“[Silas Marner] seemed to weave, like the spider, from pure impulse, without reflection. Every man’s work, pursued steadily, tends in this way to become an end in itself, and so to bridge over the loveless chasms of his life. . . Marner’s face and figure shrank and bent themselves into a constant mechanical relation to the objects of his life, so that he produced the same sort of impression as a handle or a crooked tube, which has no meaning standing apart.”
Silas Marner, George Eliot
Silas Marner, a man falsely accused by his best friend who purposes to ruin Marner’s reputation and steal from him his fiancé, flees to a faraway village where he is a stranger and can begin again. But as a result of the betrayal, he shuns all human relationship in his new life; the only company he keeps is with his loom and the accumulating pile of money he makes from his weaving.
Fifteen years he lives as a recluse, preoccupied only with his weaving and money counting, “his life narrowing and hardening itself more and more into a mere pulsation of desire and satisfaction that had no relation to any other being.”
Until the money is stolen, Marner’s life is rhythmic; it keeps time with his loom. Sixteen hours a day, Marner works, weaves. And while his life is mechanical, it’s not necessarily unhappy. There’s a kind of safety he builds around himself in the silence. What he’s really weaving is a cocoon of isolation, where he cannot again suffer the wounds of human betrayal.
It means to remind me of what calling must never become: ceaseless rhythms of work, subconscious reflexes of self-protection. Hours at a loom – or laptop -, having only mechanical relation to the objects – and people – of my life.
Which is why I’m grateful for the kind of unintended effect blogging has had over the past almost year. It’s given you permission to reach out to me, to encourage me, and it may be true that I didn’t know how thirsty for those words I really was. (And by the way, thank you.)
It is easy enough for me to make distance between myself and others. When, at sixteen, I first began to follow Christ, I journalled religiously, filling books with prayers and scripts of the heart. And while that may have seemed like self-expression, it was also silence-keeping: not from the page, of course, but from people. The journaling stopped the day I got married, and I remember wondering for years why it was that I had lost the habit I had once found so necessary.
The answer should have been obvious enough.
But the pattern is still prevalent today; those ruts of habit were formed early into the clay of my life. It continues to be much easier for me to work, than to rest, and it is often easier to be alone than to share company with another.
Which must have been at least one of the reasons God set me in the middle of this family of seven, giving me less peace and quiet that I may have initially wanted. I need this noise, these shoulders of my husband and children to keep me from my loom. They remind me that I am not a machine but a woman, that my calling is not to work but to love.
I do want to write a book this year, and I know it will require of me considerable intentionality and focus. I am willing enough to pay those dividends of hard work, but I am also stupid enough to do it at the expense of my love relationships. So in the next few weeks as I prayerfully consider what the new routines and rhythms of life might look like after school begins, I am reminded of Marner and the dangers of a mechanical, isolated existence.
Calling is no excuse to lone-ranger it through life: if anything, calling makes it all the more necessary to find companions for our journey. We need Aarons and Hurs who hold up our hands when there is weariness, discouragement.
And again, I want to thank you, reader Aaron, reader Hur, who have often been prompted by God to write and share how God is using these words in your life. I have needed you and will continue to need people willing to pursue me, a woman who’s mesmerized by the noise and rhythm of the loom, who might even be obtuse enough to name it calling.
Thanks be to God for the indescribable gift of Christ, who knits us, not only to Himself but to one another.