Table of Contents
Broken, Sinful, In Need of Forgiveness
This year, my seniors read Barbara Kingsolver’s novel The Poisonwood Bible, which portrays Nathan Price, a southern Baptist minister determined to convert a Congolese village to Christ during the Congo’s fight for independence in the early 1960’s. He has brought his less-than-thrilled wife and four daughters along for the adventure.
It soon becomes clear that Nathan’s over-ambitious mission is motivated by a need to atone for what he thinks was an act of great cowardice in World War 2. By mid-book, Nathan’s increasingly erratic, imperiling, PTSD-influenced behavior sets the stage for a terrible Price family tragedy.
Orleanna, Nathan’s long-suffering wife, makes the difficult decision to leave her deranged husband, taking the daughters with her. Delirious with malaria, and harrowed by torrential rains and menacing truckloads of soldiers brandishing assault rifles, they walk for days until they are able to find passage back to the United States.
But Orleanna, convinced that her failure to prevent the family tragedy is unforgivable, cannot escape the valley of darkness. She lives alone on a modest pension, building a wall between life and her damaged spirit.
Many years later, a familiar, persistent voice scolds Orleanna for her unwillingness to forgive herself: “Move on. Walk forward into the light.”
And those are the last words of the novel.
Does Orleanna forgive herself?
I tell my students that great literature often forsakes closure, inviting the reader to identify with and participate in the difficulties of life, which are our birthright. Lent is a time to realize that to be human is to be broken, sinful, and in need of forgiveness.
God forgives. But as with Orleanna, He is waiting for us to forsake our self-imposed darkness and walk into the light.
–Mr. David Brumfield, English Teacher
Other High School Lenten Reflections can be found on this website.