Wednesday, 27 April 2011

An Involuntary Confidant

"Know, that in the course of your future life you will often find yourself elected the involuntary confidant of your acquaintances' secrets: people will instinctively find out, as I have done, that it is not your forte to talk of yourself, but to listen while others talk about themselves; they will feel, too, that you listen with no malevolent scorn of their indiscretion but with a kind of innate sympathy; not the less comforting and encouraging because it is very unobtrusive in its manifestations." --Jane Eyre

Mr. Rochester says this to Jane in a conversation shortly after meeting. I loved this chapter. I learned so much about both characters and there's a lot of things to think about!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Serving the Church

"It’s nice being a pew warmer. You can just
show up to church Sunday morning, even a few
minutes late if you’re dragging your feet, take
your seat in the crowd, listen to the sermon,
sing some songs, and go home to your lunch
without a second thought. It’s quite convenient
when you can just sit back, be blessed, and let
everyone else do the work. And that’s precisely
what millions of Christians do."

Read the rest of my article at Lighted Lamp here.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Jane Eyre: Discipline

I have now finally completed Volume 1 of Jane Eyre. This post will focus around Chapter 6, and I would encourage you to read it if you have the book. It contains one of my favourite and most thought-provoking conversations of the book so far. It's also an important continuation of my last post on authority.

In this chapter, we learn a bit more of Jane first friend she makes at Lowood, the school she's been sent to. Her name is Helen Burns, probably about four years older than Jane (making her 14) and her character is very different from Jane's. Whereas Jane is proud, bitter and resists authority, Helen is humble, willfully acknowledges her faults and submits herself authority and discipline.

Discipline is largely the issue discussed in this chapter. Early on, Helen is flogged with a bunch of twigs for her behaviour that her teacher, Miss Scatcherd dislikes. Jane believes that Helen should never submit herself to such harsh treatment. She believes it's cruel and would resist it. Helen disagrees. She believes the teacher is simply severe and dislikes her faults.

Helen says "it is weak and silly to say you cannot bear what it is your fate to be required to bear." Of course, Jane really has to wonder at her response and endurance and although she disagrees with her stance, she thinks the girl may be right. "Still I felt that Helen Burns considered things by a light invisible to my eyes. I suspected she might be right and I wrong; but I would not ponder the matter deeply: like Felix, I put it off to a more convenient season."

Although Helen is honest about her own faults, she will not say anything negative about Miss Scatcherd. She takes responsibility for her own actions. The discussion turns to another teacher, Miss Temple, who is loving, gently tells Helen her faults and showers her with praise. Although Jane thinks this approach is better, Helen says that it's not effective. It doesn't cure her faults and even her praise doesn't motivate her to be good. Although Jane thinks Helen is good with Miss Temple, she says she's good in a passive way. She makes no effort and doesn't believe there to be any merit in such goodness.

This comparison of discipline methods reminded me of parents and God. I'm not going to determine what kind of discipline is right or wrong here. I'm not the person to do that but I will say that discipline can easily turn to abuse, and I have a massive problem with that.

You see in this conversation a harsh method that uses the rod, and a gentle one that uses only a gentle tongue. In this story, it seems that the rod is definitely the more effective method, as the character admits. Although love and gentleness are good, they didn't produce the same results. They may have on the outside, but it didn't come from the heart.

When I read the Bible, I see these two sides of God. I see the one that chastens, pours out His wrath and drives merchants out of the temple with a whip. I also see the one that cares for His creation, loves, gives His Son's life for His children, and gathers little children into His arms. Parents can be the same way. A lot of parents emphasize one over the other. They discipline harshly or are all love and leniency. Both can result in problems and rebellion.

Also, Christians often over-emphasize one attribute of God. They preach a God of wrath who stands by to punish all who sin and cast them into hell, or on the flip-side, they preach a God who's all love and mercy so you can do whatever you want and He'll forgive you, always standing ready with big open arms. Both sides, when overdone, result in bad theology.

The conversation in the book continues and Jane maintains that when we are wronged, we must strike back or wicked people will always have their way. She believes they must be stopped by force and it's all as natural as loving someone who loves you. Helen however explains how Jesus taught us in the New Testament to love our enemies and bless those who curse us. She encourages Jane to read it and make Christ her example.

