It’s a while before Vanessa and Abigail can connect, and when they do, Abigail’s answers hardly seem like answers at all. Vanessa is steamed up about being put on the spot, and all her friend can do to explain is make vague references to it being a good thing somehow.
“So you want to know why?” Abigail asked, as if reading her silence.
“Um, yeah,” Vanessa answered, in her best “isn’t it obvious?” tone.
“Because I think it’s exactly what we need right now.”
“We?” she frowned. “We who? Who is we?”
There was a brief pause while Abigail shifted position. She was in
the quiet back yard, and she scooted herself into the roots of the old
maple tree so she could put her back against the broad trunk. “Well,
originally,” she said, “I admit I was just thinking about the Club.”
So not helpful. But Abigail does two helpful things.
The first is start Vanessa thinking about wonder-workers. If I was posing questions for children at this point, I would probably mention that Vanessa’s brother started calling her by that name just as a kind of joke. Vanessa did the same thing to Abigail in the last book. But if a person were to take that seriously, how would you set about to be one of those great saints? There’s a lot of it you couldn’t control, but what about the parts you could?
Isn’t that, in a way, what Lent is all about?
Context from the priest
The second helpful thing that Abigail does is point Vanessa to Fr. Andrew. Because really, we’ve come to the limits of what Abigail can help with — time to kick it upstairs, so to speak.
When Vanessa does that, it helps clarify some of the worst aspects of the bet. Fr. Andrew’s concerns about it are a little different from Vanessa’s. As a grown-up, he notices that betting that you can prove or disprove miracles is just unrealistic. As a priest, he also notes that it’s dangerous.
But he sets Vanessa onto another track, not just rejecting the idea, but getting into her feelings about what put her there. Fr. Andrew is an experienced priest, but he’s also a shrewd judge of character. The fact is, Vanessa could never turn her back on her brother, no matter what he asked of her. She was always going to try to help him, no matter what the chance of success or the risk to herself.
“Relax?” she exclaimed, dropping her end of the banner. “How can I relax? Now there’s this thing with James! How can I let him go away, knowing there’s something I could’ve done?”
“And that,” said Fr. Andrew with laughing eyes, “is why I told Abigail that you might take this strange bet that your brother offered. Because the miracle he’s looking for might just turn out to be you. It might be the love you have that won’t let you give up.”
But he also helps her examine the nature of James’ crisis. Her brother isn’t someone who didn’t believe; he is someone who did believe, but the world has thrown so many things in his way that he has rejected his faith.
That is an important distinction, I think. One of the hardest things to do these days is bring people from the place where they just plain don’t believe in God to the place where they do. I gave Vanessa something a little easier. However … only a little easier. It will still take a lot for her to pull this off.
But as Fr. Andrew notes, she’s a fighter.