18 August 2010

Something More...

When I was in college, I went through a very difficult time in my third year. For no apparent reason, I became depressed, laid around on the couch continuously between classes, and avoided my friends. During that time I read a popular modern Christian book. In that unremembered book, the unremembered author had a quote that struck me particularly, so I looked up the footnotes to see who had written it. The author of that quote was Catherine Marshall (author of the novel Christy) and was from her book Beyond Our Selves, written in 1961. I noted it, having read Christy as a young woman, and carried on with my miserable life.

A few weeks later I had to get my driver's license replaced, which involved waiting 30 minutes for them to print it. During that 30 minutes I perused the book section at the Goodwill next door. As I scanned the books for something I wanted that cost less than $2 (all that I had in my pocket), my eyes landed on Beyond Our Selves by Catherine Marshall, hardback edition, for $1.99. Of course I bought it. Its forty-year-old wisdom impacted my life in a way that the popular, modern, utterly forgettable book hadn't. I read the book again in 2004 when I broke my leg and spent weeks on the couch recuperating. My hospital bracelet is still in that book, marking the spot I left off. The hardback book got tossed out of my luggage in the final morning purge when I discovered my trunk to be 2 pounds too heavy, and I've been missing it.

When I was on my way to Uganda last month, I stopped in Arusha (in northern Tanzania) and had to get some paperwork for my cell phone. While I was waiting for that, I walked to the nearby supermarket, and on the way I spotted one of the tents that are the used book stores in East Africa. I scanned the piles of English, French, Russian, and Swedish titles, looking for anything worth reading for any price, when my eyes landed on Something More by Catherine Marshall. After reading Beyond Our Selves, it never occurred to me to see if she had written anything else, so to see another book by her in a pile of French language romance novels was a surprise, to say the least. I snatched it up, and paid roughly $2 for it.

Just as her earlier book had impacted an earlier time in my life, Something More, written in 1974, has been such a challenge and encouragement to me. Each chapter is about another topic related to following Jesus in a practical and common-sense way. Her tone is always humble, so that although her words on each page are cutting to the center of my increasingly cynical heart, it is in such a tender way that I cannot resist the call to greater faith and discipleship. Here's something I underlined yesterday that speaks very much to my current state of mind:
"Criticalness leads to discontent. Discontent expels appreciation and gratitude. Self-pity moves in and turns the attention inward; surely self deserves something better, we tell ourselves, such as happiness, prosperity, that its ideas and demands be heard and implemented. If what self wants will hurt others-spouse, children, parents, store proprietors, educational institutions, bystanders-well, they asked for it in one way or another. Anyhow, the end justifies the means." -"The Dilemma of Our Rebellion", Something More, p. 196

Too often as young people, we appreciate only modern perspectives, foolishly thinking that only the most recent, up-to-date writers and philosophers can understand and speak into this world we live in. As I have learned, twice now, and as the Seeker said in Ecclesiastes "There is nothing new under the sun."

So I challenge you to read something old. Not just "classic" and old, like C.S. Lewis or Henri Nouwen, but something a little off the beaten path. You know my recommendations.
I always have to read this book with a pen to underline with and my journal to take notes in.

1 comment:

rawster said...

Okay. So you know when things keep coming up and coming up so then you're like, "okay God, I get it". That's me right now. I just posted on the Imago Dei NW blog that I've been thinking about rest and how I need to be close to God to experience true rest (this thought was brought on by the recent Lahash publication talking about rest). So then, Aaron posts about how we define ourselves in terms of our successes and failures. And I realize that this also has to do with rest. I can't rest in Christ if I'm always trying to obchieve success through my own efforts. So, now here you are, writing about how "criticalness leads to discontent". Again - God is speaking to me. I must not be critical of my own life, of my own successes or failures. This only leads to unhappiness and tiredness, which is what I've been experiencing a lot of lately. I need to rest in Him, which means I need to allow God to define me. In order to truly rest in God, I must be close to God.

Hmmmm... giving me things to think about here.

Thanks for the post.

Also, You've been in Africa one year this week, right? Congrats!!