Saturday, 29 October 2016

Absent in the Spring

I just finished reading Absent in the Spring by Mary Westmacott (pseudonym of Agatha Christie) and it leaves me pensive, hopeful, frightened (but not in the sense of being afraid of something scary). It is not a mystery. Wikipedia labels it a tragedy and I can see that as an accurate description.

Note: The following contains spoilers to an extent. I'm sure the book would still be enjoyable to read but if you don't want to know the ending (and some other details), don't read further. :) 

Agatha Christie had a great gift of truly knowing and understanding human nature. In this book, the main character, Joan, is stranded in the desert with no one but herself to talk to. So there she is alone with her thoughts. And that's what is so frightening! At first, she fights the thoughts, makes excuses - not direct quotes but ideas like: "oh it's a fear of open spaces that makes me feel this way" or "oh, it's the heat that makes my mind play tricks on me" or "it must be a fever, that's it, I'm likely just ill"! Desperate for an excuse for what she is discovering about herself ... that she is not a likeable woman, that her children and her husband do not love her (though she does very much love them, she just has never acted like she has). She realizes how horrible and selfish and fake she has been all these years. That she's a picture of someone she'd admire but she's not really admirable. And then she has a conversion experience, something that a lady she met on the train home to England shows to her. Yet this lady looks at her doubtfully when she says that Joan has had a conversion experience, much like St. Paul and other apostles and great people of faith. And you wonder why this stranger is doubt-filled. What does she see that we, the reader, cannot see? Then Joan arrives home and she's faced with a choice: let her family see the change, start life fresh and seek forgiveness; or pretend nothing at all happened, pretend life is as it always was because that is what is comfortable and uncomplicated. And, as the reader, you're hopeful and you think, "She's going to do it! She's going to carry out what she wanted when she experienced this conversion! She'll seek forgiveness and they will start fresh! And they will live happily ever after!" But it doesn't happen that way. She chooses wrong and her miserable life continues and she chooses to live in the delusion that it is a good life.

And this is where my mix of emotions/feelings comes. I suppose this is why I both crave rest and fear rest. To truly rest, I feel that I would need to put away all distractions, including books I love to read, and just be! But then what do I have still with me? My thoughts and learning who I am. And what if I don't like who I am? And what if I realize that others don't actually like who I am either? What if I learn what all my failings are and how I need to change? This could be good but isn't it frightening to think of that as well? Something that will take you out of the comfortable and force you to change?! That is frightening and difficult! But it is also a hope-filled idea - imagine the joy and peace that comes from such a changed life ... well, a changed life if you have the courage to embrace it!

Do I dare? Do you dare? Take that rest, rest from all distractions (computer, books, art, anything that takes your mind from assessing you ... in light, of course, of who God calls you to be) and search for who you are. Are you the God-glorifying individual you think you are? Are you loved or even liked? What changes do you need to be making in your life in order to be the person you are created to be? Frightening, exciting, hope-filled exercise!

Do I dare?