Accidental Marriage Book Club: Chapters 17-18

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Welcome to the Accidental Marriage Book Club! We’re reading Accidental Marriage, by Roger Thomas.

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Three themes rose to the top for me throughout Chapters 17 and 18:

  1. The unthinkable (or is it really so unthinkable after all?),
  2. The power of spiritual friendships, and
  3. The grace of forgiveness.

The Unthinkable?

Perhaps the most frightful scene in The Accidental Marriage comes at the beginning of Chapter 17 when, while out for a leisurely drive with Megan and baby Grace, Scott stops at a well-known cable bridge so the three can walk along it. Scott, while holding Grace, is haunted by “Grace should have never been born” thoughts. He then walks toward the edge of the bridge and is paralyzed by thoughts of throwing baby Grace into the surging torrent flowing under the bridge. Megan intervenes, breaking Scott’s trance, and he quickly hands Grace to her and runs off. Scott eventually finds sanctuary inside a church, St. Agatha.

I wondered if there was a connection with Saint Agatha, if Roger Thomas symbolically chose her to be the patron saint of the church where Scott wrestled with and sought refuge from his own troubling thoughts. According to American Catholic, when Agatha was arrested, the legend says she prayed, “Jesus Christ, Lord of all things! You see my heart, you know my desires. Possess all that I am — you alone. I am your sheep; make me worthy to overcome the devil.”

I admit it might be a stretch to suggest a connection here, but that last line is powerful stuff: make me worthy to overcome the devil. It’s easy to stand in judgment of Scott, to think I would never, COULD never, do something that terrible, but that’s the power of temptation. The devil takes our weaknesses and does all he can to turn them into his gain. When evil thoughts come into my heart, I pray to have the discipline to dash them against Christ immediately.

“There’s an old saying … There are things within each of us that would shame hell. I’ve been married for forty-one years, and I’ve raised five children and nine grandchildren. If I were to tell you some of things I’ve been tempted to do to them over the years, it would curl your hair … The important thing is that I never did any of it. Neither did you.” – Francis to Scott, Chapter 17

Spiritual Friendships

Those wise words in the quote above are from Francis, a sacristan for St. Agatha’s. The two first meet while Scott is in hideaway mode and then they continue to forge a nice friendship beyond that first encounter. Francis becomes a friend who Scott can open up with honestly and completely. When I read the development of Scott and Francis’ friendship, I thought about the power of spiritual friendships. I’ve heard it say that it’s good to have at least three good and trustworthy friends — one older, one younger, and one about the same age as you. Francis served as an “older” friend to Scott, providing wisdom and counsel like you would find from a concerned uncle or aunt.

The Old Testament book of Sirach is filled with many nuggets of wisdom for almost every aspect of daily life. In the following from Sirach 6:5-17, we hear a few words about friendship.

“A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure. A faithful friend is beyond price, no sum can balance his worth. A faithful friend is a life-saving remedy, such as he who fears God finds,” Sirach 6:14-16.

In some translations, that last line reads, “A faithful friend is an elixir of life; and those who fear the Lord will find him.” If an elixir is a life-saving medicine, then spiritual friends are like life-saving medicine, too. What a beautiful gift Francis became to Scott. What a beautiful gift spiritual friendships are to us all.

The Grace of Forgiveness

Being reduced to nothing can often be the only way some of us learn. The event on the bridge shattered Scott, pushed him to pass through zero, and then forced him to examine his life and ponder his path forward. Scott ends up writing a letter to his former boss, asking for forgiveness for the way he reacted upon being fired. Scott was treated unjustly, and one could argue his anger and actions were justified. Yet Scott extends kindness and forgiveness to one who many would say deserves the opposite. His kindness and forgiveness is eventually reciprocated when Scott’s former boss extends a peace-offering in return. This is a gentle reminder that the grace of forgiveness follows repentance; we must first be open to receive it. By the end of Chapter 18, it feels like Scott is establishing a sense of peace with his choices.

To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:

  1. When you teeter with unthinkable thoughts and temptations, what do you do to stamp out evil?
  2. Do you have an spiritual friend, “an elixir,” who provides you with wisdom and counsel? How did your friendship begin and how do you continue to strengthen it?
  3. Have you reached out and directly asked for forgiveness from someone in your past? How did you initiate that conversation and what has been the result of your actions?

Feel free to comment on your own thoughts from this week’s reading, your impressions and reflections, and/or your answers to these questions.

Next week, we’ll cover Chapter 19. For the complete reading schedule and information about our Book Club, visit the Accidental Marriage Book Club page.

Copyright 2015 Lisa Schmidt

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About Author

Lisa Schmidt writes at ThePracticingCatholic.com with her husband Joel. A proud Iowan, the Schmidts reside in Des Moines where Lisa is a full-time at-home mom. She also supports her husband in his deacon ministries for the Diocese of Des Moines. At The Practicing Catholic, Lisa enjoys writing about the things that bring her great joy: the Catholic faith, her family, fine arts, and good food.

8 Comments

  1. This author really knows how to write a suspense scene! I was absolutely shaken by that scene on the bridge, and was blown away by the grace that followed.

    It took me a while to feel sympathy for either of the main characters, but it definitely happened here.

  2. Great Reflection Lisa, I think one of my absolutely favorite parts of these Virtual Book Clubs is being make aware of the variety of perspectives situations can be viewed from!!

    My #1 elixir is definitely my Spiritual Director, so BLESSED to have him — a well-season Deacon that God put in my life over 5 years ago. Honestly, don’t know where I would be in some many aspects of my life without his wit, wisdom, and warmth. However, since it would be unhealthy for me to keep the man on speed-dial , I am blessed to have a group of women who meet weekly at my home. We call ourselves a Catholic Book Club/Bible Study – but really we are a posse of faithful friends supporting each other in this crazy journey of a life!!

    Lastly, I think IT IS amazing that we live in a time which includes social media – so that we may connect in Faith with people we’d never have the opportunity to before. Reading their stories (blogs), supporting each other in prayer or in encouraging posts – is truly another gift from God to keep us uplifted and strengthen in our journeys of not only in faith but also in parenthood!

    • I’m inspired by your commitment to meet once a week with your book club buddies – an investment that is written into your schedule just like writing the check for the monthly mortgage or utility bill. I just wrapped up a six-week moms group (Momnipotent) and a few gals in that mentioned how it might be nice to keep meeting. You’ve planted a seed! Thank you!

  3. Did anyone catch the little subtlety of the dress? It wasn’t something I even noticed until well after the story was done. At Thanksgiving dinner Scott notices that Megan’s dress is showing its age and makes a mental note to get her a new one. That intention gets lost in the distress of the following months, but once they’re clear of those problems and coming into a springtime in their relationship (not least financially), Scott remembers his resolution and makes good on it.
    The interesting thing is the contrast between the dresses Megan had received before and this one. Notice she’s initially skeptical – her history with receiving dresses has not been good. Diane would get them for her as one would get costumes for a doll, and then demand she wear them. The dresses are essentially for Diane, though Megan is wearing them.
    Scott, however, considers who Megan is – her style, coloring, and personality. He sees her as a person, indeed as his beloved, and gets something for her, not for him. The result delights Megan, and in her resultant joy Scott sees her in a new light. The giving, receiving, and giving back again are more steps along the road to deeper mutual love.

    • Yes, I noticed the dress–and that was lovely.
      But for me, the power in these chapters was that scene on the bridge and the redemption that followed. The terror and anxiety in that scene overshadowed most of the rest–in fact, I had to actually put the book down once the baby was safe and Scott was in a safe place. I had to step away from it for a bit, and then come back and see how the healing would take place.

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