Miss Bertram seeks longingly to pass through a locked gate:
By this scene in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, Miss Bertram had become disenchanted with her fiance, Mr. Rushworth. A third member of the party seeking the park beyond the gate, Mr. Crawford, was a carefree cad, newly arrived in the neighborhood, captivating young hearts with his provocative manner. Miss Bertram found her way to be first in line to flirt with his temptations, imprisoning herself in jealousy and discontentment.
Jane Austen uses a powerful metaphor to illustrate Miss Bertram’s fettered heart – a sense of imprisonment she believed to be caused by others, unwilling to wear the guilt of her own sensibilities. The allusion is to a line from a late 18th century novel of the day titled, A Sentimental Journey. The words, “I cannot get out, as the starling said,” recall an imprisoned starling in the Bastille at the outset of the French Revolution – who, though set free from a metal cage, is still imprisoned within the tower – able to see beyond an iron trellis to freedom, but not able to pass through it to the same; to which he laments, “I cannot get out . . . I cannot get out.”
Living life on the down side of a locked gate, with all the glories of goodness, beauty and well being within view, but beyond reach, is often a source of discontentment – a true to life inspiration for this fictional scene. It’s been a common complaint in humans from the time of Adam and Eve, when the consequences of their sin imprisoned them – and all their descendents – to live on the down side of the Garden Gate.
Miss Bertram observing the iron gate, expressed a wish of passing through it into the park, that their views and their plans might be more comprehensive. It was the very thing of all others to be wished, it was the best, it was the only way of proceeding with any advantage . . . Go therefore they must to that knoll, and through that gate; but the gate was locked.
Miss Bertram would be forced to settle for less – BUT. FOR. THE. KEY.
Mr. Rushworth wished he had brought the key; he had been very near thinking whether he should not bring the key; he was determined he would never come without the key again, but still this did not remove the present evil. They could not get through; and as Miss Bertram’s inclination for so doing did by no means lessen, it ended in Mr. Rushworth’s declaring outright that he would go and fetch the key. He set off accordingly.
If you’re an Austen fan and know Chapter 10 of Mansfield Park, you will remember Mr. Rushworth stopping, turning around and heroically going in the opposite direction to get the KEY – quite repenting of his carelessness in leaving it behind thinking he could move forward without it. Unfortunately, Miss Bertram was left behind in the bad company of the unsavory Mr. Crawford, who urged her to not wait for the key, but to squeeze through the gate to the park beyond – by another way.
Neither Mr. Crawford or Miss Bertram met with a desirable end in the story, I’m afraid, quite in keeping with a want of virtuous character on both their parts as this particular scene exposed. They really ought to have waited for the KEY, because, you see – there WAS one.
That thing uniquely designed to open the locked gate so “their views and their plans might be more comprehensive.” So they might see perfectly.
Now, we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”
1 Corinthians 13:12 NLT
I thought of this recently when I was tempted to take another way to making my views and plans more comprehensive – complete – fulfilled. Sometimes, waiting on the downside of the locked gate with the promise of the glories beyond in my line of sight, tempt me to devise ulterior methods to reach my goals. The KEY is delayed in coming. Surely, there must be another way because – I WANT IT NOW!
Paul addressed this in his letter to the Corinthians. They began well enough, taking the KEY OF FAITH – setting themselves on the Foundation of Christ . . .
And, subsequently, yet another key – the KEY OF HOPE – which brought them to the threshold of a vast parkland of God’s promises.
How hungry they were to take full possession of what they could see, though imperfectly. Paul affirmed their zeal while rebuking their inappropriate methods of acting upon that zeal.
They were trying to squeeze through the locked gate with the space afforded them by only TWO KEYS – when, in fact – a THIRD KEY was necessary.
“Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT
The KEY OF LOVE – a melody that we find played out of tune so often in our world today. It’s no use pointing fingers and assuming our sour notes of jealousy and discontentment are the fault of others. The truth finds us out. We move ahead of the Lord with our Keys of Faith and Hope, zealously charging forward without waiting for the KEY OF LOVE that will bring a balanced three part harmony to our life song and open the gate into all God has planned for us – for His glory – not that or our own.
God is Love. He is worthy of the wait.
And, waiting is hard. Waiting on the Lord to unlock the gate of all the good things our Faith gives us the Hope for – in this world where we live now, and in eternity to come.
Earlier in 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 (NLT), Paul gives us a detailed look at HOW our Faith and Hope is to be walked out in the practical:
“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
And, this is the KEY – the greatest of them all. The personification of God – LOVE Himself – in Jesus Christ. The GATE – the ONE WAY through to the promise of glories in the park. The LOVE of the Father is the KEY. There is no other way to walk out this Christian life in the fullness of our Faith and Hope in Him apart from waiting on the Lord to bring the KEY OF LOVE into everything we do, every word that we speak, every decision that we make, every thought that we think, every prayer that we breathe.
Love is foundational to our Faith. Love is foundational to our Hope. The three are inseparable – and eternal. Like the Godhead – Three in One.
If only Miss Bertram had put her Faith and Hope in her betrothed, waiting on him for the key to the gate, rather than allowing herself to be distracted and discontented through the machinations of an evil outsider whose only aim was to exploit her weaknesses to exult himself. Mr. Crawford was quite the villain of the piece, to be sure. For all the literary analysis’ of Jane Austen and her works that are out there, I am moved only to conclude that here she has given us a cautionary tale mirroring profound Biblical principles.
And, when story is used to implant the principles of God’s Word deep into our hearts, we sing with delight in a major chord of three notes, “I cannot get GOD out . . . I cannot get GOD out . . . as the starling said . . .”
Sharing As the Starling Said this week with:
Judith at Wholehearted Wednesday
Jennifer Dukes Lee at Tell His Story Link-up
Jenifer at Woman to Woman Word Filled Wednesdays
Laura on Faith Filled Friday at Missional Women
Fellowship Fridays at Christian Mommy Blogger
Still Saturday with Sandra Heska King
Charlotte at Spiritual Sundays