Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Parting of the Ways (Part Two)--Saying Goodbye

I shall be honest, and give you all my sincere apologies. My nebulous thoughts for today's post fizzled to nonexistence, instead of panning out as they were supposed to. So, I shall have to retract my statement on Friday, and make it up to you all by continuing on with this series A Parting of the Ways, Part Two: Saying Goodbye.

Goodbyes are often characterized in literature as a sad thing. I've never yet read of two people saying goodbye with the happy thought that they shall never see each other again. No doubt the scene exists among the vast libraries of history, but I have failed to discover it in my wanderings. For the most part, goodbyes are painful, bitter, or despairing. And with a book that you love, but need to put down, the following quote best expresses the feelings you're facing:

To die and part is a less evil; but to part and live, there, there is the torment.

It would be easier if we could click a magic button that immediately removes the book we put down from all websites, libraries, and bookstores. If it 'died' so to speak, by disappearing from the face of the earth. But it doesn't. When you go to the library, you see it on the shelf, and depending on how hard it was to put down, the pain starts up again. When you roam the happy pages of blogosphere, you find a review of it by someone who really loved it, and you ask the Lord again "why can't I?"

Believe me. There are books I pass that still make me wince in remembrance.

The Time Has Come
Generally, there are four reactions when deciding to "say goodbye" to a character who, however loveable their personality, is not a friend we want to spend time cultivating.

1. Agreeable indifference. Sure, they were rather nice--or funny--or piquant. But in the end, they didn't tie your heartstrings too much, and you really don't mind not finding out the ending. After all, it's for the best. The End.

2. Nostalgic Remembrance. This may sound odd--and maybe I'm the only one who has this--but occasionally I'll pass a forbidden book at the library, and smile over the character's good points. The lovable parts. I don't have a hankering to read it again, but I relive the memory for the moment, and pass on.

3. Bitter Pain. Every time you pass it, it's like being a thirsty man at a poisoned well. You want it. You need it. Those characters call out to you to read of them and their adventures again. And though you never would; your convictions are too strong for that; you would check it out in a heartbeat if you could possibly justify it.

4. Stinging Regret. This comes very rarely, but it still does come. You regret having met the character in the first place. Their actions leave a bad taste in your mouth, and you wish that you had never formed an acquaintance with them. You have no desire to pick the book up; on the contrary, you wish that by some miracle it might be erased from your memory.

It All Comes Down to This

Who do we love more? Think about that for a moment. Do we love Ian Barclay's crooked grin above our Lord's smile of approval? Do we so earnestly desire to know the end that we would sell our precious time--eternal time--to know the outcome? Doubtless we would never say so, but in the moment of pressure, the temptation is very real. I have experienced it myself, and sometimes I have said yes, and sometimes I have said no. Whenever I relied on the Lord for the strength to say no, I trusted one of his promises:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. --Matthew 6:33

When I trust Him; when I obey Him and seek His Kingdom; when I have walked by faith, and not by sight; then I have literally seen Him give me the character I loved so much back again--different name, different circumstances--but the same spirit shining through, without my having to wink at evil.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. -Romans 8:28

Think of it: we have the reward of sacrificing to Christ, which He is not unrighteous to forget. And the next time, we have the added strength of having said no before.

Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.  
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart. 
-Psalm 37:3-4

Trust in the Lord, and do the good He has required of you. Dwell in the safe mental pastures He directs you to. Delight in His protection and His leading--and He will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.
-Psalm 37:5-6

 Commit yourself to following him by closing those covers. Trust in Him, and He will do this: he will glorify Himself by making your righteous actions shine like the sun, and your reward like the brightness of the dawn.

The Lord makes firm the steps
of the one who delights in him;
 though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
 --Psalm 37:23-24

Delight in obeying his leading. He will make your steps firm, and though you stumble in the pain of goodbye, you will not fall, for He will uphold you with His Hand. 

How Do I Let it Go?

Believe it or not, there are two ways to let go of a book. The first is to close it immediately. The second is to finish it, but to determine not to read it again.

