Friday in the First Week of Lent

In “The Gospel According to Peanuts” Robert Short points out that Lucy is a tyrannical, overbearing fuss-budget.  Going to tell the naïve and sensitive Charlie Brown his faults, privately, just between the two of them she says, “You know what the trouble with you is, Charlie Brown?”  He replies, “No, and I don’t want to know!  Leave me alone!”  Frustrated,   Lucy continues in a loud voice for all to hear, “The whole trouble with you is that you won’t listen to what the whole trouble with you is!”

Correction is really a very difficult thing.  But Christ teaches the necessity of fraternal correction, not only to do it well, but to receive it well, with humility.  Charlie Brown was unwilling to listen, “I don’t want to know, leave me alone.”  

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, an English poet who died in 1861, was a gifted woman.  By the age of ten she was reading Shakespearean plays, Milton’s Paradise Lost, and Dante’s Inferno.  As a teenager she taught herself Hebrew, Greek, German and French in order to read Scripture and literature in the original languages.  Yet, she experienced great suffering:  migraine headaches since childhood, chronic respiratory disease, and a permanent spinal injury at age fifteen while saddling a horse.  Nineteen years later, at age 34, she witnessed the drowning of her favorite brother.  She was emotionally shattered and blamed herself. 

For the next five years she lived in the deepest interior pain, rarely leaving her room, distracted only by writing poetry about the suffering of slaves in the colonies and of children laboring in coal mines and textile mills.  Then, at age thirty-nine, joy broke through her misery and isolation.  Another poet, Robert Browning, wrote to her, “Dear Miss Barrett, I love your verses with all my heart, and I love you too.”   During the next twenty months they exchanged over five hundred love letters, keeping their romance a secret from her father who had forbidden her to marry anyone.  They had to get married without his knowledge, and a week later Robert and Elizabeth moved to Italy.  Her father refused to give his blessing, and never spoke to her again. 

For ten years until his death she wrote beautiful letters to her father every week, expressing her love and asking for reconciliation.   He never replied.  Returning to England for his burial she looked for some sign that her love had touched his heart.  What she found was devastating.   He had kept all her letters but never opened one of them.   He was unwilling to listen, “I don’t want to know, leave me alone.”