Literature

Bookshelf Tour: An Ever-Fixed Mark by Sabrina

Growing up, we moved regularly, so, when I was a child, books were my dear friends. Every year (usually around New Year’s), I would re-organize my bookshelf–make sure that all the books were alphabetical by author’s last name and grouped into series. We recently rearranged our book area. We had four bookshelves that were double-stacked in places, so we bought another one and sorted through out books to weed out any duplicates/unwanted. Sadly, we still need to buy a sixth bookshelf to finish our project. Re-organizing the books though was like going to a reunion of old friends. Some of those books I have read regularly since I was in elementary school. My husband was quite entertained listening to me wax eloquent over my various books.

I also (finally!) moved all my fan fiction bookmarks from my old phone to my new phone. I’d never read fan fiction prior to a year and a half ago, but I’ve found quite a few gems in that time. I had about 150 bookmarks I had to copy.

Anyway! It was so fun to go back through my books that I thought I’d take you on a tour of my bookshelf so I get to talk about them some more. 🙂

Today I’d like to talk about a story on my virtual bookshelf: An Ever-Fixed Mark by Sabrina. It’s a Pride & Prejudice fan fiction posted on Dwiggie.com. I like to start my year with Pride & Prejudice and even though I haven’t read the original yet, I did read this version again.

This short story takes Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 as its theme, particularly this well-known section:

Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
It is an ever fixed mark
Which looks on tempests and is never shaken.

Fan fiction takes a well-known story/characters and basically changes something and then writes out the results of those changes–sort of like throwing a rock in a pond and then taking a picture of the resultant ripples. The “rock” Sabrina chose to throw is that after Darcy’s disastrous proposal and subsequent letter to Elizabeth, Anne de Bourgh asks to speak with Darcy and gives him some solid advice about how he should propose to Elizabeth. It prompts him to think back over why exactly Elizabeth had rejected him and he realizes that it was his own fault. He repents of his pride (gotta love that about Darcy!). I will say that I think Sabrina speeds up his character shifts beyond what’s realistic, but at the same time, she keeps with the logical trajectory of his repentance and there have been times in my own life when something just hits me and I’m able to see things differently–so it’s at least plausible, even if the real battle is whether those character changes play out long-term. When Darcy finds Elizabeth distraught over his letter, he comforts her. They end up having a conversation about the nature of love, and it’s just beautiful.

Sabrina also addresses something that has gradually driven me nuts about P&P: Bingley’s lukewarm behavior. Now maybe you don’t think Bingley was lukewarm. Maybe you think the poor guy should get a pass because of his temperament or the situation he was in or whatever. I personally think Jane should have made things a little harder on him when he came back. He’d proven that he wasn’t his own man–he let other people run his life. I love that Pamela Aiden addresses this character flaw in her Fitzwilliam Darcy trilogy.

Yes, I do realize that it wouldn’t be realistic or politic for the timeframe if Jane had made Bingley work for her. Women were dependent on a good marriage to secure their livelihood–we clearly see this evidenced in Charlotte’s marriage to Mr. Collins (ugh!). But then, Austen contrasts Charlotte’s more practical approach with Elizabeth’s unwillingness to settle for a marriage of convenience. Jane and Bingley are kind of the middle ground. Jane is in love with Bingley, and Bingley is in love with Jane (supposedly). But their love isn’t tested the same way that Elizabeth and Darcy’s is. Maybe it really does come down to different personality types.

I had an interesting conversation about literature and personality type the other day. I gravitate towards strong female characters because that’s my personality type. But a friend of mine is turned off by those types because they grate on her personality type. It really emphasizes how genius Jane Austen was to be able to portray multiple personality types realistically and winsomely. I find myself writing the same personality type for my main characters (my own) because it’s easy for me to do so realistically. But Austen has a broad base of personality types.

Anyway! If you’re an Austen lover, An Ever-Fixed Mark is a treat to read and, as I said, deals with some really great themes about the nature of love. You can also check out Dwiggie.com for more great fan fics. It’s a fun genre to get into!

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Multiplying Time

So…. *twiddles thumbs* How was your week? Mine’s been good–very, very busy, but good.

A while ago I read this blog post (and I just finally got around to watching the TED talk she references this week–it was really good!) about multiplying time. It’s been a really helpful way to think about resource management. Basically, you start by asking if whatever you’re spending time/energy/money on is actually necessary. If it’s not, you get rid of the thing. If it is, then you ask yourself if there’s a way to invest the resource in such a way as to get more back later in that particular area. In the TED talk, Rory Vaden talks about the two options for this–automating or delegating. So I can spend extra time setting up automatic bill pay and it’ll save me time later. Or I can teach my daughters to load their own dishes into the dishwasher and it’ll save me time every day thereafter. Or I can take extra time to organize my stuff drawer and save time when I’m trying to find something in it and money when I don’t buy an eighth container of super glue (can you tell I organized my stuff drawer this week? :)). Vaden calls it three dimensional time management, where you take into account the significance equation.

One way I’ve been trying to apply this principle is to have a routine for my morning and evening. I’ve had routines before, but the past several years my routine has consisted of things like trying to drag myself out of bed even on the mornings when I feel awful or deciding if I can put my clothes on while I’m standing up or if I need to be sitting down to do it. Real exciting 🙂 Anyway! I realized when I was making a list of the things I would actually want to get done in a perfect morning  (and the most efficient order to do them in ;)) that the things I don’t usually get done are all the things that would either give me more time/energy the next day or that are significant to me. It definitely gave me the permission I needed to concentrate on actually implementing my routine.

