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The Speed of Repentance

As I’ve mentioned, my husband and I are reading Pamela Aidan’s Fitzwilliam Darcy trilogy out loud right now–I so love that series! Anyway, I’ve been re-convicted by the speed of Darcy’s repentance. I know that it’s fictional, blah, blah, blah, but I still think there’s a lesson to be learned there. So! for those of you who haven’t read Pride & Prejudice some 20+ times ;), the basic story line is that during Darcy’s trip to visit his Aunt Catherine at Easter, he proposes to Elizabeth Bennet and she takes him to task for his pride. Since Austen doesn’t tell us the story from Darcy’s perspective, we all just have to imagine what happens to him after that. What we do know is that by the time Elizabeth visits in July, Darcy has changed significantly. He’s gotten rid of (or at least made a good start on it) his class prejudices and starts to evaluate people based on their character. He’s able to deal with Wickham despite his obvious hatred of the man (which we see both in their interactions in Hertfordshire back in November of the previous year as well as Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth in April).

I am amazed at and convicted by the sheer determination and ferocity with which Darcy repents. Once he realizes that Elizabeth was right; i.e., once he sees the flaws in his own character, he goes about self-reformation with such energy that he can be a different person only 3-ish months later. 3 months. I don’t know about you, but my tendency is to see repentance/character change as something that I pursue sort of half-heartedly or plan to change sometime in the future, or even if I think I’m pursuing it whole-heartedly, I don’t expect to see significant progress until a much longer period of time than 3 months. I think, if repentance is characterized by making a 180, sometimes mine looks like turning around but just standing still on the road or maybe ambling along in the right direction.

Re-reading the Darcy trilogy has made me wonder what my life would look like if I believed I could make significant changes in my character in such a small space of time and actually threw myself into the process of character reformation. For instance, due to my health issues last fall, I’ve spent months trying to get my sleep schedule switched back around to a more diurnal regimen. I have to admit that it’s felt like a huge struggle, and I honestly haven’t had a lot of motivation because it feels so hopeless. But I wonder what it would look like if I really believed that I could make a significant difference in a short period of time and that it was important to really pour myself into effecting that change. Or what about any of the other changes I’m trying to make in my life? to be a person who’s motivated by love rather than fear? or to spend less energy on housekeeping and more energy with my kids?

It’s definitely worth thinking about. Almost every time I read Pride & Prejudice, Darcy challenges me to become a person who repents with all my energy, rather than meander through my repentance.

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