Passion and Purity, chapter 10: Does God Notice?

Passion and Purity bugs me for many reasons, the foremost of which is the bad relationship advice and iffy theology.  But the first thing that bugged me about this book when I read it in my late teens was the style.  The chapters all include poetry snippets, quotes from the Psalms and old hymns, and the romance narrative is frequently interrupted by paragraphs or even pages of introspection.  I understand why Elliot chose to write this way–at each turn, she is deliberately trying *not* to rush into the next step.  The halting writing style is fitting for a halting romance.

The problem is that we readers get to an interesting part of the story, end the chapter on a cliffhanger, and then begin the next chapter with a verse from a sober hymn or contemplative Psalm.  There is of course a place for Psalms and hymns, but as a reader in the middle of a story, this is very frustrating.  We’re in chapter 10!  We are ready for action!  In the first few chapters I read all the quotes because I was trying to get to the bottom of her argument.  But now we know her argument, so the repetition of spiritual reminders seems redundant and, more importantly, gets in the way of the story arc.  This chapter, for instance, has three long quotes over the course of 2.5 pages–easily half of the chapter. Later, in chapter 23, she takes a complete break from the epic romance to once again berate feminists for destroying romance.  I can’t tell if she doesn’t trust her gentle readers to remember the argument she laid out in chapter one, or if she wants to continually remind us how different she is from The World.  Maybe it’s both.  Either way, it’s annoying.   Continue reading


Passion and Purity, chapter 9: The Revelation (finally!)

Chapter 9 is the first time they actually USE THEIR WORDS!  This is a milestone, guys.

We walked half a block in silence.  Then, suddenly, “We’ve got to get squared away on how we feel about each other,” Jim said.  I was dumbfounded…the revelation I’d been hoping for–he had some feelings.  And he was assuming that I had some.

YES!  Way to be honest and open, Jim.  Elizabeth’s response is a little odd–she says she was a little piqued at his assumption that she had feelings for him, but I mean, whatever.  Who can really explain their overwhelming emotions in those heady days of courtship?  They are on cloud nine, and she floats back to her room:

Rainbows are made of sunlight and rain.  The sunlight, which turned my world into a radiance of color, was the knowledge of Jim’s love.  The rain was the other fact that he explained to me as we sat on the grass by the Lagoon–that God was calling him to remain single.  Perhaps for life, perhaps only until he had had firsthand experience [as a missionary.]

WHAT.  “I love you, but we can’t do anything about it.”  That sucks.

Older missionaries had told him that single men were needed to do jobs married ones could never do.  There were some areas where women could not go.

Ok.  Like, I get it.  You’re freer as a single person, for sure, and it’s better (I guess?) that he admitted his feelings rather than lead her on.  At least they can face the future together now instead of wallowing in longing by themselves.  But I also don’t see why they can’t, idk, get married and go somewhere that women CAN go.  That seems like the obvious solution here.  But never mind–he’s got his career ideas, and she has hers, and they’re going to sort it out.  I can get behind this.

I was afraid to articulate, even to myself, feelings I might have to get rid of.

This is refreshingly honest, and again, I find myself most enjoying her writing when she really opens up, rather than when she is pontificating on the Evils of The World.

So, all in all, we’re a step ahead: Jim used his words, they have something in common at last, and they can think about the future together.  Not a bad place to be, and definitely the most enjoyable chapter so far, because who doesn’t like being in love?!  Love is great!

Let’s see if this continues in chapter 10.

Passion and Purity, chapter 8: Unfailing Love

In the last chapter we had some unfortunate inklings of what is to come.  Our two lovebirds went on a first date and then Jim sent Elizabeth an email apologizing for…something…and somehow making her think it was her fault.  Instead of communicating (“Hey, what’s up with this vague apology?”), Elisabeth spent days in spiritual and emotional turmoil.

I mean, I get it: the relationship is young and you don’t want to say too much too soon.  Butterflies are confusing!  But this lack of communication, especially by the woman in a relationship?  This is a feature, not a bug.  We’ll see more later.

Chapter 8 starts with this charming sentence:

“But how can I find out what God wants me to do, if I don’t know what I want to do?”  The logic of this question escapes me, but it is one I have heard more than once.  Why not start by simply telling God you’ll do anything He says?  You’re the servant.  He’s the master.

I’ll say it again: why would God give us desires that we are supposed to ignore?  Or, put in biblical terms: why would he give us talents He didn’t want us to invest?  It is obvious to me that this is the heart of this “illogical” question: “How do I find out my talents?  How do I best use my interests and desires to please God?”  I honestly don’t know why Elliot finds this so baffling. Continue reading

Passion and Purity, Chapter 7: The First Date

This chapter is only vaguely about a first date.  It is mostly about poor communication skills.   Elliot doesn’t actually say much about the date, except that it wasn’t typical (who goes on a first date to a missionary meeting instead of dinner and a movie?  Evangelicals, that’s who.)  But let’s focus on what she says on page two of this three-page chapter:  A journal entry:

I am wiling to do God’s will but I cannot tell if my desires are wrong and should be “plucked out”

And then this:

[In a letter, Jim] confessed to having been in some way out of line on the evening of our date.  It was a bit obscure to me, but I felt I might have been at fault.

And then this:

More testing today.  God is asking me insistently, “Lovest me thou?” and I find myself evading the question.

And then, finally this:

I was wishing that my wishes were what God wished, and if my wishes were not what God wished, I wished that I could wish that my wishes would go away, but the wishes were still there.

GIRL. Continue reading