So all this stuff has been rattling around in my head for a month or two and then yesterday this verse jumped out at me: Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.” [Col 4:17 NIV]

Bam! There’s that significance equation. I realized that this past week I’ve been so busy trying to somehow shove 18 months (yes, that’s really how long I’ve been sick!) worth of neglected house cleaning into a month that I’ve been neglecting my ministry. Yes, I’ve still been putting time and energy into my mothering. But mothering is only one of the ministries God has given me. Granted, I’d consider it the more important one, which is why it’s still getting done. However, I haven’t written a lick all week, which makes me feel cranky and drained.

My husband and I were talking last night about how we probably won’t look back on our lives and think, “Man, wasn’t it great that the house was clean?” Note: I am totally not advocating messy houses here–that’s a whole different issue. I love having the house clean. I’m a type four–I have trouble thinking when the house is a disaster. But we’ve addressed our house cleaning issues. We automated it by creating a specific times for cleaning different things. Despite that fact, I was getting sucked into cleaning/organizing way more than the time we’d already set aside.

I’m pretty sure that I will look back and be more concerned about the ministry I left undone than the house I left uncleaned.

I love this quote from The Hobbit (the movie). Gandalf has already told Bilbo that he’s looking for someone to share in an adventure and Bilbo replies that he’s not surprised Gandalf has been having a hard time finding someone since they’re “uncomfortable” and “make you late for dinner.” Gandalf says, “You’ve been sitting quietly for far too long. Tell me: when did doilies and your mother’s dishes become so important to you? I remember a young hobbit who always was running off in search of elves and the woods, who would stay out late, and come home after dark, trailing mud and twigs and fireflies. A young hobbit who would have liked nothing better than to find out what was beyond the borders of the Shire. The world is not in your books and maps; it’s out there.”

So, since January is a big tweak-your-time-management-strategies month, I will leave us with this question: Are we making time for the things that are significant or are we getting sidetracked with doilies and dishes?

Movies

The Beauty of Brokenness

I love Star Trek. I grew up on Next Generation. I remember when the first episode aired, back in 1987. It was like a holiday in our house because my dad had been quite into the original series. I’ve never been much of an Original Series fan myself, but I’ve been sucked into the Star Trek realm for all the rest of the shows and movies and my husband and I have made our way through TOS after watching the reboots (what is with the “Spock’s Brain” episode??–really, that’s the sort of thing that would make me feel like I had egg on my face if I’d written it). My kids have seen both Tribble episodes–the TOS and the DS9. They loved Into Darkness.

Anyway! I’ve been thinking a lot about the TOS characters lately–mostly because I LOVE the movie reboots (AOS). Star Trek and Into Darkness were top drawer, cream of the crop, all that jazz. I love the characters. The plots were both fine, but the characters just blew me away. And, as I’ve been reading AOS fan fiction pretty much continuously for the past few months, I’ve found myself pondering the differences between the AOS vs. TOS characters.

Let’s just talk about Kirk and Spock because we know most about their backgrounds and it’s easy to see what I’m talking about with them. So, in the original series, Kirk grows up in a loving, stable home. His father inspires him to join Star Fleet. He goes through some serious trauma in his teen years on Tarsus IV–basically, if you’re not familiar with the story of Tarsus IV, some kind of fungus that killed all their crops and for some reason Star Fleet didn’t come right away (or wasn’t aware of the situation) and so Governor Kodos used the crisis as an opportunity to put into practice his theories on eugenics and killed half the colony so that the other half could survive (see TOS The Conscience of the King). Kirk does have this great line in Star Trek 5 (yes, I realize it’s pretty much the only redeeming part of the movie) about how his pain makes him who he is. And we do see him with an awful lot of alien women, although I’ve read someone who made the case that he genuinely gets emotionally attached to them vs. the one night stands AOS Kirk indulges in. But on the whole, this Kirk is confident, stable, and uses his genius and charm to captain the Enterprise to great heights.

Spock from TOS suffers from trying to reconcile his two halves, and he doesn’t have the best relationship with his father–although there’s not a lot of insight as to whether that’s simply because he went into Star Fleet or if it’s of longer standing than that.

In AOS, Nero’s advent does a few things. For Kirk, obviously, Nero results in the death of his father even as Kirk is born (and if you look at the star dates, he’s born prematurely; unless of course AOS just forgot when Kirk’s birthday is). Kirk’s mother is off-planet, what seems to be frequently, judging from Kirk’s delinquent tendencies. I don’t think it’s a stretch to guess that Winona Kirk probably had issues dealing with Jim simply because her husband died as Jim was being born. I’m guessing that messed up a lot of that early mother-child bonding. Jim also has an uncle/stepfather? (Frank) who is at least verbally abusive to the point that Jim’s brother runs away while Jim is young. And we don’t know about Tarsus IV, but personally, I have no problem with the idea that it still happened and he still went. Hence, you end up with a Kirk who is brash, spoiling for a fight, clearly broken… he still uses his genius and charm to captain the Enterprise to great heights, but there’s an edginess there that’s not present in TOS.

For Spock, we don’t know exactly what Nero’s advent did. The movie shows Spock being bullied on account of his mother’s heritage. Fan fic authors speculate that xenophobia increased after humans learned from Nero that Romulans and Vulcans are cousins (something that didn’t turn up in the original series until part way through season one), resulting in deteriorated Vulcan-Human relations, and thus the bullying and his path to Star Fleet. He’s not accepted by the Vulcans. Obviously, after the first movie, Spock is dealing with the loss of his planet and the loss of his mother. She doesn’t die until much later in his life in the original series. Spock too is broken.

Guess which series has more fan fics?

If you answered AOS, you’re right! On fanfiction.net alone, there are more than twice as many AOS fics as there are TOS. I realize that there are more factors at work than just the characters–TOS is TV and the fans may tend to be older and perhaps less likely to write fan fic, which is after all a relatively new phenomenon; AOS is a movie series and has garnered fans from across the age spectrum.

