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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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More Adjustments

Well, so the benefit of doing blogging this way is that I have no idea what I’m going to talk about before I actually start talking about it. Hope you enjoy a more conversational style 😉

In case you haven’t noticed, there are a few things I’m kinda obsessed with. I have been called nerdy a few times in my life. I love Star Trek (TNG is my fav; not much of a fan of TOS, but I do love the new movies–yes, I know that makes me a heretic). I’ve read more than half of the Lois & Clark fan fiction archive. We watch Speed Racer (the movie) whenever we spend too much time with family and need reminded that faithfulness is key to changing the world, rather than running after any certain careers. I read David Eddings’ Belgariad/the Malloreon whenever I need to remind myself that following God is the short-cut to getting wherever is best for me, even when it feels like getting lost. And I can’t tell you how many days it feels like getting lost. I read Penelope Wilcox’s The Hawk and the Dove when I feel like my brokenness is a hinderance to God’s ability to use me–that maybe by virtue of my absolutely destroyed physical health and sometimes precarious emotional health, I’m unusable, the days when I start feeling sorry for my kids because they have such a sick mom, that kind of thing. I’ve read/watched more versions of Cinderella than I can remember–excited for Disney’s new version! Since it came out, I’ve been reading Rowlings’ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows every year around Easter. And this year I celebrate reading Pride & Prejudice at least once a year for twenty years (woohoo!!). I do so love that book. We named our daughter after Jane Austen and Jane Bennet. Someone recently asked me how many books I read more than once and I didn’t really have an answer for that. As I’ve mentioned, books are part of my soul adjustment. I don’t think I could breathe without stories to remind me of what’s true–not that I’m saying that the Bible isn’t more important because obviously it is.

So since it’s New Year’s and time for Pride & Prejudice, I’ve started reading Pride & Prejudice fan fiction (in addition to reading Pamela Aidan’s fabulous Fitzwilliam Darcy Trilogy). I’ve been reading a lot of fan fiction the past 7 months–basically since I got sick in July. It’s amazing how being too sick to function opens up lots of reading time. Anyway! I have read so many terribly written stories that there have been days when I literally have wished I could take my brain out of my skull and wash it. It terrifies me when I realize some of these people actually thought their writing was edited enough to post on the internet for all to read–mostly because I’m scared that my writing is really that bad, but no one has the heart to tell me 😉 (ps–that wasn’t fishing for compliments, just sharing) Today, however, I read a version of P&P that I fell in love with called A Rush of Blackbirds. I could probably happily talk about character development for hours, so I’ll try to keep this short. Basically, the thing I loved about this version is that the author pushed Lizzie until she broke. It could be where I’m at in my life, but I am in love with stories that have lots and lots of angst. There’s something so satisfying about reading/writing a story where people are pushed far beyond their coping capacity and then somehow by the end, things work out ok.

In case you’re not familiar with the concept of fan faction, the author takes well-known characters/stories and basically changes something and then writes about how that change affects the rest of the story or sometimes they write the further adventures of the character. In this version of P&P, the author had Darcy get injured just before Bingley and co. were going to leave Netherfield, which meant that they all ended up staying. Darcy gets over his pride quite a bit earlier in the story. Elizabeth recognizes her own attraction to Darcy quite a bit earlier. I’ve never really spent a lot of time thinking about Elizabeth’s home situation, which is odd given how much my own family has played into my issues and how much Darcy throws her family in her face. This author talked about how traumatic it must have been for Elizabeth to have her father be so checked out, and yet how torn she was because she was his favorite. How hard it was for her to have her mother constantly put her down… for her mother to tell her she’d ruined the family by refusing Mr. Collins. How much she missed Jane, especially when she had some angst in her life and no one to turn to. And how even strong personalities reach a breaking point and need love to heal. It was beautiful.

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Pride and Prejudice in the New Year

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.