I was sick for a few days recently, so I took the opportunity to read a novel. I don’t usually read novels, for 2 reasons mainly. For one reason, with a household and small business to manage I don’t have an awful lot of time to read and I don’t want to waste what precious moments i have to read the Bible on something else that satisfies far less. And the other reason is because my husband mourns when I do, because if it is a good book (the only type worth reading), I will become utterly distracted from human interaction until the book is completed.
Since I was sick, I was relatively useless for conversation or company anyways, so I chose the companionship of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” (one of my two favorite novels, the other being “To Kill a Mockingbird”).
If you have read the story, feel free to skip over the next few paragraphs. If you have not, I will do my best to summarize a very complicated love story in an uncomplicated way.
It is mainly a story of two young people (Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy) who despised one another upon meeting, and meanwhile, as her perspective of him worsened as a result of believing lies, misunderstanding body language and judging motives, his perspective of her turned from one of self-pomp and dislike, to one of undeniable affection, which he could not shake, though he tried. Towards the middle of the story, he proposes marriage to her, in such a way that assumes that she would say “yes” because of his wealth and status and likewise her poverty, but instead manages to mortally offend her with his self-importance and also her preconceived notions of who he is. She accounts 2 events that have given her a foundation to abhor him.
The next morning, he meets her with a letter, explaining the two events which she has wrongly judged him by and have formed this prejudice. He proceeds to convince her that, though her facts were correct about one of the events, she had assumed wrong motives and judged him based on those. The other event was one in which she had believed a lie and hated him for what was spoken of him, not what was true about him.
Through the course of the rest of the book, she proceeds to fall in-love with him. He proceeds to sacrificially love her from a distance, unaware that she is falling for him, because both, in the awkwardness of their predicament, fear that the other does not love them and cannot forgive them, and so fail to communicate their true emotions for one another until it’s final pages.
It is also discovered, in the end, that her refusal of his marital offer, did a great service of humbling him and showing him the subtlety of his arrogance. He words it best himself when he says, regarding the marriage proposal and rejection, “The recollection of what I then said- of my conduct, my manners, my expressions during the whole of it- is now, and has been many months, inexpressibly painful to me. Your reproof, so well applied, I shall never forget: ‘Had you behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner.’ Those were your words. You know not, you can scarcely conceive, how they have tortured me; though it was some time, I confess, before I was reasonable enough to allow their justice.”. (pg.383). A short time later, he exhibits that he has learned from the experience, more than simply his own folly in that particular instance, but a short-coming in his character, by saying ” As a child, I was taught what was right; but I was not taught to correct my temper. I was given good principles, but left to follow them in pride and conceit”. (pg. 384-384)
Why do I love this story so? You must know that it reminds me of Jesus or I probably wouldn’t be writing about it. In fact, I tend to think that women have a general bend towards enjoying a great love story, and that it’s origin is that we are longing for the greatest love story of all, whether or not we know and believe it.
Leaving off the fact that Mr. Darcy had faults of his own, it reminds me so much of the story between us and Christ. We have so wrong and distrusting a view of Him. He has loved us since the beginning of time, sacrificed all for our eternal well-being, offered us all the riches of heaven, yet even so, we have looked at Him with disdain and distrust, mainly because we have wrongly judged actions and motives and believed lies.
I cannot speak for everyone here, but I mean this in general. And I will directly tell you my own personal perceptions of Him before I loved Him and knew He loved me. I saw Him only as lawmaker, judge, condemner, arrogant and angry. Why? I can hardly recollect why I ever believed such things because they are so foreign and long-forgotten now. Now I adore Him. I long to spend eternity in His castle, which so far exceeds that of the hero of our novel.
So often people justify their poor ideas of the One who loves them the most, by misunderstanding things He has said or done. An easy example of this is the Law. If one does not understand the purpose of the Law, we shall take it to mean God is only just and not merciful and that His standards are too high for anyone to attain to. But if we understand that He meant it in order to fill us with a longing for something greater to take place, something that could deliver us from it’s curse and then meant to fulfill that need in Himself, then that very thing (the Law) becomes of testimony of His intentional love for us. (I believe that there is more than one purpose for the Law, but will leave off telling you all of my ideas, knowing that they will come short of His reasons and that it would only detract from what I am trying to communicate). Another example is when Jesus was harsh in His assessments of the Pharisees and in His zeal, drove the animals and their sellers out of the temple with a whip. This certainly sounds more like a lunatic than a collected and wise King. But we must be careful here, not to assume wrong motives. His zeal was not unmerited and it was more in protection of the oppressed than it was in hostility towards oppressor, and we must understand as well, that this was directed towards the spiritual-oppressors, in order for His actions to make any sense at all.
At some point we must still ourselves and open our minds, as Miss Bennet did, to hear what the Man would say of Himself, but we must also approach that Word without the pretense of pretending to know Who He is.
Now, allowing the tables to be turned and seeing ourselves in the part of Mr. Darcy, I find that my love for Christ makes His correction, when it needs come, sweet to me. Elizabeth did not mean to aid him in the betterment of his life when she chastised him for his offer of marriage, but the effect upon him (because of his great love for her) was such that he underwent a momentarily painfully, but eternally blessed transition and became a man marked by humility where there was once arrogance and disdain for others. I recall hearing someone say once “The discipline of the Lord is sweet!” to which I must heartily agree. When the Lord does need to chastise me, there is no malevolence in His correction at all, only love and concern. There is no sense of condemnation, only compassion. And with it comes this liberating, internal change that truncates any frustration I may experience for having been corrected at all.
The farther I walk the King’s highway towards heaven, the more I realize that anything He ever does is glorious and loving. I do not pretend to understand it all, or even to know Him as fully as I ought, but what I do know of Him teaches me that He is pure and perfect and without flaw and that His intentions are always, always love, for God Himself IS love! When I judge him to be anything other than these things, it is I who has the fault, not my Lord.