Friday, January 22, 2016

To know Christ and to know that I love Him

"For me to live to Christ seems natural enough, for I have been driven to Him not only by sorrow but by sin. Every outbreak of my hasty temper sends me weeping and penitent to the foot of the cross, and I love him much because I have been forgiven much."

Dear Katherine meets and marries a quiet, dark eyed doctor but her sufferings and her sorrow at her own character flaws and sins do not cease. Through deaths and debt, tragedies and trifles, Prentiss pushes her character heavenward as she prays and listens to the wise counsel of those He has been pleased to place around her. In fiction Prentiss can rebuke us with those things that it would be very hard to accept if pointed out by even the kindest friend. Things that would be easy to read in a non-fiction Christian book, and all too easy to forget. 

As a mother and a wife, Katherine's experiences living as a woman in the nineteenth century may be quite different from our own in so many ways, and yet I think that many of us could easily relate to her frustrations. She laments the difficulties with the in-laws and the never-ending demands upon her time from her family and those living in need around her. She knows that she needs to slow down and to take care of her own physical and spiritual health, but she feels the pull towards her duties: 
"I feel . . . that I am willing to count all things but dross that I may win Christ. But when I come home to my worldly cares, I get completely absorbed in them . . . I wonder if people of my temperament ever get toned down and learn to take life coolly?"

But despite her awareness of her deficiencies, she has moved so far away from the young girl who once told her pastor’s wife that she wanted a life where she would be  “perfectly well and perfectly happy. And a pleasant home, of course, I must have friends to love me and like me, too. And I can’t get along without some pretty, tasteful things about me.” Katherine now sees her hardships and trials as gifts from God that He has ordained for her benefit. She has become much more like her mother than she realises. When she meets a certain Miss Clifford who until her incapacitation from illness had led the aforementioned charmed life, she is able to answer the question “What is it you know, and that I do not know, that makes you so satisfied while I am so dissatisfied?” She leads others to Christ when she helps them understand their need to rely on the absolute sufficiency of His death. 

But one of my favourite bits of the whole book has to be when she offers the kind of comeback to Miss Clifford that you would dream of  when someone tries to demean the role of stay-at-home mothers:
“Then you will permit me to say that when you speak contemptuously of the vocation of maternity, you dishonour not only the mother who bore you but the Lord Jesus himself, who chose to be born of a woman and to be ministered unto by her throughout a helpless infancy.” 
That’s a bit long for a bumper sticker. Maybe I could have it put onto a t-shirt?

What I have enjoyed about this novel is the way that I have been challenged to see my own struggles and failings and to focus upon who Christ is and what He did for me out of His great love. Katherine is a woman who strives to live with greater godliness, humility and tranquillity. She can eventually say with the greatest sincerity that she accepts the will of God when He chooses to take away her loved ones. She grows to see herself as a temporary resident on this earth whose happiness comes from “a peace with God that I can compare to no other joy.”

I hope that you are enjoying your Summer reading and are looking forward to the titles that are coming up this year. 

About this month's contributor, Rachael Collins
Rachael Collins is a Jane Austen fan who often finds it amusing that she is married to Mr Collins who is indeed  a minister. She is an English/ History teacher who has taken a break from teaching in order to devote more time to reading children's literature. Her three children are the happy beneficiaries of this decision. Rachael enjoys gardening, drinking tea and sorting her wardrobe according to colour. In between planning to plant a new church in Marsden Park, she really hopes to read a lot of books this year.

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