Someone Else In Room Nineteen (12.18.12)
"This is a story, I suppose, about a failure in intelligence: the Rawling's marriage was grounded in intelligence." Doris Lessing, opening "To Room Nineteen."
Good literature, if it's really good, cannot lie about the realities within human relationships. To do so would diminish it. Most of us wouldn't read it if it failed to tell a true story.
In fact, short stories are often particularly incisive about not fudging relationships, and so sometimes these lead us gladly to the potentially instructive reality of art.
Doris Lessing's "To Room Nineteen"(first published in 1963 in Britain by MacGibbon and Kee in the collection "A Man And Two Women", also found in the revered Norton Anthology of Short Fiction, 5th edition, 1995) clearly demonstrates this, and leaves us on the verge of the faith as well.
It's a story about a modern 20th century marriage wherein a two career, uber, and perfect couple is confronted with a husband who cheats, even though the marriage all began with real love, and not too early, and not out of desperation, or just for fun.
Before the marriage they both had nice city jobs and apartments. And as Lessing duly notes, if one of the them had to move into the apartment of the other, this would involve a totally unmodern form of submission, mutual or otherwise.
So they got a new apartment.
How smart is that?
After two years Susan let go her job and had her first of four children. Upon pregnancy, it was time to move to the suburbs, to a house that had a signature garden, and then receive the fullness of domestic happiness.
But unknown to her at the time, the Rawlings were not alone in the garden.
So they carried on with the intelligence that had never failed them yet.
But then again, both of them after the betrayal developed a nagging indifference to their perfect marriage, like the commuting and responsibilities, and the now very well defined roles. But they were two very intelligent people, and of course their mutual application of this would overcome any indifference, whatever its source.
So the perfect husband, even though there was no identifiable problem in their love life, went to an after business party and carried on with a gal after that.
And of course the intelligent thing to do then was inform his wife so that they could both put this trifling matter behind them.
There was no talk of faithfulness, or confession, so quaint as you know.
They had "smart" on their side.
But then again, they were now often leaving each other annoyed and disconnected. This was nobody's fault, and no big deal since no tears are allowed in egalitarian marriages, and well who would want to ruin this creative thing they had started decades ago?
As the story goes, Susan rightly identifies that it's a demon in the garden, and in their house, and now in their marriage.
She even saw the demon.
She also knew perfectly well that it was trying to invade her, as it already had the house and marriage.
But no, she wouldn't speak up. Such a thing was not done among her intelligence and success strata.
But we don't have to watch more than a day of TV, before Oprah said something like:
"When someone shows you who and what they are again and again, it's time to believe them!"
Ditto for demons.
So now, with four kids under twelve, and thanks to the talking heads in her head, she wants more and more alone time in her beautiful house, then all the time. Then she hires an au pair girl as a generous distraction for her husband, and then finally runs day by day "To Room Nineteen" at a shady hotel, to be alone, which is right where they found her in the end.
It's also interesting and revealing especially in view of the fact that over the last several days we are all grappling with how "evil" got into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. U.S.A.
What do I know, but there seems to be times in all our personal lives, and now our public lives, when the "intelligent" thing to do is to reckon and examine closely the vague "evil" we often loudly and at length decry.
Reckon with it, rather than explain it away. That is seriously consider its sources and means. And then, after that, to admit that it has to come from somewhere or someone, who uses some agents, which we Christians call "demons."
It would also perhaps serve to say once again that the first thing Jesus Christ did as Messiah of Israel and all the world, was healing and deliverance. He didn't look down on anybody, or rank them out of his people, or call they names because they needed this.
He told us to do the same (Matthew 10.8).
Well if you don't believe the bible yet, read Doris Lessing's brilliant short story To Room Nineteen. It teaches that demonic oppression and possession can invade and conquer individuals, peoples, places, and marriages too, unto all manner of destruction of self and others.
Yet it also leaves us on the verge of faith, and called to speak up, and reach out, when we see such oppression and possession among folks in our midst.
Would that hurting folks ask for help, and would that faithful and observant folks have mercy on the oppressed and demonized. In Jesus NAME I pray.
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Tobin Hitt is the founder of the Zion Pentecost Mission. He is open to gospel partnership with all, and identifies with Paul's description of our mission as ambassadors for our king, Jesus, urging all to reconcile with God (2Cor.20-21). He resides in Cheshire, Connecticut.read more...