One hot afternoon, we ducked out of the blazing sun into a bookshop in Mombasa. My husband, holding the baby, went over his book wish list with the shopkeeper while I browsed shelves with our 2-year old son. It was a small shop, but they had many titles that caught our eyes.
The 2-year old chose a couple of VeggieTales books. I spotted “The New Strong-Willed Child” by Dr James Dobson and snatched it up without any hesitation. Just a few days earlier, a friend of mine had recommended it on Facebook. With my compliant personality, I was far out of my depth trying to parent a strong-willed 2-year old; I needed all the help I could get!
As I read that book, I gained a better understanding not only of my son, but also of my strong-willed husband. Through Dobson’s explanations, and through watching my family, I could see that exceptionally strong wills can manifest negatively as stubbornness, and positively as perseverance; strong wills can be applied to insisting on one’s own way or to following the Way.
Our strengths can be our downfall, and our faults can be a gift.
In A Wrinkle in Time, this concept plays out in the gifts given to Meg and Charles Wallace by the Mrs. W’s.
Mrs. Who warned Charles that he doesn’t know everything; Mrs. Which warned him against his pride and arrogance. Still, he trusted his powerful mind to save him from IT. He believed that he could “go into” IT and come back out again after finding out what IT was, where Mr. Murry was, and how to defeat IT. And he was wrong. This was the very thing he had been warned not to do. His greatest strength – his intellect – was also what allowed IT to capture him.
Meg was dismayed to be given her faults as a gift. She’s always trying to get rid of them! Yet, her strong will helped her to resist IT and to save Charles Wallace in the end. In chapter 2, Meg’s principal called her “the most belligerent, uncooperative child in school.” It’s the ideal personality to combat an evil that wants to make everyone compliant and the same.
Another of Meg’s faults is her extreme emotions – she’s told at least twice in the book by her family that she needs to find a happy medium – yet that emotional nature includes great love. Calvin tried his communication skills to get Charles out. That didn’t work. Mr. Murry tried simple resistance. That didn’t work. Meg started out in anger, but IT only gained a stronger hold on her. Then she put together Mrs. Whatsit’s final gift to her (love always) with Mrs. Which’s final gift (Meg has something IT doesn’t have), and it was love which brought Charles back.
Meg thinks that Mrs. Who’s last gift to her (quoting 1 Corinthians 1:25-28) is to encourage her to “not hate being only me, and me being the way I am.” But I think that it meant a bit more. IT seems very wise, rational, and convincing, as well as incredibly strong. Compared to an entity that has control of an entire planet, the love a sister has for her brother seems insignificant. Yet, “the foolish things of the world…confound the wise.”
There’s one more thing I want to note in this book (ok, there’s more than one I want to note, but only one I will note because we all have lives to live).
When the children finally reached Mr. Murry, Meg thought everything would be alright now, she wouldn’t have to do anything else hard because her father would take care of everything. Nevermind that they were there to rescue him, not the other way around. He, however, couldn’t do what she wanted him to do.
After escaping from IT to the planet of the blind beasts, Meg was very affected by traveling through the Black Thing. Her physical recovery was slow, but her mental and emotional recovery took even longer. When she apologized to her father, she said, “I wanted you to do it all for me. I wanted everything to be all easy and simple … because I was scared, and I didn’t want to have to do anything myself.”
Sin is tempting because it masquerades as good, promising to deliver all that we truly long for. IT promised all of what Meg said she wanted from her father. Though IT called itself “peace and utter rest” (counterfeiting Jesus’ promises of peace and rest through our relationship with him), she could tell that IT was evil, and she resisted that temptation. She didn’t do so well resisting dependence on her father for that peace and rest. It is appropriate for children to depend on their parents, but at this point, it was time for Meg to do something herself. Our parents teach us, guide us, and raise us, and there comes a time when we must step out in our own faith.
Let’s talk about it in the comments. What are you thinking about as we finish this book? What is sticking with you? Does it change your perspective on your strengths and weaknesses to realize they might be the same thing?
P.S. No reading for this week. Next week we will have an intro to our spring book.