|(not my image)|
The book has a rather depressing first chapter (but don't be put off! It gets better!), because the main character is celebrating her birthday.
Now, there's generally nothing wrong with birthdays, not even if you're turning 29. Unless, of course, you're Valancy.
At the beginning of the book Valancy doesn't have a single happy memory - except for those that she creates in her "Blue Castle." The Castle is a made-up land where everything that's gone wrong for her in real life is made right, and she is only truly happy when she's able to imagine herself into her imaginary home. On the day of her 29th birthday she is again faced with the bleak fact that she is likely to spend the rest of her days unmarried, living with (and in fear of) the people she dislikes most in the world - her tactless, teasing, and sometimes cruel family.
It is in this mindset that she recieves the news that she has been diagnosed with a fatal illness and has one year to live. Suddenly her bleak future is non-existant and she realizes that on top of having no future, she has no past, either. Her entire life has been based on the unreasonable demands of her family, and since Valancy has always been too afraid to contradict them, she's been dragged along behind.
With only one year left, she's determined to step out from under her umbrella of fear, and really live life with the short time she's got left.
Her family thinks she's gone mad. (quite literally.)
While I didn't agree with every choice Valancy made (her defiance of her family is good, because they were unfairly oppressive, but she does take it a bit far at times) I was rooting for her all the way, and it was exciting to see her leap out of her prison, all set to take on a world she'd only peeked at before.
The book raised some interesting thoughts and questions, though, the most obvious one being the thought of living every day as though it's my last. It's a post-worthy idea all on its own, but it's been talked about many times before so I'd like to focus on something else.
Namely, Valancy's 29 years. She'd spent her entire life trying to please everyone. Her pastor, her mother, her extended family...she tried to please everyone she could, and even if she knew she couldn't possibly please them she'd try anyway, because she thought she had to. She never once considered disobeying, even if what she was being asked to do was hurtful to herself.
My question was simply, who are we living for? What forces are we trying impossibly to please, even at potential cost to ourselves? Valancy was afraid, for example; much of what she did was out of fear. I know a lot of people try to please worldly ideas or sterotypes. I struggle with that myself, to some extent.
There are times when it's good to please others, but that should never be our goal. Yes, serving is good, but if we live to please others then we've forgotten something very important.
We're supposed to be living to serve and please God.
This, unfortunately, is a point that is never brought up in the book, but I've been thinking a bit about it anyways. Valancy lives the first 29 years of her life trying to please everyone she can, and then she spends her last year trying to please herself for a change. For the most part she goes about this goal in a reasonable way, but as Christians we need to take her idea a step further. Instead of switching our focus to ourselves, we have to do our best to take it off people - and the world - entirely, and live for God as best we can, instead.
And I'm not saying that's easy, because it's not. I still don't really know how to do it ... I only know that switching my focus is something that I need to do. There's a quote or something that goes "reach for heaven and you will get earth thrown in, reach for earth and you will get neither," and I think that fits well here. Focusing on God is way more rewarding than focusing on earthly matters.
So there you have it - my Sunday read and the epiphany that followed. This post was a very round-about way of asking one very simple question:
Who are we living for; who do we try to please? Ourselves? Our parents? The world? Or the only one who can make our lives truly worth living...Jesus.
If you're looking for more books to read, I keep a (more or less) complete list in my Booklist tab, right across the top of this page. :)