Thursday, January 29, 2009

Coffeegirl Book Club

Chapter 3 - The Shadow of a Tree

"Sin: she knew there was such a thing as plain sin, not something any psychiatrist could absolve or explain away. Even worse, the sins of omission. She quoted some poet whose name she did not know: 'O unattempted loveliness! / O costly valour never won!' "

Review of Important Highlights

Beyond the continued development of the story of Van and Davy’s love, The Shining Barrier that is, Chapter 3 introduces the second major story line of the book: their experience with Christianity. Both characters are confronted with the issue of Christianity, but at separate times and places. After a terrifying night when her sins “had come out and paraded before her, ghastly in appearance and mocking in demeanor,” the awareness of her own depravity weighs heavily upon Davy.

Several major elements of Van and Davy’s quest for “eternal springtime inloveness” are carried forward in this chapter, most notably the realization of their dream to sail the open waters together in their ship, Grey Goose. As Amy noted in last week’s discussion, Vanauken continues to remind us that they were pagans, though ironically their growing realization of this truth comes through individual, separate experiences – not in relation to their exclusive commitments of love to one another.

After a safe ending to a potentially dangerous situation is established, the shuddering fright “at the thought that we might have lost each other” further reinforces Van and Davy’s exclusive and absolute focus on one another. While their fright in response to the possibility of losing one another is quite natural, it recalls their previous commitment to take their own life if ever faced with losing one another in a tragedy. As the chapter draws to a close, a brief mention is made of an ultimately inaccurate diagnosis of an obscure ailment that prescribed a restful life for a few years. So after a season of sailing, followed by a season of studying and sailing, Van and Davy are now headed to England to fulfill a dream of studying at Oxford.

Points of Reflection

There are two primary passages in this chapter that stuck out to me. The first is Vanauken’s reflection in connection to his uneasiness with Davy’s awareness of her sinful nature. He writes, “But the truth was that I was far too remote from Christianity to judge anyone else’s distance from it…but I did not know the place from which all distances are measured.” Having grown up in a home centered on Christian truths and values, I often feel that my primary evaluation of things is their relation to Christianity. Vanauken’s statement really helped me to consider the abstract nature of Christianity for those who have regarded it as “a mere local religion of earth, quite inadequate for the immensities of the farflung galaxies.” His initial reflections on the oddity of highly intentional people believing in it, people who were previously atheists and agnostics, made me smile because I often find myself musing over the same thing.

The second passage I’ll comment on is one that I have always loved – the night of the sea-fire. Vanauken’s descriptive writing drew me in and nearly convinced me that I could feel the cool, fresh air around me and see the beauty of waters illuminated by glowing of the phosphorescence. My favorite part of the description, however, is the moment being “utterly timeless … contain[ing] therefore, some foretaste, it may be, of eternity.” The significance of this concept will be drawn out again in coming chapters, but for now the description of the moment is what has captured my thoughts.

What about you? How do you relate to the descriptions of recognizing spiritual truths in what appear to be momentary experiences? I’m curious to hear how your own spiritual journeys might be resonating with this account, or how they are different, as mine is. Let’s hear what you liked most and least about this chapter. I’ll be jumping back into the conversation this weekend – see you then!


Becky Aguirre said...

I just received my book this week and as of today, I'm 3 chapters behind! Ack! Well, I will try to catch up with you here...and then be back to comment. :)

amyinbj said...

Hi again :), sorry for the late-ish post. I am at a conference (due to semester break and Chinese New Year) and finally had some time today to read the chapter and reflect a bit. CG, as you pointed out, it is ironic that even after all Van and Davy have done to keep the Shining Barrier in place and well tended, God begins to challenge the 'one-ness' by using different timing as he makes himself known. One of the things that struck me was about three years into their marriage (I might be off on the timing), they spent a considerable amount of time -- three days I believe-- reviewing how they were doing. Were they still on course? Were there things that they needed to adjust or alter? I find that I'm fairly good about making plans but not as disciplined about reviewing them after a period of time as gone by. I have set up two goals for this semester, one a weekly goal and one an end of the semester goal; I am now challenged to put on my calendar a few intentional times to sit down and see how my plans are working out. Am I still on track? Are there areas God wants me to alter the way I'm implementing them? Becky, enjoy getting caught up! Amy

Shilo said...

So many things spoke to me in this chapter. I'll keep it to a couple though! :)
The first is just how peace and eternity speak from creation, even to the pagan (Rom 1:20). So many times God has ministered to me by the song of a bird, or a lovely sunset but I find that at this season in my life I am much to often inside! I'd like to remedy that in the weeks to come!
The second is what Van calls the "classical conviction of sin". I found it interesting to think about how I personally often experience this conviction of sin and while changed by the experience (like Davy), don't take it to the next step, confession of sin and growth. Of course, we are saved and she was not at this point and did not have God's spirit living in her, but still, how much I miss between the time God first deals with me on an issue and the time I actually respond in obedience. How thankful I am that the Hound of Heaven is still after us, even after salvation. Wonderful, gracious Hound of Heaven.


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