Fourth Sunday in Advent
I passionately believe in being cheerful.
I also believe in being honest.
When there is a conflict, truth trumps optimism every time. There is absolutely no point whatsoever in any writing which lies to the reader.
Some years ago, a clergyman friend criticised one of my novels. I love feedback, so I welcomed this. And was intrigued and taken aback when I heard the reason.
I hate spoilers so I won’t tell you the full story, but the crux of it was that he said I shouldn’t have written a novel in which a believing, practising Christian turned out to be the baddie. I gave this much thought... until he told me he also thought CS Lewis shouldn’t have written A Grief Observed. A work I very particularly admire.
Lewis, my friend said, should have rejoiced when the love of his life died. He let the side down by being open about such searing and brutally honest grief. Where was his faith?
I have nothing in common with such a view. Absolutely nothing at all. Lewis faith was howling, as his heart was breaking, on the grave of Joy Davidman, where any man’s love would surely be. Where my father’s was – a man whose Christian example I have looked up to all my life – when my dearest mother was laid in the cold, dark earth and battered and soaked with the winter winds and bitter rain.
The truth will set you free. I genuinely believe this. (And on a much more humble and personal level, that being honest, describing exactly what I see and feel and know, will set my writing free.)
Was Saint Peter a good example? Such cowardice and deceit! Or indeed, Mary and Martha, with their petty domestic quarrels; Martha’s lack of faith in the resurrection; Mary’s selfishness in leaving Martha to do all the work?
Do we really believe these friends of Jesus should have been sanitised and smartened up into better rôle models for us?
At its most basic level, would they then really be more helpful models, such perfect plaster saints we could never emulate?
A few days ago, I couldn’t imagine anything positive I would be able to bring myself to say about Bink’s situation, when it came to today’s post.
I had pinned so much hope on her having treatment at last... This year had promised such a game-changer... Everything apparently about to be torn up and lost…
Today, the future still looks stuck somewhere between uncertain at best and bleak at worst.
Nevertheless, there is still much to be optimistic about:
Bink came to the theatre with us on Thursday. Romeo and Juliet, Barbican. She claimed to be bored... but noticed when both title rôles deviated from well known lines. “A rose by any other word would smell as sweet.” “I deny” (not “defy”?) “you, stars!” We sat over tea afterwards, discussing whether this was a difference between the Quarto and Folio as the opening chorus is… or simply a mistake. How bored can you really be, if you are listening?
And she is coming home for Christmas Day. Here is her list of instructions:
a) Buy new bed linen for her.
b) Not from Primark, because it must be in packets.
c) Clean the table of whatever room she is sleeping in. (Which mustn’t be her own room.)
d) Clean the shower.
f) Buy all the following: loo paper (in unopened packet); kitchen paper (ditto, distinct from loo paper); hand-wash; flushable wet-wipes; clean bottle of water (no good from the tap); sanitary products.
Good news. Really. She is coming home.
See? It is possible to be positive. (Whilst also being honest...)
(PS Oops: I seem to have pre-scheduled this a day early by mistake. I am getting the hang of this technology thingy, really. Anyway, you all knew this was today’s post, right? I will now attempt to preschedule tomorrow’s, so I can start thinking about Christmas presents. After which there will be silence from me, for twelve days.)