The Family

The Family

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Tale of Two Books

I recently finished two books entirely different in scope and content.

I was able to take a peek on Amazon at the first, "Building the Christian Family You Never Had: A Practical Guide for Pioneer Parents" by Mary E. DeMuth, before purchasing it. After reading this line from the preface, I knew I was at a point in my life where I needed the advice a book like this might offer:
"Pioneer parents are people who grew up in homes they don't want to duplicate."
While I grew up in a home where we went to church, there was a lot of volatility and dysfunction underneath the surface. It's gotten worse as time has passed.

I underlined so much while reading this book. Much of it struck a chord. There were times I felt the advice was conflicting. Other parts hit a nerve. Some portions were painful to think about in the context of dealing with my own parents. And other parts I can't say I agreed with.

DeMuth's advice on making destructive vows was powerful. She titled the chapter I Won't Become My Parents - Resisting the Urge to Make Destructive Vows. I can't tell you how many times I've made these types of vows only to find it cripples me in my ability to parent or to lead the kind of life I find meaningful.

DeMuth offered these wise words:
"Vows can be a stimulus for positive change when the vow aligns with the pattern God is establishing in our lives. But a vow that is made to calm our fears, to bolster our confidence, to justify our anger, or to take upon ourselves the work that is really God's area of responsibility is a vow that will cause frustration and lead to defeat."
Ever since reading that I've been trying to release myself from the destructive vows I've made throughout the years. Ones that begin like "I'll never _________," "I will always ____________," "I won't _____________."

There's a lot I've put into those blanks that I have no control of, and reading this helped me think more about how to avoid making promises that can't be kept.

I also needed to hear her thoughts on forgiving while still being cautious around certain people.

It's not forgiveness I struggle with. It's how to navigate a relationship, and what to allow my children to do and not to do, with someone who insists that nothing is wrong when things ARE terribly wrong.
"I equated forgiveness with reconciliation. But forgiveness is a one-sided act in which we choose to forgive another person. That person, though, has freedom to receive that forgiveness, shun it, pretend he or she doesn't need it or insist nothing wrong was done worth forgiving. Reconciliation involves two people admitting their mutual sins and forgiving each other, whereas forgiveness involves only you."
 She follows up several chapters later with this:
"One truth that is hard to accept is that sometimes our obedience to the Father will cost our parents. Oswald Chambers acknowledged this hard truth: If we obey God, it is going to cost other people more than it costs us, and that is where the sting comes in.
The other book, Ernest Hemingway's "In Our Time," is not a conventional novel. It's a series of short stories, interspersed with chapters that don't relate, or don't seem to relate, to the stories themselves.

Several of the short stories focus on a character named Nick Adams. They occur at different points in Nick's life and don't follow any logical connection, yet the language and depth of each is hard to stop contemplating.

All of Hemingway's characters seem to have one thing in common: they are unhappy. Hemingway has a distinct style that makes you feel that unhappiness in a troubling and often uncomfortable way.

He deals with suicide in one of the stories. If you know anything about Hemingway, you know that the author himself committed suicide in 1961. Who knows if he was contemplating it that many years before, but there is a sense that even then it could have been on his mind.

No matter the heaviness one feels in relation to his characters, it's hard not to want to read Hemingway. That's probably what makes him one of the greatest American writers.

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