CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, EASTER AND MY TESTIMONY

What could the Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment have to do with Easter? Quite a bit, actually. In the beginning of the story the main character, Raskolnikov, commits a murder and in much of the rest of the novel the reader is drawn inside the mind of the killer, trying to find out, along with Raskolnikov, why he did it. He seems to have embraced a view common in his day that there were certain members of society who were special, above the law, who could make decisions to break the law if they deemed it best for the “common good.” As a young intellectual he would like to see himself as a part of this elite group. But he’s not sure if it’s a fit.

His name comes from a Russian word which means “split,” or “schismatic.” Dostoevsky is showing that Raskolnikov is not only divided in himself as to his identity and why he committed the crime, but he is also cut off from the faith of his childhood. As he wrestles with these issues, the ringing of bells becomes a common symbol.  In his mind he keeps hearing the ringing of the bell of the home of the old pawnbroker he killed. The sound caused a “hideous and agonizingly fearful sensation.” The bell reminds him of his sin. At the same time he remembers the sound of bells from the belfry of the church he attended when he was growing up. These bells remind him of the faith of his childhood. The name Raskolnikov also resembles the Russian word for “bell.” Dostoevsky builds the growing tension of a man truly divided in himself. He is torn between the faith of his childhood and the godless worldview he has adopted as an adult. In the end, the faith of his childhood calls him back, and after reading the story of the raising of Lazarus in John 11, Raskolnikov, once “cut off,” and divided, is raised again to new life.

I grew up with a solid evangelical faith in a small country church in the mountains of West Virginia. On Easter Sunday, 1977, after hearing a powerful sermon by Pastor Jim Stewart about the death and resurrection of Jesus, I walked the aisle, as is the practice, and embraced faith in Christ as only an eight-year old can do.

The church had a huge bell that we all wanted to ring every week. The children would stand in line for a chance to pull the long, thick rope, calling parishioners to worship.

After I left home I went through a long period of doubt and agnosticism. Just like Raskolnikov I was profoundly divided between the faith of my childhood and the more “mature” worldview of adult life. But I could always hear the teaching and preaching of the truth in my mind, drawing me back, back to the ringing of the bell at Ceres Baptist Church.

Through much agonizing, wrestling, and denying, in my own search for self-discovery, as did  Raskolnikov, I realized that I am a murderer, I killed Jesus. I have murdered and have sought to justify it. I am guilty and in need of redemption. He embraces me even though I rejected Him. Because Jesus is risen I have new life. Crime and Punishment is my story . . . and perhaps yours as well.

*If you are interested in an insightful essay on Crime and Punishment, check out the Introduction to the book in the Constance Garnett translation by Priscilla Meyer. Much of my material comes from her.

-Bruce Etter

 

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He Knows Our Pain

The Maundy Thursday service is probably our family’s favorite service of the entire year. It is just a very special time. We have been looking forward to it for the past few weeks. After seeing a few Facebook quotes from Pastor LeDuc’s message I am kicking myself even more that we did not go. I was traveling home after a few days of going through more of mom’s things. Every time you think you can handle a little more, you realize death is just plain hard. I arrived home to more stressful news from my husband. I just looked at him and through tears said, “Please, our family just needs a night to rest in one another.” I am not telling you this as a “woe is me.” We all have bad days/weeks. Mine are not special. I am only sharing this because I was reminded last night that sometimes, many times, we need get out of ourselves and just go. In my weariness, I missed something beautiful. These quotes have kept me thirsting for more. I am seriously hoping this message was recorded.

He knows our hunger … and feeds us with Jesus — LeDuc

 

Jesus understands our suffering from the inside out — LeDuc

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Are You a Lonely Mom of a Teenager

I found this blog post helpful. She really expressed the life of moms and their teenage children well. This post was encouraging to me. On our difficult days, it reminds all is normal and really will be okay. It also causes me to stop and think before over sharing. That benefits no one. Read the whole thing here.

Because you suddenly realize that these kids are people.

People with feelings and emotions. And you can’t go around blogging about their mean math teacher or their failed attempt at choir auditions. These are things that are too precious, too priceless, too soul-baring, too hard to share. T. They need you to keep their secrets. They need you to pick up pimple concealer at CVS and not breathe a word to anyone. They are so easily embarrassed and you must do your part to help them get through it.

 

 

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Good for Him

It is always fun seeing someone who home schooled reaching for their goals and achieving them. Sometimes we fall for the “your child will not be successful because you chose to home school him” message. Then we hear of yet another kid who was home schooled and still succeeded in their life’s goal. So, yeah, good for him.

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Cleaning Out the Reader

Since I do not leave time to read blogs daily, I find myself salivating when I finally sit down to see what is in my reader. I hope you enjoy some of these nuggets.

- Ever struggle with the grass being greener on the other side syndrome? Read this, you may be challenged.

One truth I have discovered is that while I am looking at other peoples “green grass”, mine is beginning to whither. Instead of spending my time growing my “yard”, I’m slowly killing it off with bitterness and doubt.

- Good words on contentment.

- Because we could all use a little help with forgiveness.

Forgiveness is not like planting tulip bulbs, where you never have to think about it again, and everything just naturally comes up nice and pretty in the spring. No, life goes on. Sometimes old feelings turn up when you’re not expecting them, needing to be handled and replanted.

-This article was published several months ago, but it is good to see classical education making the mainstream news.

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Fruits of the New City

Very good words to read today. How often do we long for the fruits of the New City while forgetting we are in the here and now? 

You will be exalted among the nations, one Day, Lord Jesus. There is no doubt about the end of your story, and ours. But in these present painful chapters, we long for the first fruits of the New City, the perfected relationships, and the sinless existence of life in the new heaven and new earth. So very Amen we pray, in your powerful and loving name.

 

Read the whole prayer here.

 

 

 

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I Need Thee

As we are getting ready for church this morning, I have hymns playing as background music. When I Need Thee Every Hour  played, I stopped in my tracks with realization that these words say it all. Yes, I really do need Thee every single hour. I wonder how many of life’s problems would evaporate if I could just except those words as truth in every moment of my day?

        I need thee every hour, most gracious Lord; 
	no tender voice like thine can peace afford. 

	I need thee, O I need thee; 
	every hour I need thee; 
	O bless me now, my Savior, I come to thee.

	I need thee every hour; stay thou nearby; 
	temptations lose their power when thou art nigh. 
	 
	I need thee every hour, in joy or pain; 
	come quickly and abide, or life is vain. 
	
	I need thee every hour; teach me thy will; 
	and thy rich promises in me fulfill. 
	
	I need thee every hour, most Holy One; 
	O make me thine indeed, thou blessed Son. 
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