But looking at those facts really brought something I’ve been thinking about for a while into focus for me. As an author and a reader, I love watching characters develop, and the reality is that character development takes angst. People don’t change when life is full of fluffy happiness–there’s no reason to. If I were going to write a Star Trek fan fic, I’d write it in the AOS universe because there’s more room for character development.

As Christians, we often go to great pains to look like we’ve got things together. We think that if non-Christians see how messed up we are, it’ll somehow put them off the Gospel, or if fellow Christians see how messed up we are, they’ll judge us for it. But the reality is that brokenness is winsome to people. People like the gritty, messy reality of brokenness because they can relate to it. Nobody’s perfect. If we pretend that we are perfect, we are in effect telling people that they don’t belong in our churches (or coming across as hypocrites, since everyone knows that nobody’s perfect). If we pretend that we’re perfect, we miss out on the opportunity for true community within the Church. And everyone else misses out on seeing something beautiful as God takes our brokenness and redeems it.

I talk a bit about this in my new book, To Push on the Rock, but I love Kintsugi–the Japanese art of pottery repair where they would fill in the cracks with lacquer mixed with gold dust. Kintsugi pieces are beautiful to see. And that’s how I feel about reading/writing a story where you watch the character go through angst that changes them or talking to someone who’s in the middle of a difficult time in their lives–there’s such beauty in the brokenness.

So why hide it?

 

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Fighting for Vulnerability

As I’ve mentioned, I’m working my way through Beth Moore’s Children of the Day. I’ve been ridiculously convicted by 1 Thess 2:2 where Paul says, “We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition” [NIV]. The way Beth phrases it is that Paul and Silas were “one bitten, twice bold.”

I don’t know about you, but that is not me. (See that emphasis? I really mean it.) I’m the kind of person who, when injured in a relationship or situation, walks away. It’s completely contrary to the stuff I’ve learned in Tai Chi, but it’s still my gut reaction. I think anyone who’s had bad experiences, which is probably most of us, isn’t going to make the same mistakes twice. That whole “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” thing. We don’t take pans out of the oven without hot pads. We don’t do stupid things once we’ve learned that they’re stupid.

But here’s Paul, knowing that preaching the Gospel is going to result in suffering, and still doing it. With God’s help.

I finished my Lois & Clark fan fic. I’ll add a link once I get it archived (or if you want to read it a week at a time, I’m posting it on lcficmbs.com and fanfiction net). Anyway, super fun to write! Lots of angst, as I said. And one of the great things I got to explore was vulnerability, and how love leaves us exposed, but at the same time we’re better people because of it. It’s something I’ve been working on my own life. I want to be a vulnerable person–to share myself with others, the way Paul talks about in 1 Thess. 2:7-8–because I want to be a vulnerable person, not because I feel guilted into it, not because the people around me act in a way that makes me feel like it’s a good idea, but because it’s who I want to be. My relational paranoia means I am quite uncomfortable with that. I give people, even dear friends, a very  small level of trust. If they break my trust, even unintentionally, it takes me a long time before I trust them again.

Obviously–quick disclaimer–I am not advocating putting oneself in/staying in an abusive situation.

But there’s something to that whole being open thing. Community is impossible without it. In Children of the Day, Beth says “We were created for community. We thrive in healthy intimacy. We have to give fully to create the space to receive fully” (p. 59). We can’t really have fulfilling relationships without being vulnerable.

But it isn’t natural. It’s not a gut reaction. It’s something we have to fight for, something we have to depend on God for. That seems to be the key phrase there. Paul has to be determined to persevere, but he doesn’t do it on his own. He depends on God.

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Keys to Finding a Calling

In my Bible study today Beth Moore said something in passing that really hit me. I’ve been working through Children of the Day: 1&2 Thessalonians. I’m really enjoying it. Anyway! Today was on hindrances, and how Paul didn’t let his hindrances actually hinder him. He persevered despite the many, many difficult circumstances he went through (2 Cor. 11; 1 Thess 2). Beth was talking about how amazing it is to let God take the hindrance out of our past pains and she listed a bunch of equations (e.g., Heartbreak-hindrance= depth) (p.70).

One of those equations particularly struck me: “My pain-hindrance=my passion.” As I was thinking about it, I realized how true it is. Pain gets under our skin, makes us care about things we wouldn’t normally care about. And once you’ve worked through that pain, you still care about the thing that’s left. For instance, I’m passionate about natural health because I have a chronic illness and I’ve done the whole “do what your doctor says without questioning it” thing and it didn’t work for me. I’m also passionate about women in the church because I got told multiple times in high school and college that there wasn’t a place for me in the church (other than to just attend or do nursery or worship team).

Anyway, as I was thinking through all the things I’m passionate about, I realized that they’ve all come out of some painful situation that God has transformed through His love. And He’s been faithful to provide outlets for me to use that passion in various ways.

I wish, however, that we would talk about that in the church. You know, when we’re giving people spiritual gifts tests and telling them that God has something for them in a vague, general sort of way. It would have been nice to have someone say: here’s your gifting; look at whatever the most painful experiences of your life have been to figure out what you’re passionate about, and ask God to combine the two. (Or something along those lines.)

It’s definitely something I’m going to be telling my children when they ask about what God might be calling them to do.

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Effortless Power

So…. Wow. It’s been a while. I know I’ve said, um, pretty much every time that I’ve blogged in the past year that it’s been a crazy year, but really, it’s been a crazy year. Now that I’ve finished editing Push on the Rock, I figure I should start blogging again–or at least I figure I have energy I could spend on blogging.

