Why I Love ‘Jane Eyre’ (Spoiler alert!)

226380_5408774357_4013_nI absolutely devoured this book. I don’t know much about the author, Charlotte Brontë, except that her sister, Emily Brontë, wrote that Gothic romantic novel called Wuthering Heights. I read Wuthering Heights when I was seventeen and I remember that I was not ready for the violent, dark, and twisted love of Heathcliff. Thus, when I started reading Jane Eyre, I was expecting such twists and turns. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised.

On the first part of the book, Jane goes to an all-girls’ school and meets characters that I consider to be angelic. One is called Helen Burns, a fellow student, and the other Miss Temple, the only ‘sane’ teacher in that school (in my humble opinion). Helen is indescribably wise. I believe this is how children would be if they truly met God at a young age! She is childlike, but she does not act in a childish manner. She has much love, mercy, and humility in her heart. Without trying to enforce her beliefs on Jane, nor trying to preach at her, Helen influences Jane more than all the people who wronged her through her genuine love. So it is with Miss Temple. Unlike all the people Jane has met so far, they both never condemn her, never accuse her, nor overly flatter her. They are honest, simple, and truthful with Jane. They praise God and they depend on Him in everything.

I also love the heroine of this novel because she isn’t your typical heroine. Jane is not perfect. She is not super smart, she is not super pretty, nor is she super witty. However, she is genuine. She is truthful, and finds the core of her being very much dependent on God.

When she was hopelessly in love with Mr. Rochester, she admitted that Mr. Rochester had become an ‘idol’. Then, on their wedding day, when she found out that he was still married (although it was a lunatic he had for a wife), though every emotion and feeling in her called out to ignore that, she could not; she would not; for she belonged to God. And that passionate love she had for Mr. Rochester was very much still there! However, she never condemned God nor Mr. Rochester for the situation she was in.

Jane, who had all the reason in the world to condemn so many… Mrs. Reed (her aunt), Mr. Brocklehurst, Mr. Rochester, fate itself! They all wronged her in so many ways, yet she never held contempt for any of them. She did not waste time in this, but instead investing time and effort in loving them, in working on forgiveness.

Where and when did she learn this? Through years of spending time at Lowood, the girls’ school, under the careful guidance and love of Helen (though short, it was a very meaningful time) and Miss Temple, Jane learned to direct her passionate character and feeling personality towards the good path of true Christianity. And through her selfless, quiet love, Mr. Rochester also learned to draw near God.

After Jane left him, Mr. Rochester thought himself to be desolate; without hope. Then, when the burning of his estate made him blind, he had a time of self-reflection, where he was able to bring before God his biggest fault: pride.

Although Jane had made the mistake of loving a man who was not after God’s heart, and although Mr. Rochester had not been seeking God when he loved Jane, through all their blunders and mistakes, God seems to have brought them together in the end; when both of them were truly ready to love each other.

This book made me think that no matter how messed up we are, if we fully entrust ourselves to Him, He is bound to redeem it, and transform it into the loveliest of love stories.

(Written in January 3, 2012; edited a tad bit today)

Advertisements

Re-learning the Word ‘Generous’

As I was taking a walk, I ran into sweet B and his wonderful mom J. B is around  five years old (Korean age 6 maybe). He is the most imaginative, honest, and energetic Korean-American that I know.

We were in the car and B offered his mom one of his cookies. He said, “All of the cookies are broken except for one. Do you want the one that is not broken?” And J said, “Yes, sure! Wow, B, you are so generous!”

“What is generous?” B asked.

J explained something along the lines that being generous meant to give even though you might not necessarily have in abundance.

To that I added, “It’s something like this: Your friend asks you for a cookie. But instead of giving him one cookie, you decide to give him five cookies. Then we can say, ‘Wow! That was very generous of you!’ “

After a bit more expanding on the meaning of this word, we drifted on to other conversations.

Then, out of the blue, B says to me, “Here, have this!”

And what I see being put into my hands is a whole bar of sweets. Both his mom and I start laughing with joy at this.

20150524_193503
The precious sweets I received from B.

We both exclaim, “Wow, B! This is so generous of you! It’s too generous!” 

B is beaming ear to ear. Soon he grabs some more sweets and puts them in my hands. I thank him profusely and say that he is very generous.

Then, we hear an honest confession that just make us love him more.

B says with a slightly despondent voice, “Oh, now I only have two sweets.”

Captivated by his honesty and generosity, I say, “Well, because B has been so generous with me, I want to be generous with him too!” So I give him five of the sweets he gave me back to him.

