” In the midst of life, we are in death” says the Prayer Book.
About twice a month, S has a late night activity and I put the children to bed and indulge in watching a show. As you can imagine, I get through series very, very slowly, and I try to pick them carefully so I can savour them between episodes.
The past few months, I’ve been watching Poldark, the story of an eighteenth century gentleman in Cornwall. It is based on a series of novels and like many of the historical series from Masterpiece it does a good job of portraying life at that time in addition to telling a particular story.
A good series must involve a good bit of tragedy and Poldark is no exception. Cousins feud, people are arrested and jailed or hanged for what seem to us petty crimes, the poor are always on the brink of starvation. Diphtheria breaks out in the neighborhood and several people including Ross Poldark’s toddler daughter die. It would seem that life is hard and short and cold in 18th century England.
Yet this show affirms life again and again. People long for and work towards reconciliation. Poldark claims that he does not want another child, given his financial circumstances and the likelihood of some disease or fever killing his child. But listen to what he says when his wife tells him that they are expecting a new baby:
I wonder watching this whether the easiness of twenty-first century life hasn’t made life less precious to our perceptions. If our expectation that life will just sort of flow along hasn’t made us unwilling to do or affirm those things that might cause us to suffer or grieve.
The thing I think we have to do is accept that life is likely to knock us down at some point and prepare for those moments. Not in a fatalistic way, but in building up our hearts to live strongly whether we grieve or laugh.
This of course requires much grace and determination but if we are to live as people of hope then we must purpose to choose hope even in our hopelessness.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith[b] into this grace in which we stand, and we[c] rejoice[d] in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.Romans 5:1-5