Jacquelyn's Essay

Our daughter, Jacquelyn, has been toiling her way through a particularly tough assignment in Literature. It brought up many questions that some young girls might never even venture to ask. The content was at times disturbing and, at worst, downright misleading. There is a danger in it, for it could mar a girl's innocence and instill a sense of gloom and doubt on life itself.

The other side of the picture is that sometimes reading material which is not correct, according to our views, can also cause the reader to seek answers from God or godly counsellors. In this case, Jacki went to her father with her doubts and questions. We believe God used this tool in her life at just this time to mold and shape a portion of the masterpiece He is creating of her life (see Ephesians 2).

Here is her 16-year-old perspective on Leo Tolstoy's The Kreutzer Sonata.

In Response to The Kreutzer Sonata

As I read the story of Pozdynshev and his tragic despair of life, my heart was deeply saddened. I know the truth of his misery. I know the emptiness of a life in bondage. 

But another feeling was stirred in me as well. Peace and joy abounds in my heart, because I know the Way, the Truth, the Life. I have an assurance of eternal life!

“What?” you may cry in astonishment. Simply this: There is abundant life in Christ. In total surrender to Him and faith in Him alone, you will find complete fulfillment. Without Him you are nothing and grasp only heartache, confusion, and despair in this world.

I will not necessarily address whether or not Pozdynshev’s ideas on the state of marriages, families, and love are true. I would dare to feel that Tolstoy’s (author of The Kreutzer Sonata) judgments were too all-encompassing and exaggerated. There are many, many unhappy homes and broken marriages in this world. But God has provided a way for real, pure love to grow and flourish in this world, therefore, there are happy homes in this world as well. Not perfect, but truly joyful, peaceful, growing-in-perfection people and families.

The Kreutzer Sonata vividly describes the awfulness of carnal, fleshly, sensual living. So, what is the alternative? What is the Christian’s way of looking at these matters? These questions, and plenty besides, were asked in my heart and to my father, and the answers I received are what I will share with you.

There is the soul and the Holy Spirit in our lives as Christians. When I surrender myself to God, I die to my own wishes, plans, and lusts of the flesh. I allow Him to control and direct me, and listen to His Spirit to guide me. Anytime that the soul is allowed to control, sin, and consequently, death happens.

Pozdynshev lived allowing the soul to control and master him. He appeased and fed his lustful appetites. There is no other way of living for a non-believer; you cannot try in your own strength to be rid of the chains and bondage one is ensnared in under the flesh. However, in that existence you inevitably fall further and further into a vortex of debauchery, lies, and death. 

Tolstoy writes:

“You say that the women of our society live for a different interest from that which actuates fallen women. And I say no, and I am going to prove it to you. If beings differ from one another according to purpose of their life, according to their inner life, this will necessarily be reflected also in their outer life, and their exterior will be very different. Well, then, compare the wretched, the despised, with the women of the highest society: the same dresses, the same fashions, the same perfumeries, the same passion for jewelry, for brilliant and very expensive articles, the same amusements, dances, music, and songs. The former attract by all possible means; so do the latter. No difference, none whatever!”

The truth in this paragraph is direct and challenging. A lady who lives for Jesus only will not seek to find security from male attraction or relationship. Her heart is God’s; she is in love with Him who truly fulfills her. She will dress neatly and beautifully - for that is the condition of her heart. Her goal and aim is not to have men desire her, but to delight in God. Her radiance will come from Christ within her, and not from self-attention.

Women are addressed as both master and slave, conquering and fearful, in The Kreutzer Sonata. She seeks to conquer, choose, and control a man. Yet she also is the most fearful, by nature, of the sexes. 

The Biblical order for men and women is for the man to be under God and the woman to be under the man’s authority. One is not of lesser or greater value in the eyes of God. Directly contrary to God’s structure, a woman naturally desires to control the man and the circumstances around her. This desire is usually propelled by fear, an unwillingness to leave things in God’s hands. But when she does submit to her husband and surrender to God, there is a beauty and peace that results.

Pozdynshev persuades that an ill-fitting garb would be enough to keep all suitors away. So is womanly beauty wrong? Is it to be covered with a robe? Is there anything other than physical appearance that attracts - or is that the only appeal for a man?

No, physical beauty is not wrong. Women are beautiful, for God created them that way. The physical attraction is not wrong, but healthy and good. Sex is not immoral, just as food is not sinful. But when the soul is allowed to control, and you lust, or gluttonously feed, then you are in bondage and sin.

A man is attracted to physical beauty, personality, companionship, and a “helpmeet”. A sensuous man will be primarily captivated by aesthetic good looks, and interested in what he can get out of a girl. A man who lives according to the Spirit will seek first God’s will, and the benefit of the girl he is attracted to. 

From The Kreutzer Sonata:

“I saw, then, in this nothing bad or shameful, and, hoping for great joys, I began to live the honeymoon. And very certainly none of these joys followed. But I had faith, and was determined to have them, cost they might. But the more I tried to secure them, the less I succeeded. All this time I felt anxious, ashamed, and weary. Soon I began to suffer…It was the sudden discovery of the abyss that had been dug between us. Love was exhausted with the satisfaction of sensuality.”

Again, these excerpts from Tolstoy’s story illustrate our life when trying to live for self. Pozdynshev was determined to feed his appetites and live for himself. He became exhausted and tormented as a result. When two selfish individuals try to consume each other, nothing but terrible heartache results.

Perhaps by now you are saying in frustration, “But how are you to keep ‘soul under Spirit’? What is the use of a life constantly fighting against the natural desires - whether good or evil - inside of you?”

My friend, that is the most beautiful and miraculous part! God works within you a new heart, new desires, and a new body and life! As you surrender, repent, and believe in Him, He transforms you from the inside out. It is not possible for you to work out this salvation and freedom, but you do have the choice to surrender, die to your old man and old way of thinking, and repent (asking God to help you see those things which grieve His Spirit as He does; to hate sin the way God does). He is faithful, and if you keep believing in Him and in His Word, He will transform your life. He will lead into true, beautiful love, a love which I hope Tolstoy came to realize.

World Literature
February 11, 2015
Jacquelyn Schmucker

"For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago." Ephesians 2:10

We will go through travail and sorrow. Our lives will sometimes seem jumbled and aimless. But be assured, God has a plan that is good and will bring it into fulfillment as we trust Him completely!