I'm excited to have Karissa Knox Sorrell on the blog today. She is a writer and ESOL educator from Nashville, Tennessee. She is an avid reader of YA books and even named her daughter after Madeleine L'Engle. Read more of Karissa's writing at her blog or follow her on Twitter.
The Fire and Thorns trilogy by Rae Carson is a fascinating story about Elisa, a teenage princess who also happens to be the bearer of a Godstone, a mysterious spiritual gem in her belly that serves as a reminder of God’s presence. She is known as one of the chosen ones, people who are called to fulfill a prophecy or great work for God, and her loved ones rush to protect her so that she will be able to complete this act during her lifetime. This series is not a Christian series and is set in a fantasy world, but there is definitely an undercurrent of spirituality, and I believe that the books reflect the struggle of believing in God and searching for His will in our time and culture.
Throughout the three books, Elisa goes on adventure after adventure as she deals with political, spiritual, cultural, and magical forces in her realm. She survives being kidnapped, takes on animagi, develops military tactics, takes a journey with an enemy, falls in love, navigates enemy territory, and unites nations. As she faces trial after trial, she develops confidence and strategic thinking and grows as a person. At each turn, Elisa wonders if that triumph was her special deed from God that she is supposed to perform. She struggles with knowing if she’s done God’s will. In the third book she reflects:
The truth is, I’m not sure if God looked out for us, or if we won the day ourselves. I’m not sure of anything about him anymore. The stone inside me bears his name, but it turns out that Godstones existed here long before my people brought the knowledge of God to this place. Even so, my Godstone spreads warmth throughout my body, and I fall asleep praying.
I grew up in church, where God’s will was talked about often. Jeremiah 29:11 (“For I know the plans I have for you, said the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”) was quoted over and over again as a way to convince me that God had a specific will and plan for my life. I was told that God had a spouse already chosen for me and had great things that He wanted me to do. Like Elisa, as a young person I was desperate to figure out what that plan was. What was God’s will for my life? How did he want me to serve him? What was he saying to me?
I won’t spoil the end of the trilogy because I want you to read it, but I will say that the great act that Elisa was called to do was a complete surprise. It turns out that many of her accomplishments that she suspected were her destiny were simply her own acts of courage, intelligence, and compassion.
This story has much to teach us about how we approach the will of God. I believe that God gifted us with free will, imagination, creativity, intelligence, and compassion when he created us, and I believe that He wants us to exercise and use those gifts freely. Maybe God’s will is simply for us to love Him and love others, and we can do that through a variety of places, jobs, situations, and contexts. Maybe we don’t have to wait to hear some special message from God about his plan for our lives. Maybe we don’t have to agonize over every choice, wondering if it is God’s will or not. We have permission to be the complex, beautiful people we were created to be.
Elisa learned an important lesson: It’s okay if we experience doubt and confusion about God. It’s okay if we don’t know the details. When the time came to fulfill the prophecy, she knew exactly what she was supposed to do, and she did it. But during the rest of her adventures, she made choices that reflected her genuine love for humanity and her desire for justice and peace in her world.
Perhaps, like Elisa, we can reframe our understanding of God’s will. Instead of seeing it as a destiny or a specific prophecy to be fulfilled, maybe we can see it as simply embodying the human life that Christ showed us: A life that gives mercy, sees the good in people, searches for bravery, and seeks peace.
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The three books in The Fire and Thorns trilogy are:
The Girl of Fire and Thorns
The Crown of Embers
The Bitter Kingdom