Yesterday, I finished reading The Giver, a Newbery winner from 1993, by Lois Lowry. I cannot wait to start discussing it in class! It’s a deep book with weighty themes. In fact, I’m shocked it’s a children’s book. There will probably be several posts about it in the coming days. The story is set in a tightly controlled society in the present or near future. Every facet of life is regulated by the Committee of the Elders. They choose your mates, your career, your children and even the day of your death (we find out later). In exchange for the regulation, people enjoy a safe, pleasurable life with no upsets. There is one elder, however, who carries within him the collective memories of the society throughout their history. He alone remembers pain, suffering, loneliness and grief. He is also the only one who knows true joy and love. A twelve year old boy is sent to train with him and eventually take the old man’s place. That’s the background.
The boy asks the old man why the community needs to remember pain and suffering. Wouldn’t they all be happier without it? The old man replies that the memories- which for him means reliving the events- bring wisdom. Proverbs in the sourcebook for wisdom, but one verse in particular 8:35 reads ‘For whoever finds [wisdom] finds life, and obtains favor from the Lord.’ I admit, I don’t want pain or suffering. Most days, I don’t even want aggravation. But it’s the difficulties that make me depend on God’s grace, on His strength, not mine. It’s the suffering that allows me to become more Christlike, so I may know Him … and the fellowship of His sufferings. (Phil 3:10) Suffering and pain bring an intimacy into our relationship with Christ that cannot be achieved by any other means. And that realization is just a small sliver of wisdom.