This is a new idea to Jane, as she's always been threatened with hell for her wrong deeds. Of course she believes it's impossible. Helen wonders at how Jane can describe Mrs. Reed's mistreatment with the finest details and tells Jane that she harbours no such feelings. "Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity, or registering wrongs." I might also add that few children will respond as Helen does. Not many will tolerate such harsh treatment. Helen continues in speaking of great things about Eternity and forgiveness that even I have a hard time understanding and the discussion ends there.

I think this post balances off my last one a little. I've also realized that by the end of the book, my initial ideas and opinions may change. As the plot develops, characters grow and change, as we see Jane beginning to in this chapter with the help of a friend. Up until this point, the book was a little dreary and depressing, even if very engaging. By the end of this chapter, my heart felt refreshed!

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Jane Eyre: Justified?

Can a child's behaviour be justified by her authority's actions?

Jane Eyre
is the story of a woman named Jane Eyre, as the title suggests. The first nine chapters of the book recount her childhood, beginning when she is 10 years old. Orphaned and living with her aunt, she is repeatedly pushed aside, verbally and sometimes physically abused by her aunt and cousins and regarded as less than a servant. She's often locked in a room by herself for long periods of time. By the time she's sent away to school, she has become bitter and resentful towards authority.

Jane expresses her misery early on in the book. "Why was I always suffering, always brow-beaten, always accused, for ever condemned? Why could I never please? Why was it useless to try to win anyone's favour?" On one occasion, she gathers up enough courage to confront her aunt and angrily expresses her feelings. After the argument, she feels triumphant, but the feeling quickly fades into deep remorse.

It's sad when a child, because of mistreatment, has grown so angry and resentful. Jane has come to believe that she must resist authority and instill fear in them. The question is this: is she justified? Is her behaviour justified by her authority's actions.

Now, before anything else is said, I must say that the way the book is written, we are made to pity Jane right from chapter one. As she recounts her experiences and mistreatment, we regard her more and more as a victim. The story stirs the reader emotionally, tugs at their heart, as they compare her life with their own personal experiences. To suggest that she's in the wrong doesn't seem fair and we quickly try to justify her attitude and behaviour. Naturally, we sympathize with the character and thus will respond to the situation with more tenderness.

The Bible is pretty clear on this. Although Jane is in the care of a benefactress, I think the words apply just the same.

Ephesians 6:1-3 (ESV)
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother" (this is the first commandment with promise), "that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land."

Christians love to preach this and it would all be good and well if every child lived in a loving Christian home (which they don't). Some, however, conveniently overlook the next verse that says "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." (ESV) Also, Colossians 3:21 says "Father, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged" (KJV)

I looked up that last word "anger" in the Greek (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance) and found some strong words: "violent passion, (ire or [justifiable] abhorrence); by implication punishment:-- anger, indignation, vengeance, wrath."

We live in a society where child and teenage rebellion is prevalent and we're quick to blame the kids. But who's problem or fault is it really? In many cases, if you were to look beyond the child, you would find a dysfunctional home, void of proper love, care and instruction.

This is largely the case in Jane's situation. She isn't loved or made a part of the family. She's verbally abused, pushed aside, tormented by her cousins, etc. She's scolded when she does something wrong and harassed with the threat of hell for her deeds. It seems to me she's always being reprimanded for what she does wrong but nobody ever takes the time to teach her proper behaviour. Can she really be blamed for her misdeeds?

You can't vigorously shake a bottle of pop, often the cap and expect nothing to happen. The same goes for a child. If they are constantly mistreated and never loved, at some point they're going to react. All their feelings are eventually going to boil over and it's not going to be peachy when they do. Ultimately, it's the responsibility of the parent/guardian to demonstrate love and provide instruction to the children entrusted to their care. If they fail to that, bitterness and rebellion will ensue.

So is Jane justified? Perhaps. I'm not here to draw solid conclusions. No, her response isn't right, but it's what will naturally occur in her situation. The authority has the ultimate responsibility, and in this case, her aunt wasn't fulfilling hers. Jane's conscience convicted her so she knew what she did was wrong and I suppose this would make her responsible for her actions. She learned from venting her emotions that had been building for years. It was the only thing she knew to do. Also, people have been trying to blame their sins on others since the Garden of Eden, and God doesn't buy it.

Having considered some different sides I'm not sure if I can confidently say Yes or No, but here's my conclusion of the matter. Let's just stop blaming the kids all the time!

