I recently read the book The Paris Wife, which is a fictional story based on Hemingway’s first marriage. I’ve been hearing about this book for a couple of years now, and I finally picked it up on a recent trip to the library. This book is a somewhat dramatic version of real life, but as I read it, I couldn’t escape the thought that it portrayed more truth than we would like to admit.
It’s a story of lust, affairs, alcoholism, emotional dependency and so much more. Many modern American evangelical Christians would say that they can’t relate to these characters – no way would we make similar choices or choose to live like that. But, in reality, what’s lying beneath the surface of this story describes our brokenness and depravity.
There was a spotlight on four different ways we live destructive lives, all of which we can relate to.
- We allow relationships to define our self-worth. Hemingway’s wife devoted her whole being to her husband and his craft. She believed that she was created for his success, which meant that his admiration and love gave her purpose. When that love was gone, she lost her identity. What person or relationship do you allow to dictate your worth? Your kids, spouse, family? Let it go and let God reveal who you truly are.
- Sometimes, we are more like Hemingway’s character and we let our work determine our identity and worth. It’s so easy to slip into the trap and believe that vocational success means you’re finally good enough. When work is gone, you’re left abandoned without a sense of true fulfillment. Who are you working for? Yourself, your boss, or God?
- When we let a relationship or our work define our worth, we often have a difficult time confronting conflict. We’re unwilling to get messy and talk about the hard truth. It’s as if we bring light to what’s really going on beneath the surface, it will disappear, and take our identity with it. Are you confident enough in who you are in Christ to be diligent with healthy, unfiltered dialogue?
- We live in a world of entitlement, that’s not a surprise to us. When we want something we just take it. Hemingway lived this way. When he wanted another woman or a thing they couldn’t afford, he just took it. It’s a pandemic issue that’s sweeping our culture. Do you simply take what you want, even the seemingly small things? Are you actively pursuing self-discipline?
All of these are questions I wrestled with as I read this book, and unfortunately I didn’t like all of my answers.
There was a lot of talk about bravery throughout, and sadly, Hemingway never discovered what true bravery really was. In his mind it meant going for what he wanted, no matter the cost. In reality, when we know Jesus, we know that bravery means stepping out and doing things differently. It means abandoning ourselves to him, and looking to him alone for our worth and identity.
And that is my prayer for myself and for you, that we would all learn to live brave lives.
Too often we forget that fiction has the potential to impact our lives and help us grow. We just have to be diligent and intentional about learning from the characters and stories. If you haven’t read this book already, you should really go get it. I would love to hear what you think, and if you saw anything differently.