1. Closing immediately. I did this with Angel Harp. I've done it several times, actually. Titles would be too incriminating here, but sometimes upon the second read I've found things that I didn't notice the first time around, and I've had to close it in the middle. One time I checked out a book from the library, read the first conversation, and returned it the following day. Sometimes, I know that I have to lay it aside, but I'm not mentally surrendered. I close the covers 'for now' until enough time passes for the Lord to work his will in my heart and help me lay it down for good.

2. Finish it, and lay it aside. I'm a big Gene Stratton-Porter fan, but when I picked up The Harvester, I was disappointed in what I found. It's her typical brand of love story, and a good one in itself, but the main protagonist had a works-based Christianity and prayed to the "Almighty Evolver of the universe." His rule of salvation was to follow the Golden rule, and he was sure that such a life would bring salvation. He was handsome, and clean, and honorable--and I wanted him to win out. But he believed a lie, and every statement of his about religion grieved my heart. But I prayed about it, and determined that I would finish it and then lay it aside.

There are a few indicators of which choice you should pick.

1. Closing immediately.
-If you really don't care what's going to happen, and you know you'll not be reading it again anyway, then why continue?
-If it's making you uncomfortable, taking away your sleep, causing you to excuse evil, or editing it seems beyond your ability.

2. Finish it and lay it aside.
--This is a sub-rule of this point, but if it's an espionage story, you might find it easier to lay aside if you simply read the last chapter to find out the conclusion, and then pitch it. I've done this with a mystery story or two.
--If the plot is feminine instead of masculine.
In this last point, I'm not referring to whether the character is a man or a woman. A masculine plot is the conquering of a physical difficulty--catching the thief, discovering the spies, winning the war, etc. The feminine plot is changing of the protagonist's inner character. Surprisingly, the feminine plots are harder to disentangle ourselves from, because they involve a deeper emotional struggle. Such was the case in The Harvester, and that is why I chose to finish it--so that, since his mental struggle was resolved, I wouldn't have to deal with the difficulty of his unresolved pain along with saying goodbye.

In all these choices, you should seek the Lord for wisdom and obey His leading. There is no hard and fast rule; the above are simply suggestions that I have found helpful. But your choice must be in submission to what God requires of you.

Lady Bibliophile


  1. Dear Sister,
    I really enjoyed your post! Books are painful to put down. Wonderful post!
    Love, Sister

  2. Thank you for this post. You shared some great thoughts and tips... and I loved your choice of versus that have encouraged you when you were tempted to read something you felt uncomfortable about. I have to say that this temptation of reading a book that is not altogether wholesome has happened to me. Sometimes the Lord helped me to resist, and lay it aside, other times I yielded and regretted it.

    I have to say, parents are wonderful in their advice on books like everything else in life, and it would do to listen to what they have to say. I know this will sound really weird to you, but my parents never encouraged my sisters or me to read Jane Austen's novels and some other classic romances. It sounded like something classic and good, but they felt that the overall influence was worldly and vain and encourages a "desperate dating mindset" in the disguise of courtship... and yes, sometimes it was hard to say "no", but now, I am glad that I haven't read them. This may not apply to everyone, but it is important to listen to God's Spirit guidance in one's life, and through the advice and leading of our parents.

    Well, thank you for sharing!
    God bless,

    1. Thank YOU for sharing your thoughts, Joy! :) I hope the verses help you in your future reading journeys; I agree, temptation is hard to resist, especially with fiction stories. Our parents give us good insight and training into the books we should read. And I respect your convictions on the Jane Austen novels. Though I have read them often myself, I realize that God calls us to different reading journeys, and different abstinences. God bless you for honoring your parents in that area! I know for myself, my parents often told me to wait on certain books--Tolkien, Gaskell, Bronte, and other authors--and then they gradually gave me permission to read them when the time was right. Other times I think of looking up a book and then find out that they don't approve of it, and I have to leave behind that desire. Sometimes it's hard to wait or to surrender, but I realize that God blesses us for our obedience. :)

      In Christ,

  3. Dear oh dear--Ian Barclay has 'a crooked grin'? Ah. One of those.

    (Honestly, have you ever read a romantic novel where the heroine's preferred suitor had a straight grin? Such a cliche!)

    1. I know. Hehe. I think I could write a book with all the things that are avoided (such as dashingly handsome) and it might actually be original.

      I have a weak spot for crooked grins. But there seems to be a plethora of them. :)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...