a superhuman decision?

I had one of those moments on the bus earlier on reading these words from Aleksandr Solzhenistyn which are taken from one of his books ‘The Oak and the Calf’.
(I wasn’t reading them in that though. I was reading them in a study book by Os Guinness which I had grabbed quickly of a shelf in one of those moments when you feel that you you should buy something to show support for the small shop that you had wandered into)

‘From dawn to dusk the correction and copying of Gulag went forward; I could scarcely keep the pages moving fast enough. Then the typewriter started breaking down every day, and I had either to solder it myself or take it to be repaired. This was the most frightening moment of all: we had the only original manuscript and all the typed copies of Gulag there with us. If the KGB suddenly descended, the many throated groan, the dying whisper of millions, the unspoken testament of those who had perished, would all be in their hands, and I would never be able to reconstruct it all, my brain would never be capable of it again.
     I could have enjoyed myself so much, breathing the fresh air, resting, stretching my cramped limbs, but my duty to the dead permitted no such self indulgence,They are dead. You are alive. Do your duty. The world must know all about it.
    They could take my children hostage – posing as “gangsters,” of course. (They did not know that we had thought of this and made a superhuman decision: our children were no dearer to us than the memory of the millions done to death, and nothing could make us stop that book.)’

It was those last lines about making a ‘superhuman decision’. One of the questions Os Guinness asks is:-

‘ What was Solzhenitsyn’s decision about his children? How does this compare with the common modern maxim that “work” never comes above “family”? Which of the two is closer to the teachings of Jesus?’



3 thoughts on “a superhuman decision?”

  1. Well. Hmmm. Do you really think Os is suggesting that work ought to come before family? As one of those who lives by that maxim, made difficult decisions to that end and sacrificed oppurtunities and income for it, I feel a bit defensive. That’s going to cloud my point of view for sure. But I think the motivation to pick up that maxim has come form looking at the fruit of those behaviours. My grandfather was a well known baptist pastor, all about ‘the work’ and had a large and successful ministry. But the price his family paid for it was far, far too much. I’m not sure it is in the economy of kingdom building for the weak and vulnerable to pay for larger churches and new converts. Alright, I could take the rhetoric down a notch or two, but some of the driven-ness and ‘work’ I see in those in full time ministry can smell of ego or woundedness. I think it is possible to be faithful to the work God has given us, to work hard and consistently, but also to spend time in rest and play and in the different work of family building. And anyway, is family building not just another kind of good ‘work’ we are called to?

    1. I wish I could type out the whole thing from Solzhenitsyn as that’s what really connected with me, not so much the study question. He was talking about having to write and get the truth out and the power of words which made me tingle inside or something.

      I was talking to Helen about the question last night and she echoed what you are saying, which I also agree with. There is too much ego sometimes that God’s Kingdom relies on us and our ‘works’ and a lot of ministers families have suffered because of the minister is carrying out their ministry which they felt called to do.
      But I guess I was wondering if there are times when there are really big calls to make about our loved ones that we mightn’t experience in the day to day that cause us to suffer, or far worse cause our loved ones to suffer?
      Like I was thinking about Mary and Jesus on the cross. It wasn’t good for her and Jesus could have avoided things and not made her go through it but he had to. Not sure that is a great example.
      Or maybe in countries where persecution happens and pastors know that they could be arrested for doing what they do (and what that means for their families) and still do it anyway even though they might make life more difficult for their families.

      I’m not sure what I think of the question…maybe I’d have a different opinion if I was a parent myself?

      1. I think you are right, perhaps there are exceptional times when we are asked to set aside those who are most dear to us to serve and be faithful to jesus. I think you give really good examples of that. Do you think like Solzhenitsyn we would have real clarity at those moments, a complete conviction from the spirit that we can ‘do no other’ but sacrifice everything for Jesus? Otherwise how we could we tell?
        I like how you’re making me think and wrestle about this!

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