So one of the things I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is energy–as in having enough energy to get through the day. Simpson said that he felt younger and stronger at age seventy than age thirty because he had learned to “live using God’s strength, accomplishing fully twice as much mentally and physically as I ever did in the past, yet with only half the effort. My physical, mental, and spiritual life is like an artesian well–always full and overflowing; speaking, teaching and traveling by day on by night through sudden and violent changes in weather or climate is of no more effort to me than it is for the wheels of an engine to turn when the pressure of the steam is at full force or than it is for a pipe to let water run through it.” (Streams in the Desert 9/27)

Reading that made me think about the “art of effortless power” Peter Ralston talks about with Tai Chi. Effortless power comes naturally as a result of aligning oneself with the five principles: being calm, relaxed, centered, grounded, and whole and total. As crazy as it sounds, this is something that I’ve actually experienced in my practice of Tai Chi. It’s amazing to be able to punch without feeling my muscles tire, or to walk and have it take more energy to stop than it does to keep going. I think, like so many things, this physical reality has a corresponding spiritual reality and that’s what Simpson found.

It spurred me to look at the five principles and examine those spiritual realities.

1) Calm: In Tai Chi this means mental calmness, but I think when we look at the Christian life, it’s equivalent is to fully trust God. Like Paul says in Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (NIV). That mental calmness can only come when we’re not worried about anything–that doesn’t mean that you’re calm 24/7, but rather that when you worry, you choose to trust God.

2) Relaxed: In Tai Chi this is the reality of being physically relaxed, of letting your weight drain through all your joints and into the ground. My Tai Chi instructor likens it to water draining through a hose without kinks. Spiritually, I would argue this means surrendering to God…. getting rid of any hinderances to relying on God–in every single area of my life.

3) Centered: In Tai Chi this involved moving from the center of your body, rather than where we typically are focused (our heads). Spiritually, I think this translates into living my life from the core of who I am, who I really am; knowing myself and living out of that vs. trying to force something. I have to know who God designed me to be, who I am as a new creature in Christ, and what things are important to me. My husband and I recently cleaned out one of our closets and in one of my old notebooks, I found a story I had written back in third or fourth grade. I wrote myself into the story as a “future author.” I’d forgotten that I’d always wanted to be a writer. It was very affirming to be reminded of how much I love literature and writing–how much I’ve always loved literature and writing. I wrote my first story on a typewriter when I was four (it was about a cat and a rat, just in case you were wondering). It’s part of who I am. I also found some other things–little encouragement cards I used to send to the girls I discipled in high school, different prayers in my old journals. The more things change, the more they stay the same. God made me a certain way. There just are certain things that are part of who I am. And it’s easy to forget those things in the every day crazy of life. It’s also easy to forget the reality of who I am in Jesus, to start believing the lies about being unlovable, or unloved, or worthless, or lazy, or any of the other wrong things people have told me over the years. Being centered means living out of the essence of who God tells me I am.

4) Grounded: In Tai Chi this is being 100% connected to the earth, feeling all of your weight going down into the earth, so that when you push, etc., you do so with the force of the earth. There’s a concussive effect that happens when your body is relaxed, you’re centered and grounded, and you push/pull/punch, etc. It packs a lot of power. Quite painful if you’re the one being punched. 😉 Anyway! Spiritually, I think we can talk about this as being connected to God–being grounded in who He is and doing things through the power of the Holy Spirit. I don’t know about you, but I forget who God is. Often. I get these crazy ideas about His character when I focus on my circumstances–like that He’s forgotten me, or doesn’t really love me, or isn’t kind, isn’t patient, isn’t forgiving, and on and on and on. I need daily time in His Word and His presence just to remember who He is, to re-ground.

5) Whole and Total: In Tai Chi, this involves utilizing your entire body as well as being aware of your surroundings. My instructor says that so often we live like we’re all gingerbread men. We have a front and a back, and we forget about the rest. Or I’ve seen people who just have heads, but if you tell them to raise their right arm and tap their left foot, they have to think hard to connect with those parts of their body. We tend to put our bodies on auto-pilot, but being whole and total means knowing where all of me is. Knowing my strengths and weaknesses, and using them both. It means interacting with the whole world around me, not just the three feet in front of my face. And this is where circumstances come in. I am now going to betray my dorkiness, but I love the Vulcan concept of “kaiidith”: what is, is. Being whole and total means recognizing what is because only when you work with what is can you change. You can’t change something that doesn’t exist. I have a relative who is waiting on someone else to fix their anger issues because they truly believe that those issues are the other person’s fault. It means they’re stuck because they have no control over their lives. We need God’s help to see what is. And we need His help to have eyes that are willing to recognize all of ourselves–the things we love about ourselves and the things we hate.

When I’m going through my day, I’ve started asking myself about the five principles. I talked to my Tai Chi instructor recently and he pointed out that you really have to do them in order. You can’t be physically relaxed without being mentally calm. You can’t be centered without being physically relaxed. And I love that. It’s so nice to have a quick and easy checklist to go through in my day: Am I trusting God? Am I fully surrendered?  Do I remember who I am? Do I remember who He is? Am I seeing myself and my circumstances fully and accurately?

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To Push on the Rock ~ Chapter 9 (El Fin!)

“I’ve never heard someone talk about ministry like this.” Will picked up a handful of rocks and sifted them through his fingers. “When I wanted to do ministry, I never thought it would be this hard, this vulnerable. I didn’t think about hurting or harming the people I preached to, or sharing myself. I just thought about preaching, the thing itself”—he gave a little laugh—“and the results, of course. Now, I don’t know. I don’t know what I should be doing. I don’t know if I even want to do any ministry.”

Moses gave him a compassionate look. “It’s a lot to take in. At the end of the day though, you only have to answer one question.”

“Really? All that death and suffering and weakness can be boiled down to one question?”

Moses nodded. “Do you want to follow Jesus or not?”

“I already said yes to that question the day I told God that I wanted Jesus’ death to pay for my sin,” Will said, his brow creased in a puzzled frown.

