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Monday, June 14, 2010

The Light in the Darkness – How Reading a Vampire Book Taught Me More about Faith - Flirting with the World: The Other Choice

Why the wilderness?

Because every pledge of any kind must be tested to prove its validity.

God even allowed Jesus to be tested, in the wilderness no less.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert [wilderness] to be tempted [tested] by the devil [the other choice]. (Matt. 4:1)

How could we not expect to face the same challenge?

The test of faith would be no contest without a contender. Free will and the application thereof would mean little without a choice. Our Perfect Lover does not want us to love Him back by default. He wants our love for Him to be what we choose. A right and wrong choice still exists, but we must face the option of choosing the wrong way in order to embrace the right way. True love isn’t true without the choice and the test of that choice.

The world is the Other Choice. And while not all bad, because God created it as good (Gen. 1:31), it is fallen and therefore not all good, and not the right companion for our hearts.

It’s in the wilderness that the Other Choice makes the strongest play for our devotion even while knowing full well he can’t compare to our Perfect Lover. The Other Choice is powerless to change our hearts, to fit us for eternity, to redeem our fallen state. Our Perfect Lover does all that and more.

But the Other Choice makes an attractive argument, especially in the (apparent) absence of our first choice. We only see one set of footprints in the sand, and make the mistake of believing that they’re ours (Footprints poem). So we take stock of our options, and the Other Choice steps up for consideration.

In New Moon, Jacob is the Other Choice. The entire story is about how Jacob becomes a contender for Bella’s heart, the earth drifting into position between the moon and the sun.

Throughout the series, Jacob is related to darkness and Edward to light. All Bella has once her light leaves is Jacob, a.k.a. darkness.

Jacob is not all bad. Although he displays bad behavior, he has many redeeming qualities. So it’s easy for Bella to open the door to his influence on her quest for Edward’s voice. But during the quest, she found something she wasn’t expecting – a remedy for the hole Edward’s absence created.

Flirting fast-tracks to dependence (she refers to him as a fix, like a drug (NM, pg 162)). She knows he doesn’t come close to comparing with what she believes she lost. But she keeps flirting to gain her fix, meanwhile inviting him deeper into her life. The price (or at least the deposit) isn’t too steep. Jacob is good looking (okay…smokin’ hot… I’m not blind), friendly, and fun. He desires to be in her company, and proves a decent companion. He’s an excuse to be reckless, a semblance of normalcy. He submits to her whims and gives her a sense of belonging. He promises never to hurt her, inadvertently (on purpose?) reinforcing her doubts in Edward. The relationship is easy.

Still, Bella is fully aware that she doesn’t love him the same as she loves Edward. But they are both willing to stake their lives on their friendship being enough.

So why isn’t it?

Jacob’s benefits come with annoying premiums. He’s immature, insensitive, easily distracted, prone to giving guilt trips, has a hair-triggered temper and even betrays a confidence when he feels scorned. Bella herself states, “I didn’t like Jacob when he acted this way.” (NM pg 405) That’s something she’d never say about Edward even in his absence.

But the real contention begins right after Jacob and Bella establish a relationship when the monster shows up. Jacob’s inner werewolf, which has always been there, erupts, wounding Bella, breaking promises, and violently opposing her perfect love.

Desperate and afraid, though, she fights for Jacob’s not-quite-it-affections because she believes it’s all she has left.

When I first read New Moon, I disliked Bella immensely. I faulted her for forgetting, raged at her for looking twice at Jacob or even hinting that she’d settle for him. Her actions hinge on her belief that Edward doesn’t want her. If she believed from the start that in his absence his love continued, how would her behavior have been different?

Upon second and third readings, as well as introspection, I had to admit, Bella did what many others would do in her situation.

Haven’t we have all considered the Other Choice at one point or another?

The world can be attractive, friendly, fun, desirous of our company, an excuse to be reckless. It provides a semblance of normalcy and sense of belonging. It promises things our Perfect Lover has not (easy life, no problems, do what feels good, etc.). On the surface, our Other Choice seems like a pretty good companion, even though sometimes it behaves badly.

Our wilderness experiences open the door for the Other Choice to become a contender in our hearts. Because we are hurting, we grasp at anything to battle loneliness, weariness, bitterness, despair, fear, hopelessness, doubt, pain, disappointment, desperation. But whatever we gain flirting with the world only numbs the pain. It will never erase it. Coping mechanisms only help us ignore pain better, like Jacob’s friendship helped Bella ignore the hole she felt inside. It’s a remedy, not a cure.

But it’s easier to keep flirting, keep inviting the world to plug the hole that we know can only heal in the presence of our Perfect Lover. Since He’s not around (apparently), we’ll settle for enough to get by, to survive, to keep walking and talking and functioning.

But, no matter how friendly this world is, at some point the monster behind the veil will reveal itself, and have no doubt, it will surface as the indisputable enemy of your Perfect Lover.

When that happens, the ball will be in our court. Time to make a choice. The ease or difficulty of that choice will largely depend on how much we’ve allowed the Other Choice into our lives. But if we believe from the start that during the wilderness our Perfect Lover’s love continues, then the Other Choice might not end up being such a contender after all.

(Click for next chapter: Fear - Faith's Enemy)

(photos by photobucket.com)

2 comments:

lynnrush said...

Nicely said! And such a great picture to end the post on!

Write on, sista.

KM Wilsher said...

Great post! I get so much out of these Lori, did you see the link from kmwilsher.blogspot.com??? ;)