Every year, I start out with some reading goals. Maybe it’s an easy way to feel like I’ve accomplished something worthwhile when the annual ball drops in Times Square. And it might have something to do with the knowledge that it would be very easy for me to luxuriate in the fun and frivolity of fiction to the exclusion of reading what might actually make me a better wife, mother, friend, and follower of Christ.
Here’s how my list of reading goals has looked for the last decade:
- Leadership – 1 book
- Marriage – 1 book
- Parenting/Grandparenting – 2 books
- Spiritual Growth – 3 books
- C. S Lewis – 1 book
- Classics – 1 book
- Biography – 1 book
- Family Matters’ book – reread 1 book
- Fiction – as much as I have time for
This year for my classics book, in honor of Charles Dickens’ bi-centennial celebration, I bought and downloaded his complete works on my Kindle. The best three dollars I’ve spent in a long time! I started with Great Expectations and just completed A Tale of Two Cities. That dude could write!
When I finished reading the last few incredible pages of A Tale of Two Cities, Tim asked me a very good question. How does Dickens’ writing compare to today’s fiction?
Like many of my favorite contemporary authors, Dickens is a master at great character development, intrigue, mystery, twists, turns, and a complex plot. He’s got good guys and bad guys. And his stories are no stranger to violence. La Guillotine separated tens of thousands of heads from their owners during the backdrop of this book.
Perhaps what’s missing in most of today’s fiction though is a redeeming outcome in the midst of the tragedies and terrors of life. People doing the right thing even though it costs them much – maybe even their own life.
It’s hard for me to imagine Jack Bauer, James Bond or Mitch Rapp giving up his life for someone who actually bested him in the game of getting the girl. But that’s what happens when Charles Dickens brings this epic, A Tale of Two Cities, to a close. No account Sydney Carlton switches places with the innocent but condemned man, Charles Darnay.
I can’t help but assume that it was Dickens’ greater goal to illustrate the incredible sacrifice that was made at the cross on our behalf. As I finished this book, I saw Christ coming to take my place, paying my penalty at the guillotine and setting me free to walk out of the prison of death into the freedom of life.
The last few lines of this story read like a hymn. Christ’s sacrifice mirrored by the sacrifice of one like us. It’s my prayer that in recalling this classic tale, we’re all reminded of the incredible gift that we’ve been given.
“I am the Resurrection and the Life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” … John 11: 25-26
It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known. Sydney Carlton in Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities
Here’s to classic reminders and resurrection hope,