It took me so long to read this… not because of the book itself, but because of life. I finally finished over this past weekend and have been forming this blog post since then. I waited for this book to come out to the point I THOUGHT I had it on my calendar as a reminder. Did I? NO. So I was just checking in to see when her next book comes out one day like last month, and what did I find? IT HAD ALREADY COME OUT. So that’s how I got to reading this book by one of my very favorite authors ever! Tamera Alexander’s historical novels have inspired the dream I have to go to Nashville and see these mansions and plantations up close! I will one day and it’ll be the best day. Her writing is spectacular, CHECK HER OUT. Her website is HERE.
With This Pledge was set in Franklin, Tennessee the winter of 1864 during the Civil War era, most specifically the Battle of Franklin. This tells the story of a woman who fights through decisions of marriage and beliefs on slavery, as well as women’s rights. This was also not completely just a story Alexander made up, she took real events, real letters and real interviews into account for the creation of this novel, as well as most of her other stories, find them on the link previously included.
What Did I Learn From This Story?
Something that can be learned from this is that no matter our “station” in life, we will always have hard decisions to make. We’ll always have trials, some more or less than others around us, “below” or “above” us. God didn’t say our walk would be easy, only that we wouldn’t be alone.
For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.1 Peter 2:21
Don’t be afraid, for I am with. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.Isaiah 41:10
Relating to the Characters
I felt like I related to the main character, Lizzie, who was the governess, mostly because she was passionate about her beliefs, did not support or condone slavery as the confederates around her did, and she was also a book reader as I am. She felt strongly for education and that everyone was not only something every individual should be given, but that every individual was teachable, at any age. It was really touching and I just know that if this were made into a movie, some parts I’ve just touched on here would bring many to tears.
How did a person get to the point where he considered others lesser than himself based solely on the color of one’s skin?-page 85, Miss Clouston’s thoughts
Prayers are deathless, Captain Jones. They outlive the lives of those who utter them.-page 107, Preacher Bounds
Sister Catherine Margaret asks Miss Clouston in the last quarter of the novel if she knows Psalm 27 and tells her to read it again and BE ENCOURAGED (pages 322-323).
The Lord is my light and my salvation – so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble? When evil people come to devour me, when my enemies and foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though a mighty army surrounds me, my heart will not be afraid. Even if I am attacked, I will remain confident. The one thing I ask of the Lord – the thing I seek most – is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in his Temple. For he will conceal me there when trouble come; he will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock. Then I will hold my head high above my enemies who surround me. At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy, singing and praising the Lord with music. Hear me as I pray, O Lord. Be merciful and answer me! My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk to me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” Do not turn your back on me. Do not reject your servant in anger. You have always been my helper. Don’t leave me now; don’t abandon me, O God of my salvation! Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close. Teach me how to live, O Lord. Lead me along the right path, for my enemies are waiting for me. Do not let me fall into their hands. For they accuse me of things I’ve never done; with every breath they threaten me with violence. Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living. Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.Psalm 27:1-14
This Psalm of David is absolutely spot-on to this novel and the trials these men and women faced. How encouraging at the time of the battle in the 1800s that David felt these things so so long ago, before Jesus’ time. Only God…
Lizzie and Tempy cut up clothes to help in surgeries of wounded soldiers. Could we do that today? Even our last clothing item? To help others? Miss Clouston cut up her wedding dress she worked months on. WHOA.
“‘Too much,” she heard herself whisper, feeling a shaking starting deep inside her. “They’ve given too much.” She swallowed. Brother fighting brother. Countryman fighting countryman. All the bloodshed and killing. And for what? When would it end? She thought she was going to be sick.-page 63, Miss Clouston
What price are we willing to pay for what we believe in? What will we give up?
Questions and Applications
Most, if not all, of these questions will be taken from Alexander’s Discussion section at the end of the book. I won’t answer some – those will be for you to think through 🙂
As I was reading this book I thought more than once… Would we be able to come together the same way these men and women did to help one another? The opened up their MANSION and it was basically a hospital at that point, doctors and nurses, nuns, confederates and federals in and out of the place. Would we be compassionate? When disasters strikes somewhere in our country, people from every state are rallying together to gather supplies or send people to the effected area to help. These kinds of things effect everyone from any given background or belief, nature doesn’t care. What about when we know what political party they’re on though? Sometimes these skew our views negatively and because of how they think, they don’t deserve the same treatment as a like-minded person.
Lizzie felt powerless to change her world due to the social mores and restrictions placed on women during the 19th century. Have you ever experienced the brunt of such restrictions? If yes, how did you meet those challenges? Did your situation change?
Roland Jones was a slave owner in real life and held extensive property in Yalobusha, Mississippi. How did knowing this about him shape your view of him and opinions he so staunchly held?
For someone like a reader of my blog who hasn’t actually read this book to get to know Roland through the story, I would change this question to be How would knowing someone was a slave owner shape your view of them?
For me, I completely side with Miss Clouston, who believed that all of man were created equal. Roland’s beliefs were kind of piggybacked on his fraternal ancestors, his father and grandfather, I learned. That information made me feel sorry for him some because his faith and knowledge wasn’t completely his own. I would view that person, a slave owner, as uneducated, unguided and deeply in need of the truth of God’s plans that are written for us to digest.
The Battle Unfolds
As the battle unfolded that night and you ascended the stairs with Lizzie after the surgeon requested her assistance, what thoughts were going through your mind? How would you have responded in her place? Would you have been able to do what she did in the story?
First of all, I do not like blood, I do not like medical procedures, I don’t like deep descriptions… I feel like I had a serious struggle getting through some of it. Most of it wasn’t bad. So, to say the least, I would need God’s strength to follow that doctor up the stairs and assist with those procedures. I, on my own strength, could NOT have made it through. NOPE. *shakes head and moves on*
Faith, Believing, and Temptation
Roland and Sister Catherine share a conversation in Chapter 18 that centers around faith, believing, and temptation. Did you relate to what they were saying? Sister Catherine comments, “Sometimes life on this side of the veil is far more difficult than I think it should be. Especially for those of us who belong to God. But then again, his promises do not eliminate suffering.” Do you agree or disagree? Why?
I agree with this, especially now… We have so many distractions, I know I do!, and they not only take us away from things we should be doing to spread the Gospel, but making it harder to effectively be able to. We’re caught up in groups, social media, work, friends… whatever it may be. We’re distracted by our own suffering too. I think sometimes we’ll be going through something, focused on our little world and our little bubble and we forget to be caring about the ones around us. If we continually cared about others and we did this unified, no one would be alone in their burdens and we could make the world a better place.
In Chapter 38, Roland struggles to reconcile the fact that two men he greatly admired and who largely shaped his faith might have been immoral men. What faith legacy are you leaving yo your family? Will it stand the test of time?