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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 ūüėČ

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 ūüėČ (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.

Literature

The Hawk and the Dove

If you’ve never read Penelope Wilcox’s triology, The Hawk and the Dove, well, you should. It’s one of those books everyone should read, especially anyone who has ever suffered or struggled with the problem of evil. I just happened to be given a copy of The Hawk and the Dove in college and it changed me. The book is comprised of a series of short stories that take place around the 15th century in a monastery. The main character, Father Peregrine, comes on the scene as a self-possessed, capable monk with strong hands. He is artistic, does beautiful illuminations, intelligent, able to debate theology…. yet somehow in the midst of this, his very self-sufficiency keeps him at arm’s length from the rest of the monks. Shortly after becoming the Abbot, enemies of his family find him and beat him, shattering his hands and kneecap. He spends the rest of his life as a cripple. Initially, he tries to maintain his self-sufficiency, to deal with his grief and fear alone. One of the brothers breaks through to him and beholds his suffering. The rest of the stories are about how the Abbot becomes the hub of the community. His weakness enables him to relate to the brothers on an intensely deep level, to soothe their fears and their weaknesses. He becomes truly a father to them all. And in the midst of his suffering, he falls in love with Jesus as the suffering savior.

I could never understand why the Catholic church portrays Jesus on the cross, until I read this book. Yes, I want to continue to celebrate His resurrection as verification of all He promised, but beholding Jesus as the suffering Savior has changed me in ways I can’t even explain. The Gospel is Christ crucified… God’s love revealed through sacrifice and suffering. He is not unfamiliar with our pain. He is not putting us through hoops, as though we’re rats in a maze. His suffering can comfort us in the midst of ours. Our suffering can connect us with Christ. Stop and think about that for a moment. Just turn it over a few times. Jesus is the suffering Savior and our suffering can connect us with Him.

He has empathy, not sympathy, for us in the middle of our suffering. As we suffer, we have empathy, not sympathy, for what He went through for US. for us! Jesus went through suffering for us. As I suffer, I come to a greater appreciation of God’s love for me–the cost He paid for me. This is the answer to the problem of evil–the cross.

Our suffering can connect us with others. This also blows my mind. I love how Wilcox shows the transformative power of suffering. Before his infirmity, Father Peregrine is self-sufficient and is able to command the respect of his brothers. Afterwards, he is broken and needy and earns their love. Before, he is able to guide them on an intellectual, surface level. Afterwards, his brokenness opens doors into their hearts and there is deep dealing experienced. It’s so easy for me to gloss over this concept. Maybe it’s the performance-oriented, perfectionistic part of me. I don’t know. But in my weakness, my first reaction is to conceal it, and when I can’t hide it, I try to minimize, and over the past few years, when I can’t even do those things, I feel isolated and like dead weight, dragging everyone around me down. Father Peregrine doesn’t hide his weakness–he can’t. And he’s a better Abbot because of his weakness, not in spite of his weakness. Just as Christ is a better high priest because of his weakness.

What would it be like if we all lived with our weaknesses and brokenness in the spotlight? Sounds terrifying, doesn’t it? But maybe we would be more intimately connected with God and with others, maybe we would have healthier souls. Maybe we would be better tools for the good works God’s prepared in advance for us to do. Maybe I am a better wife, a better mother, a better friend, a better sister, a better daughter because of my illness and brokenness, not in spite of it. Maybe you are too.