(Graphics courtesy of Julia Bettencourt)
The last chapter of the book is “Environment,” and I wasn’t sure what to expect from it at first. Edith had promoted involvement in nature and decried the “plasticness” of her era earlier in the book, so I assumed this chapter would be along those lines. But I suppose that would have been a bit redundant since she had already discussed those things, and I was delighted to find she was referring instead to the environment each of us creates through our personalities, outlook, etc., as well as how we keep and decorate our homes. Perhaps some would understand this better as an aura, though not in the New Age sense of the word.
I marked many long paragraphs in the book that would be too much to reproduce here, so let me see if I can pick out a few of the key thoughts.
We produce an environment other people have to live in. We should be conscious of the fact that this environment which we produce by our very ‘being’ can affect the people who live with us or work with us. The effect on them is something they cannot avoid. We should have thoughtfulness concerning our responsibility in this area. We should be artists in doing something about the environment we are creating – artists before God, of course. We have His help because we are artists in this sense, in the hands of the Holy Spirit; for if we are Christians, He is dwelling in us, and we can ask for His power to help us.
Here in this life, a Christian should be an environment which is helpful to the people with whom he lives. This is not just a matter of dress and tidiness but also of character and spiritual life. It is worth considering what sort of an “art form” we are. What sort of an environment do we drag in with us? How do we affect other people in their attitudes toward that which we are supposed to represent? (p. 212).
“We are either being what the Holy Spirit would have us be, or we are hindering His work in us and through us. As God created the world, He was creating an environment for man which, we are told, was ‘good.’…It was a good environment before sin entered to spoil it. But Christians, who are restored to relationship and fellowship with God, should ask that they might be an environment that is conducive to others wanting to come to God (p. 212).
I am sure that there is no place in the world where your message would not be enhanced by your making the place (whether tiny or large, a hut or a palace) orderly, artistic and beautiful with some form of creativity, some form of ‘art’ (p. 213).
I was just thinking today, not for the first time, that I get frustrated at sentimental prose which seems to indicate that one can either have a clean house or spend quality time with kids, and of course the more godly person chooses time with kids. But does it have to be either/or? Sure, there are times we get too task-oriented and have to remind ourselves that people are more important than to-do lists. But I think one of the best ways to avoid this dichotomy to to integrate fun and family time into work. I appreciate that in the Little House on the Prairie series, and though I’m not a big proponent of Amish culture, I do like that both in the home and the community people pitch in together to work. In that way children learn the satisfaction of seeing a job well done, learning new skills as they grow up, and fellowshipping with others at the same time. My mother-in-law was a great example of this: until she started to decline, she always had a cheerful industriousness about her, and I appreciate that that rubbed off on her youngest son. I’m afraid I let my own negative attitude about work rub off on my children, but on the other hand I think they do have pleasant memories of working on projects with their dad in particular.
One of Edith’s examples in the book is that of roommates and how the slovenly habits of one affect first the mood and then the motivation of the other. As Edith said in some of the quotes above, our “environment” can either lift someone up or drag them down.
It goes without saying, too, that ‘The Environment’, which is you should be an environment which speaks of the wonder of the Creator who made you (p. 213).
I want to thank Cindy for hosting this book club. I gleaned much, much more out of the book by just reading a chapter a week, writing up thoughts about it, seeing what others had to say and pondering sometimes different perspectives or emphases, and then thinking about it all through the week before the next chapter, than I would have just plowing through on my own. I am thinking that this extended working through a non-fiction book is a much better way or retaining what I read.
This has been at least my second time through the book – I may have read it more times than that, but I can’t remember. I’ve enjoyed going back over it once again.