“Solomon said yes at the beginning of his life too.(174) But life is not lived in a moment,” Moses said, holding Will’s gaze. “Life is lived moment by moment from the day you’re born to the day you die. And following Jesus is not done in a single moment. Every moment you have to decide. Don’t put it off.”

Will tried to imagine preaching or building the bridge. Follow Jesus, yes, but build a bridge . . . or even preach . . . .

“You can’t follow and lead at the same time,” Moses said. “If you follow, it means you go wherever God leads you.”

Will made a face. “I know. I know. It just seems so overwhelming.”

“Is it overwhelming to follow God in this moment?”

“If that means sitting here, not exactly, although I’m not a fan of this hole.”

“Neither am I. I’m truly sorry that we ended up out here. It’s another place pride has taken me that I didn’t want to go. I hope you can learn from my sin. Following God is far from easy, and it’s often painful, and it may not be where you want to go, but He always takes you where you really need to go. Don’t—” his face paled—“don’t make the same mistakes I have. I know I was going about it the wrong way, but that’s really all I was trying to do tonight. I have regrets that I’ll carry for the rest of my life. I’d hate for you to end up carrying the same ones.”

Will gave a slight nod. He’d seen the depth of Moses’ drive when Moses had followed him out here. “Can I ask what happened? What did you do, if you don’t mind me asking?”

Moses’ mouth went dry. “I waited to obey. And, well, you know from my book that even when I began to obey with my hands, I refused to obey with my heart.”

“Everybody sins—” Will began.

Moses slashed a hand downwards. “I know that. You think I don’t know that? But imagine you found out that someone died because they couldn’t get to a doctor in time because you didn’t build your bridge. Imagine how you’d feel then.”

“Someone died because you waited to obey?” Will asked, his eyes wide.

Moses looked down. “I don’t know. I don’t know what the cost was. I know that my obedience has often had larger ripples than I ever dreamed of. I know that disobedience has done the same.” He raised his gaze to meet Will’s. “Please. Please don’t wait.”

Will stared at him. Something seemed off somehow. He didn’t even know what it was. He’d felt uncomfortable before when Moses had talked about his regrets. He’d assumed it was just discomfort with the depth of Moses’ emotion, but now it almost felt like talking to two different people. He didn’t know how to talk to this person, the man who was consumed with regret. He hesitated. “Can I say something?”

“Go ahead,” Moses said.

“Something seems wrong about what you just said. What about you arguing that Paul’s sin made him the perfect man for the job? What about all that stuff you said about God’s love?”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t know what I mean. You just seem so—different when you talk about regret than when you talk about ministry. I always thought regret was a wasted emotion. You can’t change the past. Why bother agonizing over it?”

“I used to think that too, back when I was young and thoughtless, back before I’d come face-to-face with the consequences of my sin. Sometimes you just can’t help regret, and if it keeps you from making the same mistakes—”

“But what if it causes you to make new ones? I mean, look at what happened tonight.”

“It was my pride that got us here,” Moses said, his voice harsh.

Will ran a hand through his hair. “I thought you said you came out here because you wanted to keep me from making the same mistakes you did, because you didn’t want me to carry the same regrets.”

“I did. I do,” Moses said testily.

“I’m not trying to attack you. I just don’t understand,” Will said. How could he get through to Moses? “Wait! I have an idea. I’ll be you and you be me. No, I mean I’ll be me and you be you,” he said.

“I don’t follow.”

“Let’s imagine someone did die because I haven’t built my bridge.” Will could feel a shiver go through his soul. Please God, please don’t let that be true. “You be you talking about ministry. How does death, suffering, and weakness fit into my unbuilt bridge and the consequences?”

“It doesn’t. Not doing ministry is not ministry,” Moses said flatly.

Will gave him an exasperated look. “Please. Humor me. I know that your book has changed me. You wouldn’t have a book without your story, your mistakes. Shared suffering, remember? I might need to know this stuff for later.”

Moses glared at him. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you, boy! Obey now so you won’t have a later!”

Will’s eyes widened. Who was this man?

“Fine,” Moses said and calmed himself with visible effort. “Death. Not obeying is not dying to self. There’s no self-sacrifice in sin.”

“But what about in regret? Is there obedience in regret?”

“Paul says that godly sorrow leads to repentance—to change.(175) I know that I’ve changed because I don’t want to repeat the same regrets.”

Will tried to imagine how he’d feel years after he’d found out that his actions really had killed someone. He’d do things differently all right. And yet . . . “Lots of things have made me change. My father makes me do things differently all the time. Is change the only way to tell if you’ve repented?” Will asked.

“Depends on the type of change.”

“Even if I go home and build my bridge tomorrow, assuming that we get out of this hole, what do I do about the last six months? I can’t erase them. Is my lack of obedience going to wreck my life?” Will sat up straight as a thought hit him. “Wait a minute! That’s it!”

“What’s it?”

“Is it going to wreck my life?” Will said, enunciating each word. “In your book, you said destruction comes from sin and Satan. That’s what Jesus says in John 10:10, right?”

“So?”

“So, if regret destroys something, it can’t be from God!”

Moses stared at him. What was the boy trying to say? “I’m not sure I agree. Why do you think regret will destroy your life?”

“Look at you. You talk about your regret like it’s a heavy burden, and you’re afraid of repeating your mistakes.” He gasped. “Afraid. Suffering plus fear. That’s why your regret is so strong—because it’s bondage.”

Moses felt like his head was spinning. It was so much harder to argue with his own words. “I don’t—I’m not sure that that’s really accurate.”

“Okay. You’re the one who keeps talking about how God’s love changes things from the inside out. Where does love fit into regret?”

“Well, if I love God, then I’ll obey Him.”(176)

“How does that involve regret? I can obey without regret,” Will said, his voice full of challenge.

