How Long? Character: Debbie

Debbie Langlo shows up throughout It’s a Dance, but only in scattered and quick moments. In How Long? she becomes a much more featured character. My goal in the book was to show how many people, from many different backgrounds, encounter sometimes great difficulties, and find a way to hold onto and deepen faith in the midst of these. I didn’t want to just make up characters and find a way to really irritate their lives, so that the wise narrator could come in and patch up all the faith problems. Instead, I wanted the characters to speak in their own voices. Some who have been through tragedies in years past, like Debbie, become voices of hope for those encountering tragedy in the present. Different voices add to the chorus of the saints. I wanted to be faithful to that. This is how I introduce Debbie in the second chapter of the book:

“Thanks for picking me up,” Nate says as he opens Debbie’s car door. He notices her red and puffy eyes, which, along with her dark hair, make her skin look almost sickly pale. Her hair is wet and only quickly combed. Debbie Langlo is usually put together and stylish, sometimes more so than her job as a waitress at the Columba Pub requires. Not this morning. She hasn’t put on any makeup and she’s wearing what she calls her “hanging-out” shorts, baggy and beige, with a white, oversized T-shirt. She was just getting out of the shower when she got the call and didn’t have any thought about spending more time getting ready—a sure sign of the seriousness of the moment.

Here’s part of a conversation she has with Melissa:

“So you thought maybe there was some hope?”

“Yeah, and I read and read, kind of skimming over the stories in the Bible, starting from the beginning. The flood made so much sense to me, and I didn’t really believe God when he said he wouldn’t do that again. I felt like he had flooded me, because I was so wicked. I wasn’t saved. I was outside the ark. But I kept reading and reading. Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. All of them. Then something stuck out so sharp. I started reading more closely.”

“What was it?”

“The story of Joseph. God called him. Then everything in his life went downhill. He lost everything. All of who he was and wanted. That’s how I felt too.” “I liked Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” Melissa says. She leans up a little and begins to sing, “I closed my eyes, drew back the curtain….” Debbie joins in and they finish the verse together, “To see for certain what I thought I knew, Far far away, someone was weeping, But the world was sleeping, Any dream will do.”

They stop as Melissa begins to cough. She winces in pain, and tries to drink some water. Debbie holds the cup for her, until she’s had a long drink.

“…A crash of drums,” Debbie continues to sing, standing and walking to the window as she continues. “A flash of light, My golden coat flew out of sight, The colors faded into dark23 ness, I was left alone.”
After staring out the window a moment she repeats without singing, “I was left alone.”

“You weren’t really alone, Deb,” Melissa says. “I know; I know you were all around,” she replies, looking back at Melissa. “But with Courtney gone and God so gone, too, I felt deeply alone. More alone than ever. Spiritually alone. But that’s maybe what I saw in Joseph.” Debbie walks back around to the other side of the bed and sits in the barely cushioned chair. “I got to wondering how Joseph felt in the middle of the story. When he was sitting in prison even though he didn’t have sex with Potiphar’s slut wife. That’s what really got me. And it got me thinking. Thinking a lot. When I sort of figured it out, it didn’t give me back Courtney or take away the pain, but it kind of made sense.”

“What?”

“My feelings of loss and pain. I always thought pain was a sign God was gone. Only that’s not true. Where was he when Joseph was in prison, Liss?” “I don’t know.” “Know what I think?” “What?” “I think he was with him. I think God was in the prison with him.”

“What do you mean?”

Find out what Debbie means on page 22 of How Long? The Trek Through the Wilderness.

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