Monday, January 05, 2009

Fiction that Sticks


My favorite book growing up was THE NUN'S STORY, by Kathryn Hulme.  Not only was I fascinated by the world of the convent (which was far different than my life), but I learned some real spiritual lessons from that story. 

Sister Luke's main problem, you see, was obedience; her fatal flaw was pride.  A nun is supposed to obey the voice of her Mother Superior as if it were the voice of Christ himself.  And Sister Luke was always running ahead of her superiors--doing good things, but doing them without her superior's permission.

In one scene, Sister Luke works with an envious older nun, Sister Pauline.  Both nuns are taking a test in medical school, and Sister Pauline is worried about being shown up by a younger nun.  But Sister Luke grew up in a doctor's home, so she has taken to tropical medicine like a duck to water. 

When Sister Luke goes to her superior to confess problems with Sister Pauline, the Reverend Mother thoughtfully suggests that Sister Luke purposely fail her exams on the morrow. Such an act would be done in obedience, and it would be an act of charity--she would do it out of love for Sister Pauline and Christ. 

Sister Luke knows that she stands "at a crossroads of her religious life."  But the next day, she cannot bring herself to fail her exam.  She passes it with flying colors, to her great shame.  Her pride won that battle. 

It's easy to follow Christ when he's not asking us to do something we don't want to do.  But when he asks something that flies in the face of our logic or our desires . . . are we still willing?

~~Angie  


14 comments:

Terri L. Gillespie said...

Ouch. I've been zinged this Monday morning.

Caitriona aka Catherine said...

I am with Terri. Pass the bandaids please.
"Wounds of a friend are to be trusted."

Kay Day said...

Sounds like an interesting book.
I always loved the movies The Trouble with Angels and it's sequel.

Mocha with Linda said...

Couldn't you have just posted a video this morning of your singing!?!

Margie Vawter said...

Well, shoot! Yet another confirmation (out of many this past week) of what I need to do, no matter how hard it is, no matter how much it hurts.

Thanks, Angie.

Ginger said...

Am I missing something here? It boggles my mind to think that anyone could believe a fellow human who says God wants us to do less than our best, just to address the sin of pride. Seems to me there are much better ways to deal with the sin of pride...and still honor the Creator who gave us a brain to use to the best of our ability. And I am in disbelief that God would call a person to deal with pride in this way. Many of us have discovered that He has much deeper, more memorable and more effective ways of humbling us.

Holly said...

I came so close to reading "stinks" instead of "sticks" on my reader! Do you ever do that?

I am always up for following God's leading, even when it doesn't make sense. We have walked this one.

'Prayed for your singing and signing (again this is where my brain wants to write sinning instead of signing--yikes! Also I noticed that the letters transpose in singing and signing! Ah! Fun with words!).

Much love to you!

Angela said...

Thank you for the prayers, Holly. And Linda, I looked for a video (my church puts services online), but they only but the sermons online. Copyright issues, I imagine.

And Ginger--you'd have to read the entire book for this to make sense. :-) I was using Sister Luke as an analogy, of course, but in the book the nuns are taught that their life is a life against nature. Sometimes against logic. Sort of like those army guys in boot camp to shovel dirt to one area, just to stand up and shovel it back to the first place. It's not about the dirt--it's about learning unquestioning obedience, which can save your life in battle.

All I have to do is look back over my own life. Twice I was in love with and engaged to wonderful young Christian guys . . . and my parents said they felt these "weren't the guy" for me. Each time, I had to face a choice: obey the Lord and obey my parents, or go with my heart. I chose the former, and now I see that my life would be completely different had I not done that. (Not trying to brag--trust me, I messed up a lot, too.)

The principles of obedience are simple . . . putting them into practice is hard.

Angie

Patti G. said...

I think I somewhat side with Ginger. You see, I have a problem with a human equating their ability to give direction with Christ himself. I have a very hard time believing that Christ would tell me to purposely fail a scholastic exam just to make someone else feel better and/or superior to me. I've been able to look back and see where he allowed me to fail in order to teach me - or even to chastise me. I understand the logic or the lesson of the story line but I feel the author could have chosen a better way to teach about pride and humility.

I know, only too well, what it feels like to have Christ tell me to do something I didn't want to do. It was not easy to obey.

What was it we used to say - Baptist born, Baptist bred, and when I die I'll be Baptist dead. All that to say, I grew up knowing very little about the Catholic religion.

Tim and Vicky said...

Okay, stop meddling. :)

Terri L. Gillespie said...

Just a thought here, but didn't Jesus purposely put aside His royalty to lift us up?

Karen said...

I'm loving the dialogue on the book, pride, and your signing/singing. I also LOVE the photo of the nuns on the stools. Have to look twice that one :)

jan said...

i loved the picture of the nuns on the stools, too! i had to look a few times myself in order to figure it out!
jan

Angela said...

I was thinking about this discussion as I slept last night, and woke up with this verse on my mind. Let me back up a minute. Our human nature revolts against failing a test in order to improve our character, but I'm pretty sure God cares far more about our character than our success. And it's not out of line for a spiritual authority to ask us to do something and expect obedience. God is always placing us under people (wife under husband, people under pastor, people under governments, children under parents), and we're told to obey. In any case, this is the verse that came to me: "Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit." (Heb. 13:17).

Angie