“Yes, but regret has made me zealous to obey. I know the weight of my actions, the consequences I’ll have to bear, and I don’t want to make the same mistakes. It’s like burning yourself on a hot stove—the pain of the burn reminds you to be careful with the stove. Regret is that pain.”

“Could there be two ways of handling the burn though? Tell me about fear and love. How can I handle the pain of the past six months with love?”

Moses threw his hands in the air. “You can’t change the past six months. If you add fear to that, you’ll try to do things differently. If you add love, you’ll try to do things differently.”

“So the same action, but the character of the act is totally different.” Will thought for a moment. “Suffering is a result of sin, right? My sin, my lack of obedience, caused suffering—that’s the consequences of sin.” He swallowed hard. Hopefully not too much suffering, although even a little suffering . . . Oh Lord, what have I done? “But didn’t you say that God is redeeming suffering?”

“I did.”

“So is He redeeming the consequences of my sin or not?”

“He is . . . .”

“So where’s the Gospel in regret?”

“I don’t know!” Moses raised his eyes to the heavens. “I don’t know. I’ve never thought about it from that angle before. Regret just is. It’s there, like being sad or lonely or tired or hungry. It’s how we’re made.”

“But the Gospel is in those things. I heard a sermon once about how our feelings point us towards the Gospel in some fashion. ‘Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.’(177) God comforting our grief because of the Gospel. Our grief driving us to reach out for God’s comfort. ‘God sets the lonely in families.’(178) Through the Gospel, we become part of God’s family.(179) We’re never alone again. Being tired reminds us that we’re not made for a broken world. It can prompt us to think about eternity and whether we want the Gospel or not. Physical hunger is a metaphor for how our souls hunger for God.” He paused, then continued, “Where’s the Gospel in regret?”

“The cross means Jesus has paid for my sin, and He’s redeeming the suffering I’ve caused,” Moses said, keeping his voice even with an effort. “Regret calls me to count the cost of my sin, to remember how much Jesus paid.”

Will shook his head. “I don’t buy that. I see you counting the cost of your sin, but I haven’t seen anything about God redeeming the consequences of your sin—the suffering.”

Moses’ hands clenched convulsively, but he forced himself to stay seated. Will was just a boy—a boy who hadn’t had the kind of experiences he’d had.

“Back to my bridge,” Will continued. “Couldn’t God do that with my bridge? Couldn’t I ask Him to fill in the brokenness with His love, like kintsuko?”

“Kintsugi.” The kid had a point. God was in the business of redeeming suffering, and Will’s sin had caused suffering. Maybe it worked for other people—people whose sin hadn’t caused as much suffering as his had. He couldn’t tell anymore. He just knew he was so tired—tired of making the same mistakes over and over, tired of carrying his regrets, tired of trying to move past them. But that was him. Focus on Will. Do the job you’re supposed to do, he told himself. “I don’t see why not,” Moses said thoughtfully.

“And if God fills in the cracks, then I don’t have to worry about them anymore, do I?”

“I guess not.”

“And that would mean I could stop carrying it around, which means I don’t hang onto regret, right?”

“Theoretically.”

Will’s eyes narrowed. “Then why couldn’t you do that?”

Moses’ eyes slid closed. Will had no idea what he was talking about. He alone knew the depth of his sin. His plate wasn’t just cracked—it was shattered. “I don’t know. I’ll have to give it some thought.”

“Oh, I see. So what’s good for the pot isn’t good for the kettle? If God takes care of my sin, why would He treat your sin any differently?”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about!” Moses said, slamming his hand down on his thigh. “I knew better. I knew I was sinning.” The muscles in his jaw tightened. “And sin has consequences.”

“You think I didn’t know better?” Will said. “I convinced myself that I was hallucinating, but in the end, I only came out into these damn mountains to get God off my back.” He took a deep breath. “Is the Gospel for you or not?”

“Just leave it alone, Will,” Moses ground out.

“No! Is the Gospel for you or not? I need to know! Because if it’s not for you, maybe it’s not for me. Maybe regret is the way to go. Maybe I have screwed up so badly that it can’t be fixed!” Will yelled.

Moses forced a smile. “Of course the Gospel is for me.”

“You don’t mean that. Or if you do, you only mean part of the Gospel—the part about getting to spend eternity with God, not the part about having full redemption of the suffering your sin caused, now, here, before God gets rid of sin and suffering forever.”

Moses pinched the bridge of his nose. Now was not the time for this. Not when he was too tired to keep a rein on his temper. “I’m tired, Will. Let’s talk about this later. You may be used to staying up all night, but I’m not. I’m not as young as I used to be.”

“Why are you doing this? How can part of the Gospel be true and not all of it? How can you pick and choose your truths? If it’s true, doesn’t it have to all be true?” Will picked up his Bible. “Doesn’t this have to be either all true or all false?”

“It’s true that the message is so integrated throughout the Bible that you can’t really cut out passages, if that’s what you’re getting at,”(180) Moses said. “Now can we talk about this later? Maybe we can catch a few winks before morning.”

“Then answer my question: does the whole Gospel apply to you or not?” Will demanded.

“Yes! Okay, yes! Are you happy now?”

“Then why are you so afraid of your sin?”

Moses turned away. Afraid of his sin! How dare that pup treat him this way! How dare he—Moses slumped, the anger ebbing out of him as reality hit his soul—how dare Will tell him the truth? He was afraid of his sin, afraid with every fiber of his being. That’s what came of not knowing what exactly the results of his sin were, but knowing they were probably disastrous. What if people had died as a direct result of his disobedience? Wasn’t that worth some regret? But then . . . Lord, I am afraid. I’m afraid of what I’ve done and not done. I’m afraid that I’ve ruined something. But is that really a bad thing? Isn’t regret just one of the consequences of my sin? Lord, show me. Will’s question echoed in the recesses of his mind: “Does the whole Gospel apply to you or not?” Why hadn’t he ever thought about it that way? Why hadn’t he ever seen that he didn’t accept the whole Gospel? If the Gospel applied to his regrets . . . Maybe this could be more than just for Will. Maybe this could be for him. Maybe the Gospel could change his regrets. Tears filled his throat. The Gospel could change his regrets. Love could change his regrets. He turned back to Will. “You’re right,” he said, forcing the words past the lump in his throat. “I am afraid.”

