My wife is currently reading through Charles Dickens’ Little Dorrit. We have seen the miniseries a couple of times and found it very satisfying. As usual though, the book includes quite a bit more about the characters. One of these characters is Mr. Henry Gowan. He is a man who is disappointed and discontented with life and therefore drags every good thing down, including Minnie the woman he marries. Dickens describes Mr. Gowan’s character with these cutting words.
Don’t Be a Henry Gowan
“The habit, too, of seeking some sort of recompense in the discontented boast of being disappointed, is a habit fraught with degeneracy. A certain idle carelessness and recklessness of consistency soon comes of it. To bring deserving things down by setting undeserving things up is one of its perverted delights; and there is no playing fast and loose with the truth, in any game, without growing the worse for it.” (p. 497)
As Julie read this quote I began to think of men and women who live in a perpetual state of discontent and disappointment. Whose words and actions express without end their own feeling that God has been unfair to them. Maybe it was their parents who did not give them all they think they deserve. Maybe it was their spouse or children who short changed them. Maybe it was just life in general. These people make a habit of tearing down good things. They mock what is lovely and pure and righteous. When someone else rejoices or finds something to delight in, they find a way of pulling it down. When someone else is excited about something they find a way to pour cold water on their enthusiasm. They elevate the dirty and ugly and unrighteous. They drag all deserving things down into their own cesspool of disappointment. They sulk their way through life.
But as Dickens notes, they are playing fast and loose with truth. To call the jester a king and the king a jester is not just foolish it is a lie.
How contrary is Mr. Henry Gowan’s attitude compared to the picture of Christ and his people. Read John 13-17 and see Christ’s love for those he should have been disappointed in. Read of Paul’s many commands to give thanks always. (Ephesians 5:20) Christians are a people who should rejoice in all things. We are those who have been “surprised by joy” to quote C.S. Lewis. We are not a people who have been disappointed. We are not a discontent people. But rather a people who have gotten far more than we deserve.