Profound insight from a mystery novel

I must admit, though I search for the most literary of mystery novels, so that they’re not a complete waste of time, mysteries are probably the closest I come to a “guilty pleasure.”  I don’t read them in order to stretch my literary mind;  I read them because I like them.  I also don’t expect to glean deeper understanding of myself, nor do I read them with my ear attuned to what God might be saying to me through them.  Maybe, though, I should start.

I recently finished A Matter of Justice by Charles Todd.  Other than The Murder Stone (which I couldn’t even really start, let alone finish — there were about twenty billion characters in it, and none of them were sympathetic), I have so very much enjoyed Todd’s fiction this year.  Charles Todd is a mother-and-son writing team, and I’ve now read thirteen of their fifteen published books (not read:  The Red Door, which is calling to me from the library’s hold shelf).

All of the Todds’ books are exceptionally clean (with text like, “Rutledge stepped into the passageway and swore under his breath” instead of actual swearing), good mysteries, focus on character development, and are set in post WWI England.  Even though they’re squeaky clean, it would be my best guess that the authors are not Christians, with some recent dialogue between Rutledge and a rector mentioning that the main business of the rector’s job was something akin to trying to get his flock to be “good.”

There was a passage in A Matter of Justice, though, that I read and re-read, as the light dawned more and more brightly.  It was at a point in the book where Rutledge was reflecting on a man and his wife.  Each were afraid that the other had committed the murder, but neither wanted to believe that the other were capable.  So, each worked to cover up any evidence that might point to the other, and each sought to take the blame, to save the spouse.  In the meantime, neither actually spoke with the other, for fear of actually hearing a confession.

Here’s the passage (from the top of p. 203 in the 2009 hardcover edition):

Sometimes doubt was the deadliest of fears.  It grew from nothing more than a niggling concern until it overwhelmed trust and shone a new light on small inconsistencies, white lies, honest mistakes, and human frailty.  And as it distorted perspective, it could also distort the truth.  Words taken out of context loomed terrifyingly large, and in the end, doubt could convince a loving husband or wife that their partner was capable of the unthinkable.

No, don’t worry for my marriage!  😀  This passage was incredibly revealing to me, in the light of a semi-recently failed friendship, one whose history and failure, until reading this, still rested uneasily in my heart, with not a small amount of attendant confusion.

In spite of multiple years of relationship, my friend continually mistrusted me.  She questioned, criticized, and disapproved of virtually everything about me, from my parenting choices, how I communicated with my husband (or vice versa), the books I read, the music I listened to, my political beliefs and actions (or non-actions), how I spent my time, how I inquired about her life and how often, how I reciprocated (or not) gifts and cards.  She repeatedly set up little “tests” for me, which I repeatedly failed, thus sealing my unworthiness, in her mind.  She even doubted and questioned my pastor and his trustworthiness and Godliness (to me, not him), which was just about the last straw.

The thing that was a consternation to me is this:  I am trustworthy.  Am I perfect?  Absolutely not!  Will I fail?  Certainly, at times.  Do I have frailties and inconsistencies?  Sadly, yes.  And, I freely admit to NOT being the world’s most attentive friend.  So, I don’t want anyone to read this as me saying, with blues guitar in the background, “She done me wrong!  So wrong!  And now, she’s gone, gone, gone…”  I believe that, when relationships fail, that 99% of the time, there is mutual culpability, and I certainly had my share of missteps.

But.

This passage got me nearer to understanding the why on her end.  It wasn’t just “insecurity”, as others (including my husband and my other most trusted counselor) have suggested.  My friend had a deep, overriding tendency to doubt.  Then, like the passage stated, that doubt overwhelmed any ability she had to trust, and it cast all my frailties and honest mistakes (hopefully, no lies, even “white” ones!) into the most unfavorable light, distorted her perspective of me, and beset any truth of who I am, and what my motives, goals, thoughts, and so on, actually were.  It made her think, time and again, that I was not only capable of the impossible, but culpable for it!  It was as if I had done that thing, or thought that thing, or whatever — things I had never thought or done — but in her mind, it was so, and there was no convincing her otherwise.

And the root of all of that?  Doubt.  Deep, deep doubt.

Who could be friends with a person of such doubt??  Somebody, perhaps, but not an ISTJ who has a desperate need to be trusted.

When I ended the friendship, in short, I told her that whatever kind of friend she was looking for, I was clearly not it, and that it would be in the best interest of both of us to discontinue our relationship of five years.

Very sad.

But, in retrospect, I still feel like it was the right decision.

And, I dearly thank Charles Todd, Inspector Rutledge, and the Holy Spirit, for further insight into that sad chapter of my life, profound insight, really, which I greatly needed.