He gratefully receives them, but to my surprise, after a while, when we almost arrived to our destination, B puts four more sweets in my hands.

I ask him, “Are you sure? You gave me too many!”

And I can see in his eyes and mannerisms that he really wants to give me his precious sweets. I gratefully receive it and exclaim, “You are so generous!”

He beams.

————–

I learned so much through little B today.

We, adults, think we know what words like ‘generous’ or ‘love’ mean, but don’t make the connection of transferring the good words we know into action. But this five-year-old, as soon as he learns the meaning of ‘generous’, decides to put it to practice.

It wasn’t easy for him because he could see his beloved sweets dwindling in numbers, but he realized there is joy in giving; there is joy in not stopping at just “knowing” what a nice word means, but actually doing it! There was an eagerness to connect head knowledge with action.

And his generosity is contagious.

His generosity inspires me to BE generous.

Crying a River for my Zombies

20130824_183232

Yesterday, in the privacy of my one-room apartment, I cried like a baby. One of my classes had consistently started out something like this:

I come into the classroom and set things up. (I don’t have a classroom of my own so I hover from class to class).

Students start coming in one by one.

“쌤, 저 오늘은 공부 할 기분이 아니에요.” (Teacher, I’m not feeling like studying today.)

“쌤, 저 오늘은 그냥 잘래요.” (Teacher, I just want to sleep today.)

I tell them, “I’m sorry you are feeling that way. Could you please get your folder?”

“쌤, 오늘 그냥 매점에 가요. 누구한테서 간다고 들었는데.” (Teacher, let’s just go set some snacks at the convenience store. I heard from someone that we are going today.)

By this time it’s quite clear to me that most of them don’t want to be in class. And class hasn’t even started.

Still, I sucked it up and gave them our Social Contract test (a test on classroom behavior expectations).

All of them were surprised about it.

I had told them last week about it.

So I told them I was going to make it open book. Everyone sounded relieved and they started at it.

One student wasn’t doing it; didn’t have his folder with him; didn’t have a pen. A gave him his folder and pen. Should I stop doing that? Anyways, he still seemed kind of zoned out but then started doing it. Then I told them that even if they didn’t finish, we would go over it together. And if you hadn’t finished, you could just write down the right answers. Suddenly the student who wasn’t prepared complained that he had started doing it but now he could finish it and went to sleep.

After the test, were doing Soccer verbs motions in Spanish (called TPR) and I asked him whether he was going to do it or not. He didn’t want to do it. I gave him the option of staying and doing it or of going to the principal’s office. He chose the latter. I wrote him a note and sent him away. (He came back after a few minutes saying that the principal wasn’t in his office.)

But this is just the beginning.

Doing verbs TPR with the rest of them was like doing TPR with zombies. Two of them were drifting off to sleep so I asked them to stand up so that they could wake up. I felt like I had to beg them to do the TPR motions. It got to the point that I couldn’t think straight because I was getting emotional. What I remember is that my head was all muddled up because I just wanted to cry because of frustration.

After I barely got done with all the verbs, I asked them if they wanted to play a game that would earn them all candy if they simply participated.

Silence.

Zombies staring at me.

So instead of doing the game, I told them we were going to fill out a verb chart that I had prepared. (These zombies were good at doing mindless stuff.)

I quickly wrote everything on the board and tried avoiding eye contact with them because I knew that if I looked at them, I would burst out crying. Then I went to the teacher’s seat, which is somewhat protected by a barrier, and tried to compose myself. From my fortress, I asked again if they really didn’t want to play that game. Reluctantly, they said they wanted to play.

So I went back out of my refuge and played the game as I tried hard not to cry. As soon as the zombies finished the game, I congratulated them and asked them to come and get their candy. It was like telling zombies I was giving them zombie food. They were suddenly alive and quick with their motions.

As the zombies were eating their brains out, I left the room.

My tears were too strong. I went to the bathroom and composed myself. A few minutes later, I went back to the classroom and told them they were free to go.

I came home and cried maybe two or three rivers. It was good. To just cry. They totally don’t get how much their words and attitude get to me. My students’ attitudes broke my heart because I really enjoy being with them and teaching them, but it seemed like it wasn’t like that with them.

And to think I have been doing this to God in a much greater degree! That is why I cannot be resentful of my students’ attitudes… because I did much more than that to God many more times. And God forgave me each time and embraced me each time. Those who have been forgiven much, can forgive much. I have been forgiven and loved beyond what I deserve. And if I have received this kind of forgiveness and love, who am I to not pass on the baton?

(Edited journal entry from October 28, 2014– my first year of teaching at HIS)