Frankenstein and Family

The night before last, one of my favourite evenings on the calendar rolled around. It was bookclub night! Book chat with my reading buddies and so much more. I even got to tickle the keys of a gorgeous 150 year old Blüthner grand piano from Germany. And did I mention there were puppies to cuddle? And one of my awesome literary friends brought this gruesome snack for us to enjoy. As tasty as they were though, we could hardly watch each other eat them!

Our Homeschool Mom’s Bookclub reads mostly classics, and our most recent discussion was devoted to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It had sat on our to read list for quite some time and seemed like a good choice for our late October meeting. This was my first time through the book, and I was surprised at just how incredibly different it is from the Frankenstein portrayed in popular culture. As our hostess put it that night, “Knowledge is knowing that Frankenstein is not the monster; wisdom is knowing that Frankenstein is the monster.”

Last Saturday I spent the day with a few girlfriends, watching a replay of the Scholé Sisters Loving Well Retreat. (My social life has certainly been on the upswing lately, hasn’t it?) The first talk was all about defining love, and we looked at a whole bunch of Greek and Latin words used to describe different types of love. But the type that kept coming to mind last night as we discussed Frankenstein was the Latin word “creatio.” As you can probably guess, this is the kind of love involved in creating. Going back to the creation story in Genesis, we see God intentionally calling forth life and affirming “it is good” at every step. His heart swells with love over His creation as a whole when He finally proclaims, “It is very good!” In its most basic sense, love is an affirmation of being. Isn’t that what we all crave as we seek to find our place in this world? (My apologies if you now have a Michael W. Smith song stuck in your head.)

This creatio love is the kind of love that Victor Frankenstein’s monster longed for. His own creator loathed him. The poor creature had been created in a frenzy of selfish and solitary activity, fuelled only by Victor’s obsession with pushing the boundaries of science and triumphing where all others had failed. That’s not how new life is meant to be brought into existence! It is conceived in a shared passion and birthed in love.

My heart breaks at the thought of this monster — unwanted, unnamed, uncared for, untaught, without parents, and so totally disconnected from his creator. Thank God no human being needs to be driven to the same insanity that he was. No matter how alone or unloved we may feel by times, the truth is we have a Creator who loves us. No matter how disconnected we might feel from Him, we would not exist if it weren’t for His love and desire for us. He affirms our existence. In His eyes, it is a good thing that we are here.

It makes me think of a saying that PJ and I remind each other of from time to time. It’s something we heard years ago on a video about Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy. The presenter was trying to sum up the idea of an optimal learning environment where there is mutual love and respect, free of manipulation. It’s a place where we can genuinely say, “It’s good to be me here with you.” That’s the feeling we get when we are loved with creatio love, a love that affirms our being. It’s a secure, confidence-building kind of love that gives us the freedom to relax and be ourselves. That’s a great milieu for learning! It removes the distractions of nervousness or self-consciousness. And when self gets out of the way, we are free to focus and learn with joy.

Frankenstein’s monster had no one to say, “It’s good to be me here with you.” Every hurtful encounter just served to reinforce his unlovable-ness and harden his heart. Victor, on the other hand, surrounded by people who genuinely loved him, never really loved anyone but himself. He was cowardly, manipulative, and selfish, not to mention severely lacking in foresight!

All these thoughts about love this week are reminding me to look for opportunities to tell my kids how glad I am that they are part of our family, how happy I am to be their mom. How many times in my frazzled, busy moments do I unintentionally communicate the very opposite of that by being dismissive or grumpy? Even in my frustrating moments, I want to smile when our eyes meet, a smile that communicates how good it is to be “me here with you.” I want them to know that they have a place in our family and a place in God’s world. I want to love them with creatio love.

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