I’ve been thinking about how we (humans) try to control risks. For some reason we act as if, when we take a risk intentionally, the results are more in our control. It is very hard to give up that control, even if it means getting the results we were hoping for.
In homeschool this year, we are reading the book of Exodus. We’ve just gotten to the parting of the Red Sea. The Israelites were totally freaking out. Moses told them, “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Exodus 14:14) The results that they wanted–freedom, the Promised Land–are coming, but not the way they imagined, and things are definitely not in their control. If they did things their own way, how would that turn out? (We’ll find out when we get to the book of Numbers.)
In Jewel of the Nile by Tessa Afshar, Chariline doesn’t necessarily want to be in danger, but she believes that she has some control in the risks she takes. This is why she was willing to sneak into the Kandake’s palace back in Meroë. It was very dangerous, but she believed it was the only way she could find her father. Her rash decisions remind me a bit of Simon Peter.
In contrast is a character named Theo, introduced to us way back in chapter 3 (and apparently also in previous books by Tessa Afshar!). It wasn’t immediately apparent how he fit into the story, but he dominates the chapters we read this week. He owns a ship called the Parmys, which was blown way off course by a storm. Probably it was not uncommon for this to happen, and financially it could be devastating.
Though their business would suffer, Theo eventually felt at peace about it, confident that God had a task for them in Caesarea. When his plans were interrupted, he trusted and rested in God’s sovereignty. “He sensed again, with a curious certainty, that God had allowed this encroachment on Theo’s plans for a purpose.”
Back to the “present” in the story. Chariline visited her close friends, Philip and his daughters, and met Theo and his captain Taharqa. Chariline was intent on going to Rome, finding her father, and saving the life of the Kandake. Hermione told her, “In my experience, God starts to tell us something, and before the sentence is out of his mouth, we finish it off the way we prefer.” Surprisingly, after praying together, Hermione revealed to Chariline a hiding place on Theo’s ship, which they knew was going to Rome.
Theo’s past is a mystery. He seemed to hide much of himself (maybe this is where he exercises control of his risks), yet he proved to be wise, faithful, and caring. As he nursed Chariline through her fever and back to health, they had some very meaningful conversations. My favorite was when he talked about one of Yeshua’s favorite sayings: take heart. “Take heart when you are afraid. When you are overwhelmed by trouble. When you are ashamed. When you are hopeless. When you are despondent. Take heart.”
Later, Theo told Chariline, “Don’t bank your life on finding Vitruvia. Or your father. Don’t bank your life on besting your grandfather…whatever happens, you can bet your whole life on this: God is not an abandoner.”
I can hear Moses’ words here, too. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.
The book is about finding her father, so I’m certain she will, but as I try to get into Chariline’s mind, these are my thoughts: The answer to the prayers that night at Philip’s house (revealing the hiding spot) seem to indicate that God is leading Chariline to her father. But, following Hermione’s advice, perhaps she shouldn’t jump to conclusions. What she can know for sure is that God is not an abandoner. For that reason, Chariline can take heart, whether she finds her father or not, before that happens, and after it, as well.
What encouraged you in these chapters? How do you react to God’s interruptions in your plans? What reminds you to take heart when life is out of control?
Here’s the schedule for the rest of the book:
Oct 19 Ch 18 – Ch 26
Oct 26 Ch 27 – Epilogue
Next Month’s Book
Our November book is Mastering the Art of French Eating: From Paris Bistros to Farmhouse Kitchens, Lessons in Food and Love by Ann Mah.
Here’s a summary:
When journalist Ann Mah’s husband is given a diplomatic assignment in Paris, Mah–a lifelong foodie and Francophile–begins plotting gastronomic adventures à deux. Then her husband is called away to Iraq on a yearlong post alone, overturning Mah’s vision of a romantic sojourn in the City of Light. So, not unlike another diplomat’s wife, Julia Child, Mah must find a life for herself in a new city.
Journeying through Paris and the surrounding regions, Mah combats her loneliness by seeking out the true stories behind the country’s signature regional dishes, exploring the history and taste of everything from cassoulet to the crispiest of buckwheat crepes. Among encounters with lively chefs, farmers and restaurateurs–and somewhere between Paris and the south of France–she uncovers a few of life’s truths.