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The Giver

My son had to read a book for an adult literature class he is taking in our home school co-op. I haven’t actually read a lot of his papers that he is required to write for this class! My hubby asked me the other day if I had read any of his papers. It hit me then that I hadn’t. My son told me he gets glowing comments from the teacher. Last night I decided to look at his last one.

This book he is reading is set in the future. Society over a long period of time has embraced “sameness.” There are no choices. The community and the elders take care of everything for you. The food is brought to you each day and left-over’s picked up. They take pills to curb what they call stirrings, what we call sexual desires. There are birth mothers who give birth to children through artificial insemination. They do this for three years then are assigned manual labor after till they are old. Children are assigned to families. There is no biological connection. They are only allowed two children. There are no colors. There are no animals. There is no weather. The elderly are put into a place at a certain age and then “released” at a certain time. The jobs are picked by the elders and assigned at the age of twelve after careful observation of the children as they grow to determine gifts and abilities and interests. The community is constantly being monitored by the elders for infractions of the rules through listening devices in every room of every home. Certain things are allowed at certain times. Privileges are given at certain ages. There are no choices. You follow the rules. You do as you are supposed to do. Everyone is happy and content. It is a safe place. They are not aware of what they are missing. It has gone on for so long that no one remembers the days when there were colors, love, sex, choices, animals, weather, evil, or pain. There is one person who is given all the memories of all time and he is called the Receiver. He is the only one who knows, who remembers. It is through his memories that they receive their wisdom. They counsel with him on decisions but the memories remain with him alone.

In the book the boy is chosen to replace the aging one who holds all the memories, and through his training he slowly becomes aware of all that he is missing. It is a very interesting book. My son recommended that we read it aloud. So I did. It even caught the attention of my youngest that has a language processing disorder and has great difficulty listening and following stories read aloud. This one, though, he was able to follow better than I have seen before. We were somewhat disappointed in the ending, but the concepts that the book brought about made for some good discussion. I was curious to see just what my eldest had to say in his paper on the matter. Here is an excerpt from his paper:

“You can’t truly know love unless you have known hate, you can’t truly enjoy food unless you have experienced hunger, and you can’t truly know joy unless you have experienced pain. It is a sad irony of life, but the fact remains, without the bad you can’t recognize the good. This fact is a wisdom that comes only through living …”

Wow. It is true. It is a truth that was represented well in the story. The main character was no longer satisfied with his predetermined, safe life. Despite the memories of some very intense pain, pain that he had never in his twelve years ever heard of or experienced, he knew that it was far better to experience pain and make choices of his own, even if they led to mistakes, than it was to be safe and live in a world without color or differences. I am pleased to see that my eldest understands the wisdom behind the scenario in the book. At eighteen he is certainly capable of grasping it. I don’t know if the others grasped it as well. They all commented, though, that they wouldn’t like to live in such a world. I have to say that I whole-heartedly agreed with them. Then it hit me. Is that not the substance of my prayers? Do I NOT ask for everything to go well? Do I not pray against disease, pain, illness, and hard times?

I pray daily for my sons. I pray the same prayers every day. Sure, there are different ones each day as well, but there are always the same consistent prayers. I pray for their health, their safety, their purity of mind and body before marriage, their faith to be real and living and active. I pray for God to fill them with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. I pray for them to grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man. I ask for their names to be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. If there are situations in their life that are going on do I not pray for a good outcome? I pray for good SAT scores. I pray for a great scholarship to the college God wants my son to go to. When they are sick I pray for health. When they are sad I pray for comfort and healing. How can I NOT pray for these things? We do not have because we do not ask. Of course I ask for God’s blessing on my sons. What mother does not?

Yet, as I pray I know—I mean I really know—that often God does not answer my prayers the way that I would expect Him to. I KNOW that often in order for my sons to grow in their faith they must stumble in their faith first. I know that for my sons to have wisdom they must experience mistakes—the best way to gain wisdom, the ONLY lasting way to have wisdom. I know that he who is forgiven much loves much. I know that this might mean there might be something that occurs in my son’s life that will require much forgiveness. Yet, I pray for my sons’ faith not to falter. I pray for my sons to never turn aside from their faith. I pray that rebellion not be necessary to make their faith real. Let’s face it. If I could, I would plan perfect lives for my children. The idea of them suffering, of them making terrible mistakes is too much for me to bear.

God is so wise. Thankfully, He doesn’t give us what we ask for. He doesn’t give us what we want. He gives us what we need. He gives us what will mold us and shape us into the image of His son. He isn’t as concerned with our present comfort as He is with our eternal outcome. He knows that without pain there is no appreciation of comfort. He knows that without hate there is no true appreciation of love. He KNOWS that in this world we will have trouble. He has promised though that He has overcome the world. He has promised to never leave us. He has promised that He will perfect what He has begun in us. He has promised that we will shine like stars in the universe. He has promised that we will reign with Him. He has promised us the crown of life. He is the one who holds all the knowledge of the universe that we cannot possibly fathom. He is like the Receiver in the novel, except He has given us a world where we are allowed to experience the full spectrum that He might be glorified, that we might be refined. I am so glad that my son has grasped this truth.

I know that as I pray the answers I receive might not come in the form I anticipate. When I ask for discretion for my sons, it might come by way of a terrible blunder that causes them to recognize the importance of discretion. I know that when I pray for my sons’ faith to be living and real and active that it might take a period of a dark night of the soul, of questioning, before my sons can fully know and embrace the faith they have been reared to know and understand. One day they will have to make their faith THEIR OWN. I do not know what my sons need in order to do that. God does. And I am fairly certain it isn’t likely to be a scenario that I would choose. I must walk by faith and not by sight. I must trust the Almighty, Sovereign God with His plan for my sons’ lives. I must trust Him with His plan for mine.

As I considered a world without choices, a world where all variables were removed to protect people from themselves, it hit me that God in His wisdom doesn’t do that to me. He allows me to make mistakes. He allows me to make poor choices. He is still sovereign, and it will all work together for good; but nonetheless He allows me to experience it all. Anything less is not living, just as my son stated in his paper: "It is a sad irony of life, but the fact remains, without the bad you can’t recognize the good. This fact is a wisdom that comes only through living …” Comes only through living … hmmm … This is true of my sons as well. I strive daily to impart to them wisdom though biblical teaching, but in the end it will be by living, by making their own choices that they will grow. I need to remember this. As they grow I must let them make more and more choices and trust. I cannot protect them too much or they will not grow. I must let them know joy because they have experienced sorrow. It is not an easy thing to do as a mother. But if I am a wise mother I will let them experience colors and choices and pain … It seems I have one son who is already aware of that.

Thank You, Jesus, for my sons. Thank You for Your wisdom in allowing us to experience all of life, the good along with the bad. Thank You that I can rest in the knowledge that You are always in control. And when I question You and ask WHY? At the occurrence of pain in my life, thank You that You understand my weakness. I pray that I seek not only comfort and ease, but Your will always in everything. I pray that I lead a life that glorifies You. Help me to let go of my sons as I need to so that they too can have choices. In Your precious name. Amen.

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