A Severe Mercy

“What was happening was happening to us both. I believe it is always so, mutual and, at least at first, equally intense, if it is genuine inloveness. The actual thing – inloveness – requires something like a spark leaping back and forth from one to the other becoming more intense every moment, love building up like voltage in a coil. Here there is no sound of one hand clapping. Unreciprocated love is something else, not genuine inloveness, I think: perhaps it is infatuation and passion or, perhaps, potential inloveness. I believe that genuine inlovness is rather less common than the romantic novelists suggest. One who has never been in love might mistake either infatuation or a mixture of affection and sexual attraction for being in love. But when the ‘real thing’ happens, there is no doubt. A man in the jungle at night, as someone said, may suppose a hyena’s growl to be a lion’s; but when he hears the lion’ growl, he knows damn’ well it’s a lion. So with the genuine inloveness. So with Davy and me. A sudden glory.” [from Chapter 1: A Severe Mercy]

“A Severe Mercy” by Sheldon Vanauken was recommended to me by my cousin Zach and encouraged by my mother in law Judy Raye. It was a welcome escape during finals week…:) and I finished it just yesterday. It is a brilliant love story chronicling the passionate life of Vanauken and his wife. He recalls their pagan years during which they were seeking utmost joy in life (which he later recognized to be an internal longing for eternity), years of blissful inloveness and a plan to shield their love by total sharing, followed by their eventual intellectual, emotional, somewhat begrudging conversion to Christianity. Later in the book, he spends several chapters detailing how he drank the cup of bitterness and grief when his wife died (one of the best glimpses into the grieving process that I have ever read – better even than Lewis’ “A Grief Observed”). The book is laced with poems and correspondence with C.S. Lewis which add a real richness and depth to the moving story.

Reading this book, I was so encouraged to slow down and enjoy beautiful moments in life – a great cup of tea or poem, a long walk, a beautiful sunset. The author shows a true awareness of beauty…even the pain of beauty. I was also convicted by the faith of Vanauken’s wife: “But for Davy, to live was Christ. She didn’t want to be a saint, either; she was too humble even to think of such a thing. She simply wanted God – almost totally. His service was her freedom, her joy…”

so so so good. definitely one of the best books i’ve read in a long time.

bah. that’s all for today. quite a nerdy post, but such is my life right now! between being snowed in and pregnant, i am suddenly finding lots of time for reading…:)

❤ “Under the Mercy”

jordan cristine


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