I am 8 weeks into summer school which means that it is drawing to a close. I am exhausted, but I know that I have matured through this intense course. I am looking forward to being able to look back upon it in order to assess my learning in even greater depth. I was intrigued that Khaled Hussein’s A Thousand Splendid Suns was the required text for this past week. It may have been a fictional story but there is nothing like a realistic fictional character to cause a summer school student to count her blessings.
Suns introduces us to two Afghani women whose paths eventually converge. They are years apart in age and upbringing, but cultural fate for one and cultural tragedy for the other throw them into each other’s lives. Initially fear and resentment dominate their relationship, but courage, necessity, and compassion eventually overpower the former two emotions and these two bravely wounded women forge a mother-daughter relationship unlike any other. Sprinkled throughout the story the reader learns about the Afghani culture and history. It spans the 1960’s into current times, allowing us to see the developments that led to the overthrow of the Taliban by the United States. It had the personal voice of someone living history rather than simply recounting it.
You might be wondering what a book about two women in Afghanistan has to do with my summer studies. I kind of wondered the same thing as I began reading it. However, it wasn’t long before the contrast between my life and theirs overwhelmed me and my heart filled with humble gratitude. Here were two women who had hopes and dreams, fears and insecurities, a hunger for knowledge, and a desire to be cherished. They were not so different from me. Yet because of the culture they belonged to and the country in which they lived, their identity was stripped from them and an entirely different fate from what they longed for was thrust upon them. In the end, one sacrificed her life entirely so that the other could try to live one more time.
I believe that disappointment tests the depth of our character. Whenever we are forced to let go of a hope, dream, or expectation another layer of our hearts is peeled back to reveal what lies beneath. Is there more to our hold on life than the one desire that was just ripped from our grasp, or are we able to set our gaze on something more and continue to live bravely? This was a necessary study for me because I don’t handle disappointment very well. I am slow to hope for anything, but when I do it nearly crushes me when I am disappointed. Now I realize how limiting that trait is to my character. When I let disappointment control my joy, I am declaring that all of the other blessings in my life are inconsequential. If I am disappointed that my fiancé can’t attend a school event with me and I let that ruin my day, I am placing more value on that event than on my fiancé himself, for example. This doesn’t mean that we should never value anything enough to become disappointed if it doesn’t happen. That is an impossibility. However, it is our response to disappointment that is the true test of who we are.
As a Christian, my hope must rest in Christ. My attitude towards life is a reflection of my attitude towards Him. I cannot control what the future holds. It might be idyllic or it could be heart-breaking. If I dwell on the might-be’s, it will only result in my withdrawing from life in order to protect my heart from devastating disappointment. If I dwell on the constancy of my Savior, I can completely embrace a future of glorious todays. Leave it to the Teacher to know how to pick a good book!