abnegation - n. Self-denial. a denial; a renunciation.
Summaries & Ponderings:
Chapter 42: Jo and her parents deal with the loss of gentle Beth. Jo struggles, and feels that without some help she'll never make it. This is a difficult time for Jo, but also a time of great growth.
But someone did come and help her, though Jo did not recognize her good angels at once because they wore familiar shapes and use the simple spells best fitted to poor humanity. (Page 417)
What a true statement! I've heard many times that when someone prays for help the help most often sent is brought by ordinary mortals. In my experience, it's most often close family and friends. I think there are many times when people fail to recognize their "good angels," particularly at first. And it seems to me that nearly as often, perhaps more so, it's hard to tell exactly when you've become the instrument in the Lord's hand to act as a "good angel" for someone in need. The amazing thing is, it's often true that when you help another you are in turn helped yourself. I think that was what the Lord was talking about when He spoke of loosing yourself to find yourself. And Jo begins to do that in this chapter. She's picking up the slack that is left in the absence of her sister, and in doing it she brings comfort to her grieving parents and finds new avenues of growth herself. She learns to appreciate and find satisfaction in the humble homey things that previously she had little patience for. What a difference between this Jo and the girl who first took up her burden, saying "I'll try and be what he loves to call me, 'a little woman,' and not be rough and wild, but do my duty here instead of wanting to be somewhere else," who thought that facing a "rebel or two down South" couldn't be as difficult as keeping her temper at home! (See page 18) Meg also helps Jo realize the value of a homemaker as Jo sees how being a wife and mother has helped her sister improve herself. I find that many of the changes Jo notices in Meg, the "good womanly impulses", the growth in general she observes, are things that I find myself needing to tend to. The process of parenting is one big opportunity for growth, self-control, self-discipline, and a host of other virtues that, if I allow them, will bring out the best in me as I work toward being my best self in order to teach my Monkey correctly. The growth that comes in a marriage is a little bit different, but no less important. These are the things that I think Jo begins to see in her sister and is gradually deciding that marriage isn't such a bad thing after all. It's not necessarily the stifling loss of freedom that she seemed to perceive it as previously.
Here's another bit that I like:
It's highly virtuous to say that we'll be good, but we can't do it all at once, and it takes a long pull, a strong pull, and a pull all together, before some of us even get our feet set in the right way. (Page 420)
Isn't that just the truth! It reminded me forcefully of a lesson we had in Relief Society not too long ago. Joseph Smith said that if the saints wanted to build up Zion it would take, "a long pull, a strong pull and a pull all together." I wonder if this wasn't something that would have been a common saying at the time. Louisa was 20 years Joseph's junior, and he said it in 1831, so she would have been a little girl at the time, and in a different part of the country. But it's got the ring of a saying, so I wonder if it wasn't a relatively common thing to say. Reading those Work and the Glory novels has reminded me that there was an awful lot of heavy labor going on in this time period! In any case, it's such a true statement. Whether you approach the idea from a personal betterment, or from creating unity, which in many ways are different faces of the same coin, it's a true principle.
Next in this installment: chapter 43!