Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sense and Sensibility

Finally finished the book....LOVED IT!!! "Sense and Sensibility" was first written as "Elinor and Marianne"by Jane Austen in 1796, when she was only 21 years of age; it was her first novel. If you have read the book, this fact will most likely be a surprising one, given its maturity level and style.

When reading Austen's books, what stands out to me most is the frequent similarities between life today when compared to the time Austen's books were written: 1796-1816. The people of her time struggled with the exact same issues we deal with today. Isn't it funny how time really does not change all that much? In fact, when we open the Bible, we find the same phenomena----Cain lost his battle with Envy, Noah was victor in his battle with Pride, Moses learned to overcome a disability, David fell into temptation with Bathsheba, Daniel exemplified great strength of character in the den of lions, John the Baptist was thought a crazy man for standing up for what he believed to be true, the rich young ruler was crushed by his pursuit of wealth----and the stories go on and on and on.

Time, truly, is as predictable as an old friend. This begs the question: why do we not learn from it? I reckon we are stubborn. All too often, we believe we have somehow risen above the "weaker" minds of the Bible times or of Jane Austen's time. Unfortunately, all the technological advances we have made to date do not serve any purpose in helping us overcome the true issue that is at stake: our sin nature. It has stalked us, preyed upon us, and sought to out-maneuver us from the beginning of time. THAT is the reason time does not really change things, because that old enemy, the devil, is still playing the same old games. He does not have any new tricks up his sleeve, and we keep falling for the old ones.

Thankfully, our Father does not change either. He grieves when we stumble, allows us to suffer the consequences of our sin, and is ready to mend our brokeness when we return to Him in repentance, with changed hearts.

Jane Austen, in her books, is very successful in portraying how choices, both good and bad, impact not only the character in question, but all those surrounding him/her. If considering life in general, the books provide many nuggets of wisdom.....for instance:

My favorite passage in "Sense and Sensibility" is regarding the character Willoughby, Marianne's true love. Promised a fortune certain to come following the death of an aunt, Willoughby chases the auspices of affluency and lives most recklessly as if owning his future inheritance already. Folly finally catches up with Willoughby, who is as likeable a fellow as any character Austen could have written, and he is left to play with the horrible hand of cards he has sadly dealt to himself. The thought-provoking passage regarding Willoughby is this:

"Elinor made no answer. Her thoughts were silently fixed on the irreparable injury which too early an independence and its consequent habits of idleness, dissipation, and luxury, had made in the mind, the character, the happiness, of a man who, to every advantage of person and talents, united a disposition naturally open and honest, and a feeling, affectionate temper. The world had made him extravagant and vain; extravagance and vanity had made him cold-hearted and selfish. Vanity, while seeking its own guilty triumph at the expense of another, had involved him in a real attachment, which extravagance, or at least its offspring necessity, had required to be sacrificed. Each faulty propensity, in leading him to evil, had led him likewise to punishment."

Another favorite passage is about Edward, the one whom Elinor loves. Unlike the charming Willoughby, Edward has been sheltered from life and is not outgoing at all. As a result of loneliness and idle time, Edward promises his heart (at a young age) to a female with whom he really does not share anything in common, only to meet Elinor and wish he had met her first:

"It was a foolish, idle inclination on my side", said Edward, "the consequence of ignorance of the world and want of employment. Had my other given me some active profession when I was eighteen, I think, nay, I am sure, it would never have happened; for, though I left Longstaple with what I thought, at the time, a most unconquerable preference for Mr. Pratt's niece, yet had I then had any pursuit, any object to engage my time and keep me at a distance from her for a few months, I should very soon have outgrown the fancied attachment, especially by mixing more with the world, as in such a case I must have done. But instead of having anything to do, instead of having any profession chosen for me, or being allowed to choose any myself, I returned home to be completely idle; and for the first twelvemonth afterwards I had not even the nominal employment which belonging to the university would have given me, for I was not entered at Oxford until I was nineteen. I had therefore nothing in the world to do, but to fancy myself in love."

If you are like me, and are a mom to teenage boy, you can learn many lessons from the mistakes of both Willoughby and Edward. To chase a rabbit for a moment and risk being thought a nutcase for taking fiction so seriously, if the boys' moms had been more diligent in thinking about the different nature that has been "super"naturally born into males, their lives possibly would have turned out much happier.

Case in point: Caleb is fifteen years old, and I am having to let him "grow" this year. We stopped homeschooling in January, and he has been out of my house more than in it. I miss him like is simply awful for me (if I am honest). However, I have to admit it was the wisest decision ever made for Caleb. He is balancing a full school schedule, a full sports schedule, and regular workouts. When he asked us if he could enter the school system, our primary request was that he show great responsibility. To my utter amazement, he has. He gets up at 5:30 each morning to shower and have breakfast (yes, I am getting up to make him breakfast).....he catches the bus at 6:30am.....he chooses to complete his homework during studyhall time.....he either works out or has basketball practice after school each day.....he studies for every test.....and makes sure he is in bed by 9:30pm each evening. I don't even know who this kid is. For three solid months, he has been a responsible individual.

What I could not see until recently was I had never allowed Caleb the opportunity to be responsible. I took care of him (or coddled him as Chappy called it). Now that I have set the little bird free, he is flapping his wings and flying all over the place. I couldn't be more shocked. Last night, before going to bed, Caleb found me and asked if we could have a quick talk. This is what transpired:

"Mom, I want to tell you something but I am afraid you will think I am joking around and not take me seriously. Will you promise to take me seriously and just listen to me for a minute?"

"I want to thank you for giving me the chance to go to school and play sports. I love it and I am really working hard to do well. I hope you see I am taking school seriously and working to make the best grades I can make. I know you miss me a whole lot, and feel like you are just driving me around and dropping me off everywhere when you would rather spend time with me, and I want you to know I appreciate it. In my heart, I believe the Lord is going to return soon, and I want my life to count for something. I am going to do everything I can to make you and dad proud of me and God proud of me. I love you so much, mom."

Then he hugged me. Tight.

I know I am not a perfect mom, nor do I do everything right. But I am telling you, last night I felt sure Chappy and I have allowed Caleb to find the right path. The ridiculously busy schedule he is maintaining is accomplishing two major things:

1. It is forcing him to plan and manage his time (a skill needed for the rest of his life).
2. It is wiping out all idle time the enemy could use for evil.

Sure, he is being exposed to the world more now.....hearing words he has never heard before and learning that every family doesn't hold to the same values and morals we do. But it has actually been good, because we have talked about it all (at great length) over family meals. Caleb's exposure to these things seems to have given him a greater appreciation for his family and foundation. I would never have dreamed it so. What I am finding is that Chappy and I are able to parent him through some of the "stuff" he was going to learn about eventually anyway.

Parenting is the toughest job in the world, isn't it?

Well, I have rattled on enough. I hope a sliver of this will be of help to someone today!!!!


  1. I absolutely loved reading this - such encouragement to a mother's heart

  2. Parenting.... you are so right. My "baby" turned 16 a few weeks ago and my middle son turns twenty tomorrow. (our oldest daughter 22, has been married three years) We homeschooled throughout and I can see my mistakes. Hindsight is 20/20 they say.

  3. This is wonderful to read. I've said it before and I'll say it again ~ your Caleb reminds me so much of my Adam. We are blessed to have sons like them. It is REALLY encouraging to me to read of a positive experience of a homeschooled teenager going to public high school, too. Thank you for sharing this!