“I am afraid.”
“I know. You don’t have to be. Whatever happens in your life goes through God’s hand first before he allows it to come to you. Todd taught me that when we were together in Spain, and it changed my perspective on so many things. I know I’ve told you this before, but, Katie, we have to remember that we’re not victims of all the horrible things that happen on this planet. We’re victims of grace. God’s expansive grace. It all comes from him and is allowed by him. Even the terrible and destructive things in life.” – from finally & forever, by Robin Jones Gunn
This past weekend was not one of the best on record so I dove into some literary comfort last night for a few hours, reading in bed until well past midnight so I could be swept up in the lives of Katie, Eli, Jim, Cheryl, and other characters living in Kenya. Once you start getting into the AM hours, the beauty of a fictional new well in an African village can be quite exciting.
Robin Jones Gunn has been my literary comfort food for years now. I first discovered her Christy Miller series through some friends in high school and have since then read the entire series (including the Sierra Jensen and Katie Weldon spin offs) multiple times, along with a few of her other adult books. These stories seem almost effortless in how they combine life, love, faith, friendship, and the search for God in the everyday. I give these stories credit for a turning point in my faith journey, and for the bracelet I wear every day to remind me of God’s plan and to pray for my future partner in life. For several years I found myself connecting with Christy, trying to understand a potential Todd in my life who did not see the girl in front of him who was hoping for more than just friends. Along with this character, I learned that my faith was more than just an end, eternal destination; it had to be a lifestyle now if it was going to be anything. After college, I found myself drifting more to Sierra as I longed for adventure more than stability. I wanted her creative view of the world and ability to see beauty in nature, in poetry, in an English castle. Then Katie became my connection point as I read through the series a third time; this cycle during graduate school in Pennsylvania. The cute red-head who often spoke first, and apologized later, seemed to resonate with my attempts to tight walk in the adult world. Plus she was learning to support the changing romantic relationships around her while God continued to grow her through singleness. Katie-Girl’s questions echoed my own, and the answers she received became mine too.
And last night’s reading marathon did far from disappoint this pattern. After reading the paragraph quoted above, I read through the page several more times, trying to understand how being a victim could be viewed in such a positive light. In my definition, being a victim is always negative, usually painful, and involves someone in power impacting you in ways beyond your will or control. Why in the world would I want to be a victim?
I may have finished the book last night, but I have not come to answer to this paradox quite yet. And that’s fine. If I had, then I would not have spent 20 minutes this evening looking for the paragraph to type into this blog. The question matters more than the answer this week, for the question challenges the individualized, independent, self-sufficient, materialistic, consumer, logical, scientific, and down-right messed up view of the western world. Being a “victim of grace” is contrary to the promises of the 2012 political season that believes Americans can fix the economic struggles around us with just the right bill or tax cut. Being a “victim” means submitting to the other. And how does one find an other worthy of trusting? How do you submit every day, while still having personality and free will?
Welcome to my late night paradox.