I’m in Vancouver, Washington today, one of 310 clergy from Oregon, Idaho, and Washington called together for the biannual “Bishop’s Symposium”. This year we are learning about John Wesley’s class meetings, a subject we’re are already getting serious about here at Nampa First.
Before I left, I dropped off at our beautiful new library the book I just finished, All the Light We Cannot See. It’s by a Boise author, Anthony Doerr. Several of you recommended it to me. It was an excellent recommendation.
It’s a sad and serious book in many ways, but one of my favorite chapters was more whimsical. This chapter was about the “Old Ladies’ Resistance Club”. The setting is France under German occupation during World War !!. A group of older French women get together clandestinely and decide to — within their own small spheres and in their own quiet, subtle ways — commit sabotage: Throw monkey-wrenches, so to speak, into the enemy-occupiers’ well ordered war machinery.
Madame Ruelle, the baker’s wife, straps a stepladder to the roof of her husband’s car and drives out at dusk to rearrange road signs. “Dinan is now twenty kilometers to the north,” she tells her co-conspirators. “Right in the middle of the sea!”
Madame Carre, the florist, learning that the German garrison commander is allergic to goldenrod, tucks great fistfuls of it into an arrangement headed for the chateau and later learns of his great discomfort.
Madame Blanchard, the senior member of the group, uses her beautiful penmanship to write, Free France Now on every five-franc note they can deliver to her.
As Doerr describes it, “The women funnel a shipment of rayon to the wrong destination. They intentionally misprint a train timetable. Madame Hebrard, the postmistress, slides an important-looking letter from Berlin into her underpants, takes it home, and starts her evening fire with it.”
The women get together and report on their “work.” They cackle and clap, gleefully. “Seventy-six years old,” Madame Manec whispers, “and I can still feel like this? Like a little girl with stars in my eyes?”
These women are minor, fictitious characters in the novel. But the truths conveyed in just this one short chapter are enormous. Without surrender or acquiescence, without resorting to guns or bombs or cruelty, because their long lives have made them wily and wise, because they’re nearing death and have little now to lose, these women find the courage to risk and resist. And then reassemble for tea to share the stories of their exploits. And laugh at the absurdity of it all.
The single line from this great novel that is going to stay with me was spoken by the ringleader of the “Old Ladies’ Resistance Club, Madame Manec: “Don’t you want to be alive before you die?”
I’ll be back in town Friday and in church Sunday. I look forward to seeing you then.
In Christ, John