Jonas might have gone a bit farther than his convention allowed, or his religion expected of him, by moving a bit farther away from his vow to his wife Elizabeth than he should have. Worst of all, he confessed to his wife, as a good Christian should, his “sin” of having fallen in love with a Chinese woman a few years after it happened. Some might wonder: since he was able to stray from his Christian discipline, why was he unable to bear the torture of his guilt? Why didn’t he just consume it, or let it rot away with his dead cells, rather than share his burden with his wife? Maybe he had forgotten that she was also a human being?
Nevertheless, it is impossible to understand Jonas’ true reasons for the cruel disclosure of his “infidelity.” He might have had a decent reason for breaking his oath, but he did not do it in a “proper” way, or maybe he was just too true to himself to remember his vow. But when the jug is broken, any way you break it is wrong anyway.
It is useless to try and place blame when unpleasant things happen. Finding fault will not end the inevitable conflict between God and men and neither will it help build our lives. Experiences, both “good” and “bad”, should all be positive energies for wise people to resume their lives, not something to fear or avoid. “Good” or “bad,” we need to embrace them as our lives, the only lives we have. Lives that would have been this way no matter how many lives we might have lived.
For Jonas, should he honour his own individual needs while continuing to honour God, who brought his wife into the bond of marriage, and how? Should he be allowed to “sin” and make mistakes, big ones in his life that had caused him to mislead another person for 20 years? Or should we say it is not sin nor mistake, but rather the natural unavoidable progression of life? When we say that “cheating” is a “sin” or “mistake,” aren’t we putting ourselves on the “right” side of human moral laws, but dwelling on the wrong side of natural laws? Is Christianity seen as natural laws or as the laws of man? It seems that the only way is to live our lives well with what we have and to make the best out of the situations we are put in.
Life is always complicated. The complication often includes our concerns for loved ones, wives or husbands, children, and other members of extended family. It seems that life always has two faces: one for facing the institutions that we have created and live in, the order that we have established and have to follow, morals and values that we teach our children to give them something to hang on to. The other face is always questioning us, to understand our changing selves and our true feelings.
The second face is always timid, with a little voice, while the outside face is either unquestionably strong or accustomed to being in set moulds. Could Jonas be a natural man and a godly man at the same time? If not, then why not? What would be the result of just being a natural man instead? The men of Quebec had kicked God out of their lives, so who was there for Ou Yang to date? Would she be able to find a man who would shelter her from the storms of life, when all of the men in her city had long left their God-given roles behind?
Elizabeth’s divorce dragged on longer than it should have. She struggled for eight years under the banal consequences of her husband’s very humanity, the cruelty of his discharged guilt and her own human attempts at forgiveness. A woman who married her high school sweetheart, a pious Christian, and a mother of four was given the burden to choose and carry separately the responsibility of the kids.
From the moment Elizabeth had decided to divorce Jonas, she was thrown into a world that she had little knowledge of, and of which she did not approve. It seemed like she had cast herself out of her relatively enclosed and “pure” Christian world into a mixed one with all the others. Worst of all, she began to encounter doubt in her once firm mind, putting herself at risk of losing her Christian faith.
She was about to discover that the world where a woman was made from a man’s rib was becoming one where science and technology have made our lives such that the strength of muscles are losing to that of brain. She knew very well that Eve was depicted as a vicious and disrespectful child who tasted the apple of knowledge, and she herself had become a woman with a free spirit who was now within reach of all the apples in the world, but the Christian culture had planted into her blood and bones the concept and habit of relying on men, without whom women were cast out forever into an unknown world, a world where men were leaving behind what she had been taught to believe in.
Instead of saying that Elizabeth was thrown onto an awkward stage by an unrighteous and unkind incident, it would make more sense to think that she was put into the ordeal by the need for “confession” and for releasing her “guilt” righteously. Jonas was not spared the ordeal, although his was different, by being honest enough to “confess” and to ask for forgiveness, thus putting the hot ball into the hands of Elizabeth in the false hope that he could correct his own errors. Their friends and families, especially their children, could not help tasting the salt of Jonas and Elizabeth’s tears. They were helpless. They could only hold their hearts and be silent.
Poor Elizabeth was on a stage where she found herself stripped naked with everyone in her small village watching. She was out of the relationship with her husband, yet not ready to have a place to go. She did not quite know the location of the door to the next house where she could accommodate her soul as comfortably as she had with Jonas.
Her uncertain situation could easily be seen on her puffy face. The grievance, the unrest, the barely contained wrath were finding ways into her deep wrinkles. She had been born with an upbeat character and was chosen by God as a perfect sower of happiness, but the life changing divorce was destroying her happy karma and her life nurturing rays of sun now resembled the pale light dazzling from a mirror. Her need for her children and the limits of the small town made it impossible for her exhausted soul to completely let go of her of almost 20 years of happy marriage of. Life was not a nice painting. Life was real, ugly, and awkward at her age, and was not allowing Elizabeth to go forward or back.
We may think that Christians do not fight against each other, but we have to accept that Jonas and Elizabeth fought hard by hanging fast to their beliefs while defending their humanity and the conventional feelings fostered by those belief, or maybe just becausethey did not know what to do when caught in such a complex situation. Their God was the witness to their frustration and the failed relationship that was once loving and perfect. There seemed to be not much good left from the happiness of the past, only reluctance and indifference between the two of them.
Like Elizabeth, Ou Yang was slowly coming out of her Chinese convention. With a vague vision of a “bright” future, all of life’s business was uncomfortably annoying and discouraging. The two women, of different nations, so different from top to bottom, were suffering a surprisingly similar fate.
To Be Continued…