Will put a hand on Moses’ shoulder. “I need you. Tell me about regret.”

“Well, I think you’re right: regret is the right action, but the wrong motive, the plus fear instead of love,” Moses said quietly.

“And it seems like it does something,” Will added. “You almost seem like two different people—the man who believes in embodying the Gospel, who talks about love transforming every blessed thing, and the man who’s consumed with his regrets.”

“Hmm . . . . .” Moses forced himself to think about his regrets and then about God’s love. “I know when I think about my regrets, it’s like my sin happened yesterday. I guess I’ve dealt with that by trying not to think about it and trying to be someone who doesn’t make those kinds of mistakes.”

Will nodded. “Yeah, I don’t like thinking about my mistakes either. Who does?”

 ‘Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered,’ ”(181) Moses whispered. “David did. I mean, I don’t know that he liked thinking about his mistakes, but he sure liked thinking about God’s forgiveness. There’s real praise in Psalms 32 and 51, despite bearing the full weight of murdering Uriah and stealing Uriah’s wife.”(182) He stared into the fire. Why don’t I feel that? If God has forgiven me and redeemed the consequences of my sin . . . . He passed a hand over his eyes. “Maybe I’m too tired to think clearly right now, Will.”

“No, I think you’re on to something. Maybe it’s like your story? Don’t think about how you feel or what your experiences seem to be saying; start with what God says is true. Start with the Gospel. Maybe re-tell me what suffering does?” Will suggested.

“Why don’t you tell me?”

“Okay. Well—well—” Will fingered a piece of the broken branch. Where to start?

“I find it helps to think in terms of how God uses suffering generally and then in me and in my relationships with Him and others.”

“Okay,” Will said. He cleared his throat. This almost felt like a test to see how much he could actually remember. “God is using suffering to display His character to the world because it takes skill to turn something broken into something beautiful. It’s where the world is breaking so that’s where He’s mending. My sin and your sin is where He’s mending. He’s redeeming it from the inside out through love. He’s sifting the consequences so that only those He uses for good get through. I guess that means that I can trust Him to use the consequences of even my sin for good. So far, so good?”

“Sounds like you were listening.”

Will frowned. “Does regret fit into those ideas? It seems like regret doesn’t leave room for God to redeem anything.”

“You might have a point,” Moses said after a minute. “Regret is sort of like being in mourning your whole life, and the only way to avoid it is to deny your sin or to run away from the truth.”

“No wonder it feels like your sin happened yesterday! Regret must be keeping you, or at least a part of you, frozen in time, unable to heal. Maybe that’s the plus fear. Fear of moving on? Fear of making the same mistakes? Fear of what the consequences of your sin might be? If you never do anything, you’ll never do the same wrong thing.” Will stood up and began to pace out the four steps he could manage in the confined space. “Regret is fueled by fear and unbelief. Regret is pre-judging the consequences, deciding there’s no way for God to work them out for good, acting like we know the whole story, instead of waiting to see God’s perspective.”

Moses stared at him. Out of the mouth of babes, he thought wryly. “You’re right. I guess that part of me has been isolated. I never realized that I believed such opposing things,” he said.

“It’s like you said: things can look the same on the outside, but be totally different on the inside. Regret looks okay from the outside. It’s only on the inside where you can see the difference.”

“Indeed. You have been listening. Regret still seems like you’re doing something about your sin because you feel bad about it,” Moses mused. “However, that’s just a front; in reality, you’re not dealing with it. You’re not letting God transform it with His love, and you’re not growing in that area. I guess I needed you, Will. I’ve never had someone notice my inconsistency, probably because no one has churned up those things quite the way you have. Thanks for being the furnace.”

“I’m sorry—”

“I’m not. I needed this. I hope I never get too old or too stubborn to keep growing.”

“So what are you going to do?”

“Repent. Change what I’ve been doing. I’ve been in bondage to my sin for far too long.”

“But what does that look like? What is repentance?” Will rubbed a hand across his forehead. “I don’t mean to pry. I just have the feeling this is a lesson I need to know.”

“Well, it’s like you said: regret is fear-based. Because of it, I’ve let my sin define me. I’ve spent years trying to prove to myself that I wasn’t the man I’d been, the man who refused to listen and obey. I should have been listening to who God says I am. I should have been focusing on His love and His ability to work things for good, instead of focusing on myself and my sin. “

“Oh right! Like that p, q, therefore r thing.”

“Exactly.” Moses held Will’s gaze. “I’ve been like the Pharisees, driven by my fear and my pride and that’s why my ‘ministry’ to you was so destructive. I’m so sorry, Will. I was trying so hard to control you, to keep you from making the same mistakes and to atone for my own mistakes. I wasn’t loving you. Will you forgive me?”

Will sat down next to Moses. “Yes. Maybe God can fill in both of our mistakes with some of that kintsugi gold . . . .”

Moses patted Will’s hand. “I’m pretty sure He can if we surrender them to Him.”

“So what do I do? About my bridge, I mean. I may have hurt someone that I’ve never even met. How do I fix things when I don’t even know what needs fixed?”

“Same thing you’d do if you hurt someone you did know—repent, love, ask God what you should do, then listen and obey. True repentance involves change. You can’t keep on doing what you’ve been doing. I’m afraid you know what that means you’d have to do.”

Will sighed. “Go build my bridge.”

“Exactly.”

