For the Love of Dickens

For the past three weeks, I have been intentional about carving out more rest and relaxation in my life. I feel as though God is calling me into a season of abiding, into a time of slowing down, spending more time with him, focusing on relationships, and engaging in things I enjoy most.

I have rediscovered my love of Henry Purcell and have been listening to him every day. I have been watching episodes of my favourite show, I Love Lucy, and laughing all over again at the shenanigans and antics of Lucy and Ethel. (Last week, when I was battling a nasty sinus infection, I wish I had a bottle of Vitameatavegamin to “spoon my way back to health.”)

And I have been reading and reading.

For some time, I have been thinking about the book David Copperfield, and I decided to read it again. Years ago, when I first read David Copperfield, I loved it. This time it’s like I’m in the middle of the story, living it out. I know many people may groan over Dickens, perhaps not having not-so-good memories of him in high school or college; but I think Dickens is one of those timeless authors who totally captures the human experience and who deals with social justice issues that are still relevant to us today.

young Charles Dickens
Young Charles

I could feel little David’s loneliness, fear, and lack of love and being wanted when he was left an orphan at an early age. (Maybe since I live in a society that has thousands of orphans, many of whom feel unloved and rejected, I can relate more to David’s experience.) My heart ached for him when he was shipped off to an awful boarding school and was regularly beaten. My heart leapt for joy when his aunt took him in and offered him her love and protection. I laughed out loud when David, as a young man, fell in love for the first time, living and breathing in his darling Dora, whom he “loved to distraction.” (Yes, our first love is always like that!)

Charles Dickens famously said that out of all the books he had written, David Copperfield was his favourite son; and I couldn’t have agreed with him more.

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Remembering

Last night, during a spiritual exercise with my “cell” (small) group, I thought about some people who had played a special role in my life. Who immediately came to mind was my dear friend John Mogabgab, who recently passed away. If you had the blessing and honour to know John, then you know how hard it is describe him, this marvelous man with a gentle spirit and a wonderful wit, a beard like a desert father, a pupil and scholar of Henri Nouwen, and the founding editor of Weavings. Yet, last night, I realised a special gift John and his wife, Marjorie, gave me and that was the gift of listening to God. The two of them, through their contemplative spirituality, showed me through practice and example how to be intentional about listening to God. Although I don’t do a very good job setting aside quiet time to just listen to God, I am grateful for this lovely and essential gift John and Marjorie gave me, and I’m trying to cultivate in my life a pattern of listening.

On another and a very surprising note, I also thought about the math teachers I had in high school and at university. While listening to a friend share about her child’s struggle with math and with the school’s frequent change of math teachers, I realised for the first time in my life how blessed I was to have the math teachers I had. No doubt, my high school and university friends can’t believe what they are reading, as I struggled so much and complained endlessly about math. However, with one exception, all the math teachers I had were good at teaching their subjects and were so patient with me, going beyond the call of duty to offer me special help. Geometry gave me the hardest time, but my teacher regularly tutored

geometryme after school. I don’t even remember his name; it has been that long ago, but I remember his face and his kindness. Honestly, if I didn’t have helpful math teachers, my academic life could have noise-dived; and I could have become so discouraged. Who would have known that twenty-plus years later, I would give thanks for the math teachers in my life?

I continue to live into my life of Ubuntu, as I continue to realise that my “humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up in yours”—my dear friend John and my math teachers.