Fanny Price is one of my favorite characters in Jane Austen’s literature. She discerns the truth about people, and sees them for what they truly are at their core. Their dressing up, fakery, and flattering does not alter her observations about their character and priorities.
This quality makes her a tricky person to have around.
In Mansfield Park, Henri (a self-centered playboy) makes one very accurate observation about Fanny:
your eyes are so clear and unflinching, please look at me again.
He asks this because he’s been an absolute rogue, and is seeking (at least in the short-term) to reform himself. He wants approval from Fanny because he knows she sees things rightly.
It is her fierce honesty that makes her opinion more valuable to him.
Later in the movie, Edmund’s father asks Fanny to be the one to read out loud a particularly humiliating and hurtful piece of news in the newspaper:
You read it to us.
You have such a strong, clear voice.
The father who has, until this point, hidden the truth about the ugly parts of he and his family’s choices, desires for the truth in the newspaper to be read by the one person who has seen it all along: Fanny Price. He knows his “secret sins” have long been seen by her, privately, and thus, she is (ironically) a safe person at the moment when he feels most vulnerable and exposed, to be the one to speak it out loud.
It’s incredibly challenging to see things rightly.
To speak things clearly.
To be strong and unflinching amidst a flood of debauchery.
As mothers, we must be people who see clearly. Our eyes must be open. We must not get lost in the minutiae and details of varying circumstances. We must not avoid accurately assessing the real dangers of the world, just because it’s hard and overwhelming.
We can not be women who flinch.
- We need to see our God clearly– His strength, His dependability, His goodness.
- We need to see ourselves clearly– our weakness, our need for God, our sinfulness.
- We need to see the world clearly– its decline, its self-ward orientation, its wrong understanding of pleasure and happiness, its continual magnetic pull toward worship of the wrong things.
- We need to see our husband rightly– that he also is weak, needs God, and has his own struggle against sin.
- We need to see our children rightly– that there are not only external pulls toward sin and the world, but there are internal pulls toward sin and the desires of the flesh.
- We need to see our home rightly– we each have tendencies– toward overscheduling, or laziness perhaps, and our own personal weaknesses and ways of our home that need to be seen with accuracy and discernment.
MAMA, DO YOU FLINCH?
It is easy to see fearful, concerning things in our children and our home, and want to flinch. When they hit us. When they talk back. When our husband is deeply discouraged. When someone’s angry. When we’re the one that’s scary angry. When our “stuff” is out of control.
But if we are to do our jobs well as wives and mothers, we need to keep these big-picture things in mind as we go through our daily, routine, doing, and re-doing tasks. We need to be mothers who see the world honestly.
Otherwise, the particulars of circumstances threaten to overwhelm and overturn the principles of Truth we have committed ourselves to follow.
- It is tempting to brush-off a 7-year-old’s backtalk.
- It can seem impossible that our precious young sons and lovely baby daughters will one day be tempted by sexual sin. We can fool ourselves, and think, “not my child!”
- It can seem like overkill to stay vigilant against the influences that come into our home.
- It can seem like overkill to stay vigilant against the predators outside of our home.
- We can start to overlook real problems.
- We can convince ourselves that things aren’t really as bad as they actually are.
- We can delude ourselves and fail to rightly identify and call out sin.
- We can get into bad habits as a household.
DON’T FLINCH. INSTEAD, LEAN IN AND TAKE A SOBER LOOK.
When we see the people around us with honest sobriety, it is one way God has designed for us to offer them up-close love and feedback that He can use to guide and discipline them toward His ways.
The more clearly and unflinchingly we can identify sin, flesh, selfishness, and the world, and the more we have the messages of Scripture ready on our lips, the better we can counsel our husbands, counsel and guide our children, and confront the tendencies residing in all of our hearts and in the world around us, as we go through the difficult passages of life.
I admire Fanny Price’s clear, unflinching ability to identify and speak truth, and desire to be increasingly like that in my life– toward myself and others.
I’m convinced that this is a significant way I can bless our home-– to, without flinching, see this world rightly, roll up my sleeves, and do what’s on my plate to do, here in my corner of the world.
IN THE COMMENTS, PLEASE SHARE: How do you keep from flinching when faced with difficult things in your life? How do you muster up the courage to tackle the things that need to be faced in your home and in your children’s lives?