I picked up (or rather downloaded it to my Kindle) Jane Austen’s book Persuasion because, although I have read it before, I couldn’t remember anything about it. I tell you anything about the book or even who the characters were or anything! I either didn’t finish it before, or I really didn’t like it. So, I decided to read it again.
Well, I just finished it, and now I know why I didn’t remember it from before. Before getting married, I identified a lot with the main character, Anne. I identified with her personality, and her heartbreak. This made this book painful to read, and it’s happy ending unfulfilling and unbelievable.
During this second reading of the book, I did the hard work I didn’t want to do the last time I read it. That is, examine my heart. Why did this book bother me so much? Why was it so painful to read? Why was I letting this pain bother me so many years later? Certainly I am “over it”! (Spoiler alert: I wasn’t really over it in my heart.)
A quick summary of the book (so we are all on the same page):
Anne is the middle daughter of a baron. Her father and elder sister are obsessed with rank and status. Her younger sister is married, but her husband has no rank, only money.
Anne had been “attached” (that’s Austen-ese for “courting”) a man eight years prior to the book’s opening. He had no rank or money, but was just a low ranking officer in the Navy. Due to her youth, and his uncertain ability to provide well for her, she was persuaded by a dear friend to essentially break up with him. The friend believed that Anne was not worthy of him, and that being so young, a better offer would be coming her way soon (i.e. someone with equal or better rank and fortune to her father).
Anne never gets over the break up. She truly loved the man, and he loved her. She never gets a better offer.
When the book opens, she is living normal life when low and behold! HE walks back into her life. Drama, and emotional turmoil ensues for the entire length of the book, ending in a happy ending of Anne and HE getting together, engaged, and wed.
The first time:
In my original reading of the book, the emotion turmoil Anne experienced and the way she internalized all her thoughts, feelings, and pain, resonated with me deeply. I had done this. My own heartbreak was very different, there was never any attachment in my situation, my HE never felt the same way towards me that I felt towards him. Like Anne, however, I let it sit in my heart, fester, and ruin all other “possible happiness” – as Austen would put it – for several years. Our situations were different, but reading Anne’s feelings brought my own feelings to the surface again.
The second time:
This second time reading it (I just finished it yesterday), instead of remembering the plot, but I remembered how I felt before. This time, I could see through the fog of those deeply rooted, nasty, painful feelings.
I was bitter.
I had let heartbreak – a real, painful, unfair situation – dig into my heart and rule me. I let my feeling of bitterness towards this person for not loving me, rob me of the joy of loving others, harden me so as to keep me from being compassionate toward others, and keep me so focused on me that I would forfeit my college education – which my parents were paying for – to feel loved.
After reading, and enjoying, Persuasion, I see my younger self, and I am so sad. I am sad I let my feelings rule me. I am sad I wasn’t trusting God with my situation. I am sad I hurt so many people because I was focusing on myself.
But, I am also amazed. I am amazed my husband kept dating me even when I revealed my hurting, bitter heart! I am amazed that he married me! I am amazed that I am not that girl anymore. I am amazed that I didn’t do anything to deserve the love that helped me change. I am amazed by God’s grace that changed my bitterness into forgiveness, love, and joy. What He has promised to do He will do!
Philippians 1:6 “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”
I hope you are encouraged too!
Soli Deo Gloria!