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About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 10, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I am a natural childbirth advocate and an erstwhile birthing class instructor. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on November 1, 2010, in Books I'm Reading, Christian Living, Friendships, Introspective Musings, Sad Things, The Dear Hubby. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Sometimes, people have personality disorders we are not equipped to help them overcome. Sometimes, their frailties are not a good match for our frailties. A good friendship should bring out the best in one another – it should pull out the potential and bear good fruit. When that does not/cannot happen, what is left? Sometimes, with honest reflection on what the Holy Spirit reveals to us about our sin patterns/weaknesses – we can invite Him to assist us in making the changes we need to make to strengthen a friendship. Confirmation to continue the relationship, I have found, is this: the other party wants to continue it too, forgives us our sin/weakness, and chooses to trust God’s Presence in us, and in the relationship. If that confirmation is not there – we have probably lost the friend. But, we have not lost everything! We have gained much: humility, careful attention to God’s scrutiny of our hearts, repentance (if needed), wisdom, and a renewed conviction that God is the only Person who is capable of 100% coverage in time, attention, and understanding to friend us, perfectly. Sometimes, people are working through deep issues, and their maturity level is not such that they can “friend” well in that season. Sometimes, God just says “no” to that friendship, and He offers no explanation; the issue for Him is not the friendship, but how we handle letting go. These are some random thoughts. Continued peace to your heart, dear one.

    • Thank you, my precious friend. You are right about all of that, of course… I struggled mightily with the fact that there was overwhelming evidence that God led me to be her friend in the first place, and I can’t help but thinking I had failed His purpose for me, by not being/learning/doing/whatever I was supposed to do, in order to make the friendship work. I felt like He was calling me to something, and I failed Him in it. Just typing that brings tears to my eyes! However, I am starting to believe that He may have had other purposes — similar to ones you wrote about, above — other than what I assumed His purposes were — namely, to take someone who was friendless and often misunderstood, yet who had a great many fine qualities, and be part of a beautiful and redemptive friendship!! I felt certain that this was His calling for me, and it’s why I stuck with the friendship for so long, even after it was undeniably toxic. It’s still hard for me to believe that, with His love and power, that one of MY friendships could fail so miserably. I feel deeply responsible. But, is that arrogance on my part? I don’t know. It was almost as if someone had put a baby on my doorstep. “By golly, God brought you into my life, and I’m going to BE your friend, and it will be a beautiful friendship!” And, when it didn’t play out like that (or it did… it peaked there, for a while, then crashed hard), I thought that I must have done something terribly wrong — not wrong to HER, necessarily, but wrong in that I missed His calling, His word, His wisdom, somewhere along the line. I still don’t know if that’s the case or not.

      Now, I will re-read your response, again. 😀

  2. Ha, Ha, personality disorders!!! She’s a borderline! I digress to something I copied to my journal from a source somewhere:

    Intimacy blockers:
    Zero in on a person’s defects
    Try to control another person
    Smother a person with needs
    Build a wall by telling ourselves we don’t need a person.
    Go for those emotionally unavailable….with addictions would be one example.

    This list has helped me on my end and on the friend end. Sorry about the loss.

  3. And one more thing cause I can’t resist: friends are for a season. You are not responsible for anything other than to be yourself with her, God is responsible for the rest cause you can’t change her anyway. Place responsibility where is belongs so you can be free. And Ay yay yay, you didn’t miss God.

    Blessings….I can relate to the failed relationships and those toxic.

  4. Also Karen, I’ll just bet that if you poll a hundred women, 99% of them could state they have experienced a failed friendship. I have. What has interested me about that failed friendship is that, for years after the final closure, I was aware of how the person had handled her life. I read some things she had written – saw her interests after our season together was over, and heard of her life choices through mutual friends. As the years passed, it became crystal clear to me that though God had, as you say, “put her on my doorstep” – His intent for me was not to love her into wholeness, but discover that I can never love anyone into wholeness. Only He can do that. We each must want to grow into wholeness – and want it bad enough to keep doing the hard work of repenting, believing in and receiving God’s love, changing unhealthy patterns, and committing to love people with the love of Jesus – which is selfless, not selfish. That’s a tall order. I do have life-long friends. I am convinced that is possible. But, not everyone that comes into our lives will walk the entire journey with us. That’s okay. God goes with them, and He will keep loving them, pursuing them, and inviting them to wholeness. God goes with us, too. Surely, His goodness and mercy will follow us ALL the days of our lives. We must grow out of naivety, without growing bitter. Sounds to me like you are right on track! Love you!

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