Will stared at the ground. It was the conclusion he’d already been coming to, but that didn’t make it any easier.

“I just had a thought,” Moses said.

“What?”

“Maybe it’s my propensity towards pride that’s at fault.”

“How so?”

“Regret has a lot of self in it. You know, in the past, I’ve always used the consequences of my obedience as the measure of how disastrous my disobedience was. But maybe that’s the wrong measure. I mean, sin is always a disaster, so I’m not trying to downplay my disobedience. But—well, obedience is empowered by God. My disobedience comes from me alone. I’ve been so convinced that I had the power to really mess up the world. Maybe my influence is a lot smaller than I want to believe.”

Will straightened. “Yeah. Yeah. And if God is sifting the consequences, redeeming even our sin, maybe He can work out my unbuilt bridge.”

“And maybe He can work out the consequences of my sin too,” Moses said softly.

Will took a deep breath. “I guess we won’t know unless we ask.”

“You’re right. I’ll go first.” Moses looked up at the sky. “God, thank You for sending this young man to teach an old dog new tricks. Forgive me for my fear and my unbelief, for trying to carry the weight of my sin day after day. God, I don’t know exactly how things should change, but You do. Show me if there’s anything I need to do about the damage I’ve caused. Thank You for making me human and small enough that I don’t have the power to make giant changes apart from You. Please fill in those breaks with Your love. Redeem the suffering my sin has caused. Change me. Reach into those places I’ve kept unchanged and make them reflect You. Thank You for Will. Please give him a rich ministry, full of the adventure of obeying You. Please get us out of this hole in Your own perfect time. In Jesus’ Name, amen.”

Will cleared his throat. “Um, Lord, You know that I’m scared. I’m scared to lose myself and go build that bridge. I’m scared not to build it. I’m scared that I’ve messed things up so badly that they can’t be fixed. I’m scared that I’ve hurt people permanently. But God, all this stuff we’ve been talking about with the Gospel and how You intervene in suffering—” his voice broke—“Please forgive me. Help me to be different. Change my heart to obey even when I don’t want to. Help me to build that bridge. And please, God, redeem the consequences of my sin. You are my only hope. Thank You for sending me out here to meet Moses. Please bless him and his ministry too. In Your Name, amen.”

Both men sniffed a moment.

Moses straightened, his load lighter than it had been in ages. The peace of God seemed almost a tangible thing here in this pit.

Will suddenly knew that it was going to be okay. God had nagged and dragged him into a corner—well, a hole—but for the first time, he knew things would be all right.

Moses gripped Will’s shoulder. “Thank you, son. You don’t know what this means to me.”

Will gave him a small smile. “I think I might have some idea. Thank you for writing your book and waiting for me and coming after me. Thank you for blazing the trail.”

“You’re welcome—although you know that it wasn’t really me. I would never have done all that if God hadn’t told me too—well, except for coming after you,” Moses added with a wink.

“Right. So now what?”

“Now we keep waiting. The sun’s up. After a while, it’ll be high in the sky, and then we’ll be able to see if there’s a way we can get ourselves out of this hole. If nothing else, eventually my wife will get worried. I imagine she’ll send someone to look for me. Whether they’ll find us or not is another matter.” Moses pulled his pack into his lap. “I think I might have some rations left from my last outing. Breakfast?”

“Your wife? Did you marry Rose?”

Moses smiled reminiscently. “No. It’s like I said in my story: Rose would never have been happy with a life of ministry. And looking back, I’m not sure that we really loved each other anyway. We thought we were in love, but my choice to follow God just showed that when push came to shove, our relationship couldn’t cut it. She actually did go on to marry Bob and move to the city. She got the things she wanted.”

“Wow. That must have really rankled.”

“Not once I came to terms with the idea of ministry as heart obedience. Rose would have kept me from being the man God designed me to be, from doing the good works He prepared in advance just for me. I have no regrets in that department,” Moses said with a twinkle. “My wife gave herself to God before we got married. She has her own ministry.”

“Huh. So being called to ministry doesn’t mean I’m doomed to singleness?”

“Nope, only if God blesses you with singleness. Marriage is a gift when you’re married to someone who can be your ally.(183) Singleness is a gift too—more time and energy to pour into your relationship with God and others.(184) More time for ministry. Just follow wherever God gifts you. I will say that I couldn’t have done my ministry if I hadn’t married someone with the same level of commitment to following God and the same understanding that ministry doesn’t always have immediate visible results.”

“So where did you find this woman?”

Moses grinned. “In a hole like this one. I married Tehya.”

“Tehya?”

Moses nodded.

“Wait. The Tehya? From your story?”

“Yup. Funny how that all worked out, isn’t it?”

Will stared at him. “So if you hadn’t obeyed—“

“I would have missed out on one of the biggest blessings I have in my life.” Moses shook his head. “Or maybe not. Maybe God would have filled in that crack and rescued her some other way and brought us together later. Who knows?”

“Moses! Moses! Where are you?” a feminine voice called.

Moses leveraged himself into a standing position. “Speaking of Tehya—” He cupped his hands around his mouth and looked up. “Down here, dear!”

(174) 1 Kings 3:1-15

(175) 2 Cor. 7:10

(176) John 14:21

(177) Matt. 5:4 NIV

(178) Ps. 68:6 NIV

(179) John 1:12-13

(180) 2 Tim. 3:16; Missler, Cosmic Codes, 308.

(181) Ps. 32:1 NIV

(182) Psalm 51 superscription; 2 Sam. 11

(183) Dan Allender, Intimate Allies, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1995). Jim & Sarah Sumner, Just How Married Do You Want to Be?: Practicing Oneness in Marriage (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2008).

(184) 1 Cor. 7:1,7, 32-35

To Push on the Rock
By Elizabeth Frerichs
© Elizabeth Frerichs 2015