by Stephanie Wheeler
I find myself in a bind this month. I am in a reading slump. It happens. Not often, but I hate it when it does. In fact, I find myself in an overall slump across all sectors of my life. I am completing the tasks and responsibilities that are mine and there it stops. So I will fall back on a new review of The Mitford Series. As I mentioned previously, I have read these books by Jan Karon before and loved them, but this time through I find new depth in the lives and problems experienced by the characters. The books follow one Father Tim Cavanaugh, an Episcopal priest in the fictional town of Mitford, North Carolina. He’s 60-years old when the story opens, a confirmed bachelor and priest of twelve years to his Mitford congregation. He believes he knows the path his life is going to take when God steps in and shows him that He is always watching out for us and always ready to broaden our horizons with new experiences.
I finished the 9th book in the series (Light From Heaven) at the end of August. We’re nine years down the road from when we met Father Tim, and life has gone in directions he wouldn’t have dreamt of when we met him. But life, and its purpose, has a constant theme when we are striving to draw closer to God: Trials. Father Tim keeps a book of quotes that he’s gathered over the years and turns to it for comfort and inspiration during times of trial. In Light from Heaven he reads this from his collection:
“If the trials of many years were gathered into one they would overwhelm us. Therefore in pity to our little strength He sends first one, and then another, then removes both and lays a third, heavier perhaps than either, but all is so wisely measured to our strength that the bruised reed is never broken. We do not enough look at our trials in this continuous and successive view. Each one is sent to teach us something, and all together they have a lesson which is beyond the power of any to teach alone.” H.E. Manning
This spoke to me at this moment in my life and gave me great comfort. When I look back and try to see my life and trials from this perspective, I do see the work of God in it and that gives me both solace and hope. Though I feel like the bruised reed, I am not broken. There is purpose in these trials and relief to be gained during respite, an ability to overcome with His help.
The Mitford Series provided for me what I consider the whole point of reading: to see things from another point of view. I grew up in a wonderful faith community with many of the same elements found in Father Tim’s life and work within his faith community. To see the same concern for others, love of scripture, and humble efforts to find and do God’s will in a way different from my own experience has been one of my life’s watershed moments. These books have shaped and altered my life in profound ways. I end with Father Tim’s “prayer that never fails” – Thy will be done.