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Jane Eyre: Introduction

Today I'm introducing a new series I'll be writing for the next few weeks. I'm not sure how many posts it will be, how often I will share on it, and how many other posts will be placed in between. I did however want to start off with this post to just introduce it and let you know where I'm coming from.

About a year and a half ago when I was almost finished school, I read A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver DeMille, which I would recommend to students and parents alike. It's an awesome book authored by the founder of George Wythe University and it's all about teaching a new generation of leaders. It's faith based, compares public, home and private education, and focuses on teaching children through mentoring and the classics. It's about teaching children not what to think, but how to think. This is the book that inspired me to read and study classics.

Right now, I'm studying Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. It's going much slower than I had hoped with all the different things I have going on right now, and I'm not quite half through, but it has already made me think deeply about so many different things. This series will be a discussion of my thoughts. I don't know how it will go or what kind of feedback I will get, but I want to encourage you to study and to think.

I'm also planning on approaching this in a way that may be unpopular and I want to explain why that is. Although the first few topics I will be discussing are faith-based, I don't want to look at them from a strictly Christian/Biblical perspective, although I will do that. I want to consider human reasoning as well. I want to consider matters from different perspectives. Why is this?

I think very often as Christians, when asked what we believe about something start off with something like "Well, the Bible says. . . ." I'm not necessarily saying this approach is wrong, but sometimes what the Bible says is not actually what we believe, or want to believe. We may believe that what the Bible says is right and true, but we don't necessarily like it. We wish it were different. We are humans and by nature we don't always agree with or want what is right and true, although we should. Also, when you enter into discussions with unbelievers, "The Bible says. . ." isn't going to cut it because they don't believe in it. You have to convince them of your reasoning otherwise.

As I've been thinking through the issues of Jane Eyre, I have been reminded what God's Word has to say about things. But in my heart, I want it to be different. I want to believe that a child's bitterness and resentment is justified by her pain and unfair treatment. And in some ways, I believe I can look at scripture and rightly do that. In some ways I can't.

I haven't embarked on this study to believe, think, or feel all the right things. I have embarked on this journey to learn how to think, to form my own opinions and ideas, to look at life from a different perspective, and perhaps to draw some conclusions, although I don't think I will reach many.

I invite you to join in the discussion, or to begin your own journey into the classics. What I will be sharing on here will likely be general discussions that people can understand without having read the book. I'll avoid giving away major plot details, especially later on, although I have no idea how far I'll go. Also, I haven't watched the new movie or trailer. I want to read and appreciate the book for what it is first. If you join the discussion, please don't give away any details.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Why I Don't Have a Cell Phone

"You mean, you're a teenager and you don't have a cell phone?"

This is kind of the typical response when people find out I'm phoneless. After all, I'm a young woman living in the 21st century? Why wouldn't I have a phone? That's just really weird.

In a way, I kind of take pride in this fact. I must admit that there have been times when I've been really tempted to get one. But I think of it in a "Go big or go home" sort of way. If I get a phone, I'd like a smart phone, because they're the cool thing to have. When my friends are all getting the latest iPhones and Blackberries, getting a cheap phone would be nothing to brag about. Kind of embarrassing if anything.

As you may have guessed already, one of the reasons I don't have a phone is the money. First buying a phone and then adding a monthly bill is not what I need. Right now, I don't think I have very much use for one, although I'm sure I would when I had it. Sometimes the convenience would be more than nice, but that doesn't happen often enough to really make it worth it. Besides, people can get a hold of me most of the time through email, facebook, home phone, work phone, etc. If it's really important, they'll figure out a way.

One of the biggest reasons I don't have a phone is because I don't need another distraction. My computer/Internet is a big enough one. If I don't have Internet access for a few hours, it's like I'm gonna die or something. I need my connection. And because of this addiction, I've also been taking a break from facebook and music for a bit. So much of my time is wasted on those two things or decrease my productivity while I'm working. A phone that I would carry with me everywhere would no doubt make it worse.

Also, when people have cell phones, they can be very annoying in social settings. I don't want to one of them. It can get mildly irritating when you're hanging out or having a conversation and half the people around you are busy on their phones, texting, web browsing and the like. They tune out of what's going on around them and instead of actually spending time together, most people are absorbed in doing their own thing. It's bad social etiquette and disrespectful.

There you have it. A few reasons why I'm a cell phone free teenager and proud of it!