Thursday, March 2, 2023
The Razor’s Edge: Finding Rest
By Cris Waters
“Rise, wake up, seek the wise and realize. The path is difficult like the sharpened edge of the razor, so say the wise.”
Pastor Travis asked me to read The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham for this Lenten study on the Sabbath. I will admit, that at basically every point while reading I was thinking “what does this have to do with the Sabbath, rest, or worship???” I guess we’ll find out over the next few devotions if I figured it out.
The Razor’s Edge was written in 1944. Maugham was considered an expert in human nature and in this novel explores themes of Eastern mysticism, war-weariness, and the existential angst that humans suffer when meaning and purpose eludes them. The story of Larry Darrel’s quest for understanding of life and death provides a juxtaposition between what we want and what is expected of us. Larry, the main character, has returned from World War I a changed man (though he is really still just a boy, less than 20). The death of a friend who was in the midst of saving Larry’s life left him with many questions about life and God. He tells his fiancé, Isabel, that he “want[s] to make up my mind whether God is or God is not. I want to find out why evil exists. I want to know whether I have an immortal soul or whether when I die, it is the end.” So, Larry refuses to go to work and instead embarks on a long journey searching out the answers to those questions. He calls this “loafing,” though what he does hardly looks like loafing to me. But perhaps we can consider it a long sabbath, a time when he puts aside work and what the world expects of him (America at the time was booming and young, able, intelligent, and educated young men were thought lazy and without promise if they didn’t go to work building their fortune) to study, and literally, SEARCH for God.
The quotation above is from the book’s epitaph and is from a verse in the Katha Upanishad, a Sanskrit text about Hindu philosophy (Larry’s journey eventually takes him to India where he studies Hindu spirituality for some time). When I read it now, in view of the entirety of the novel I think about Larry and his desire to go in search of answers to his big questions and the opposing force of society, his friends and relatives, insisting that he conform to this world and do what is expected of him. The two sides of the razor. And it is indeed sharp, we will see that there are sacrifices Larry must make on his way to salvation, to freedom, to understanding.
Heavenly Father, walk with me on my journey. Give me strength and courage to stand apart from what the crowd expects, so that I might find the time to seek you and your plans for me.
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