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Kindness, Gentleness, Self-Control …

August 3, 2010

The first thing I did after upgrading the software on my phone was download iBooks. I’m geeky like that.

The first thing I did after downloading iBooks was start scrolling through the Free Downloads. I’m cheap like that. And it didn’t take long (by virtue of the alphabet) to find Jane Austen and, further, to find that a lot of her books have been made available through the iBooks library. For as many times as I’ve seen Pride & Prejudice, I’ve never read it.

One thing led to another, and a couple months later I’ve read three of her books. I’ve read some Dostoevsky and some Augustine too, and despite that – Jane Austen’s books are not slender volumes. (Leave your best estrogen joke in the comments. Go ahead. I know.) It’s sucked up any free time I could find, as well as some sleep time and some house cleaning time.

I love her plot twists and her characters and her happy endings, but one character started to really affect me.

There is one character in all of her novels – at least in the three I’ve read – whom I found myself in admiration, perhaps even awe, of. She is always one of the heroines (if there is more than one) and she is always marked by extreme kindness, gentleness and self-control.

When you read it like that it’s an obvious reference to Galatians 5, but it wasn’t so obvious to me at first.

I read Pride & Prejudice and liked Jane more than I had watching the movie. I read Sense & Sensibility and Jane’s character was compounded by Elinor’s, and I started to really be amazed at the idea of such a temperament. Recently, I finished Mansfield Park and saw the same thing in Fanny, but by now it’s really started to affect me.

The movies, of course, don’t do the characters justice, but just reading them made me want to be them. Not that I’m longing for 16th century aristocracy, or a wealthy husband, but the disposition that gives everyone the benefit of the doubt – and then some, can hardly be made to see evil in anyone, forgives all things, hopes all things, believes all things.

I didn’t see the parallels in scripture until yesterday when I was listening to Pastor Zahnd’s latest installment of his sermons series on the Sermon on the Mount. He was at, “Judge not lest you be judged …” and dished it out.

As much as I admired those characters, the idea of actually living them seemed absurd. To really choose to believe the best about everyone – even with evidence to the contrary glaring at you is so contrary to everything we’ve been taught my our society. To the point of making excuses for the guilty and pitying those condemned by their own evils.

I have yet to hear a bad Brian Zahnd sermon, but I think if every Christian in America could really listen and consider and apply this one – the world would be changed. If you’re not already getting the Word of Life podcast, or listening on-line, I urge you – again – to start.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Shannon Walker permalink
    August 3, 2010 1:20 pm

    Good post Lex! Had never thought of Jane and Elinor this way. In fact, I had viewed them as the weaker characters…as in I wouldn’t want to be/play them. But that’s my own weakness rearing it’s head. The hard truth is, I couldn’t play them.

    • Lex permalink
      August 3, 2010 5:11 pm

      Thanks Shannon. That was my first impression of Jane too. Maybe reading the three characters in such quick succession had a greater impact than they otherwise would have.

      The more I thought on it – and the consequences of it – it became an “I want that” thing. If Jane (or Elinor or Fanny or I) is wrong in her grace, then she’s wrong but to no danger to anyone else. If she’s right, she’s the only one who doesn’t have to repent of words or actions.

      And like I said – the sermon drove it home for sure.

      Have you read any other Austen novels? Does this character keep showing up?

  2. August 8, 2010 11:25 pm

    I did the same thing… well, minus the Jane Austen part. I can relate to the geeky and cheap part of you. :)

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