Somehow for the past couple of years, my yearly book rotation begins with Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. I have heard from some folks that they wade through the book, feeling somewhat cheated when they get to the end by the lack of epic themes. However, every time I read it, I find myself challenged and convicted. Austen wrote a story about how two people characterized by these two character traits would interact… how the two find themselves rubbing against each other–bringing the worst out in each other. Rather like the church should be. I’m always challenged by their willingness to take a look at themselves and humbled by their heartfelt repentance and changed lives. They don’t just talk about repenting–they come face to face with the worst in themselves and become someone different. Both discover their flaws have made them blind to reality, about others and about themselves.
A few years ago my husband picked up Pamela Aidan’s Fitzwilliam Darcy Trilogy (An Assembly Such as This, Duty and Desire, and These Three Remain). Basically, it’s Pride & Prejudice from Darcy’s perspective. At first I was really disappointed that she doesn’t go into the gospel more explicitly, but I’ve found myself wooed by her masterful treatment of the themes I love (and I’ve spent the past year wrestling through my own ideals about conveying the gospel in fiction). Mercy is what saves Darcy in the end, what enables him to move forward after seeing what a horrible person he is. He discovers he isn’t a “gentleman”–not in isolated specifics or actions, but in essentials, in the core of his being. At first he thrashes around in his misery. He runs from the knowledge, turning to other relationships, busy-ness, and alcohol to crowd it out. But mercy forces him to acknowledge his true condition and then he repents. In fact, his repentance paves the way for him to have mercy with Wickham.
In some respects, the holidays always feel like a furnace… for a variety of reasons, I spend mid-November to about mid-January adrift. I feel like someone steals away my personality, my coping skills, everything. I switch into straight up survival mode and I really can’t think straight at all. So, in the midst of this furnace all my worst qualities come to the forefront… the unbelief, the pride, etc., etc.
Reading Pride & Prejudice and/or the Fitzwilliam Darcy Trilogy reminds me that I have a choice when I come face to face with the worst in myself. I can go to God for mercy, repent and bear the fruit of repentance or I can run away from it.