This past week, due to an influx (or outflow?) of flu, I had lots of time to read. I’ve frequently found that distracting my mind is the best way to forget how awful I feel (yes, I know that’s contrary to being present in the moment, etc. etc.). Two of the books I read were A String in the Harp by Nancy Bond and Polgara the Sorceress by David Eddings. I must confess that I became a David Eddings addict back in Junior High and I’ve never really gotten over it. This was the first time, however, that I’d read anything by Nancy Bond.
I won’t recommend either book, simply because a person’s fiction preferences are highly individual and depend a lot on where one is at in life, and how much of an “eat the meat, spit out the bones” type of person you are. Personally, I want a good story with lots of epic themes and a lot of character development. To the best of my knowledge, neither of these authors are believers.
In A String in the Harp, Ms. Bond explores isolation and the idea that every person, every thing is a tapestry, being woven: Peter considered them, the three of them together: how unlike they were. Yet they’d grown familiar to one another and were comfortable. His fingers went automatically to the chain around his neck. It was woven into the same pattern: Gwilym, Rhian, the Key, his own family, Wales, and a feeling sometimes so powerful it made the back of his throat ache. The pattern was right, it was working itself out. People spent their lives weaving patterns, borrowing bits from one another, but making each pattern different. Peter was part of Rhian’s, she was part of his; they overlapped but didn’t match.
Reading these books I was so struck by God’s overarching pattern… the importance of each individual as revealed in the overall pattern. David Eddings’ books get into that—he structured The Belgariad, The Mallorean, Belgarath the Sorcerer and Polgara the Sorceress to be read in a circle. The first two deal with the stories of individuals and the last two are the backstory—the work of thousands of years setting up the pattern so that those individuals could do the work they were designed to do (ending where the first book begins). There’s a tension between how the individuals that effected the giant changes are desperately important, and yet so were all their ancestors and the people the Prophesy used to get them into place, to mold them so they could fulfill their calling.
It’s so easy for me to look at snapshots of my own life and get discouraged or confused. But that’s often not a good way to see God’s hand in my life… to see change. The change of a moment may be the beginning of a whole new path or it could be gone a moment later. The pain of a moment may last for years or it might be a fleeting thing. But trying to interpret based on such a small sample isn’t going to help me out. I found myself wondering where I fit in history. I’ll probably come back to some of Eddings’ characters later, but even the minor one-scene characters are vital (that’s sort of the nature of fiction anyway). Nobody is a throwaway person. And God doesn’t create any minor throwaway characters either. We all have a part to play in the pattern… interacting, redirecting each other.
None of us are designed to be isolated. It’s “not good” for us to be alone. Our lives are a pattern woven by God, overlapping but separate… changed by each other, the way a ball is deflected into a new course.
Supposedly it’s the books we read and the people we meet that force us to keep growing. Are not books simply a way of looking at the world through someone else’s eyes? Interacting with people is what furthers the pattern. And yet, it’s so easy to retreat into isolation. When I have a problem, when I’m overwhelmed with pain or depression, my first instinct is to hide away and nurse my wounds in private. In private though, they stay just that—wounds. Static. Trapped. I’ve been so convicted that I need to override that first impulse and instead reach out to others–reach out to friends, and most of all reach out to God.
I love that being in relationship with God can’t help but change us, just as relationship with others can’t help but change us. I love that He weaves all of us into a pattern. His pattern. His story.