a severe mercy...

A Severe Mercy
$13.08
By Sheldon Vanauken

i would like to start writing more about the books i read and love. so we can start with this one...

which was my february book club selection. and i listened to it from audible. i was heading up to nashville (an 8 hour drive) and thought that if it was on audible i could listen on the drive. and by golly, it was being released on audible THE DAY BEFORE I LEFT TOWN and it was 8 hours long. that seems a little too coincidental to pass up. it was a good book for me to listen to because it was difficult to get into at first. i didn't like the author very much (though when i meet him in heaven i will be his BFF since he & c.s. lewis were pals.) he seemed a little pompous (which he won't be in heaven, right?) & he seemed weird (& that is coming from ME.) and had i not been totally vested (i had bought it on audible) and had 8 open hours on the road ahead of me, i might have given up on it. but i am glad that i stuck with it. because there were some precious thoughts in it that have stuck with me. PLUS there are letter from c.s. lewis to the author in the book. so there's that awesomeness...

my BIG takeaway from this book is the distinction that jack makes in a letter to sheldon vanauken between "fortuitous" & "significant". mostly because i LOVE to use the word fortuitous in a facetious way. as in when i run into someone & they have JUST the piece of advice that i need to hear or say something that makes my day better. i will then say, "how FORTUITOUS that i ran into you." meaning NOT fate, but a loving & personal God who directs our every move. for in Him we live & move & have our being. but lewis takes these these moments & calls them what they are (& i shall also forthwith employ this word that he uses to describe them accurately). he names them SIGNIFICANT. because they are SIGNS that God is with us. that He is directing our paths. that He sees. He knows. He cares. 

"My general view is that, once we have accepted an omniscient and providential God, the distinction we used to draw between the significant and the fortuitous must either break down or be restated in some very much subtler form. If an event coming about in the ordinary course of nature becomes to me the occasion of hope and faith and love or increased efforts after virtue, do we suppose that this result was unforeseen by, or is indifferent to God? Obviously not. What we should have called its fortuitous effects must have been present to Him for all eternity. And indeed, we can't suppose God saying (as a human artist might) 'That effect, though it turned out rather well, was, I must admit, no part of my original design.' then the total act of creation including our own creation (wh. is going on all the time) meets us, doesn't it? In every event at every moment: the act of a Person dealing with persons & knowing what He does."

& therefore how SIGNIFICANT that this book became available on audio right as i was about to take an 8 hour trip. & there were so many other SIGNIFICANT things that happened on my trip to nashville. He is always involved in every act of creation. & every act of re-creation as well. 

though vanauken does give this caveat... “Signs must be read with caution. The history of Christendom is replete with instances of people who misread the signs.” 

which will probably mean me. since i tend to be the village idiot. but i do see SIGNIFICANCE in so many things that God has sent my way in the last few months. in people. in books. in movies. in songs. many occasions of building my faith, hope, & love. but mostly in building my trust that He knows what He is doing. & that it all is going according to plan. not quite my plan. but His plan. which will prove to be the BEST plan ever... right? 
 

here are a few other SIGNIFICANT quotes from the book...

“The best argument for Christianity is Christians: their joy, their certainty, their completeness. But the strongest argument against Christianity is also Christians--when they are sombre and joyless, when they are self-righteous and smug in complacent consecration, when they are narrow and repressive, then Christianity dies a thousand deaths. But, though it is just to condemn some Christians for these things, perhaps, after all, it is not just, though very easy, to condemn Christianity itself for them. Indeed, there are impressive indications that the positive quality of joy is in Christianity--and possibly nowhere else. If that were certain, it would be proof of a very high order” 

“It is not possible to be 'incidentally a Christian.' The fact of Christianity must be overwhelmingly first or nothing. This suggests a reason for the dislike of Christians by nominal or non-Christians: their lives contain no overwhelming first but many balances.” 

“…though I wouldn’t have admitted it, even to myself, I didn’t want God aboard. He was too heavy. I wanted Him approving from a considerable distance. I didn’t want to be thinking of Him. I wanted to be free—like Gypsy. I wanted life itself, the color and fire and loveliness of life. And Christ now and then, like a loved poem I could read when I wanted to. I didn’t want us to be swallowed up in God. I wanted holidays from the school of Christ.” 

“In my old easy-going theism, I had regarded Christianity as a sort of fairy tale; and I had neither accepted nor rejected Jesus, since I had never, in fact, encountered him. Now I had. The position was not, as I had been comfortably thinking all these months, merely a question of whether I was to accept the Messiah or not. It was a question of whether I was to accept Him--or reject>. My God! There was a gap behind me too. Perhaps the leap to acceptance was a horrifying gamble-but what of the leap to rejection? There might be no certainty that Christ was God-but, by God, there was no certainty that He was not.” 

“That death, so full of suffering for us both, suffering that still overwhelmed my life, was yet a severe mercy. A mercy as severe as death, a severity as merciful as love.” 

so that's my review of A SEVERE MERCY. a difficult read. but a SIGNIFICANT one for me.