While looking through an old journal, I was reminded that God works in mysterious ways. A couple years ago, I took an English class where we were required to read George Orwell’s famous 1984. I can count the number of books I’ve read and hated on one hand. 1984 is definitely one of them. Yet, thanks to God’s irony, it is also one of the most memorable books I’ve read.
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“Good afternoon.” My English teacher strode primly into the classroom and set his copy of 1984 on the front desk.
I was so ready to be done with that wretched book. That week we were finishing the readings and discussions. That afternoon we were discussing the part with Room 101 where Winston is tortured with his greatest fear. I couldn’t think of anything cheerier than discussing rats trying to eat your face off.
Our teacher started class with a large group discussion. “Alright, I want you to think about Room 101. What makes it so terrifying to everyone? Why doesn’t anyone want to be sent there?”
Sitting in silence, everyone looked like they were about to be sent to Room 101. Or maybe we were already there.
“It’s a torture room, right?” he asked, answering his own question. “What method do they use to torture people?”
After another moment of silence, someone mumbled, “Fear.”
“Correct! They use each person’s own, possibly illogical fear to get a conversion out of them. What is Winston’s greatest fear?”
“Rats! And in Room 101, these aren’t just any rats. These are giant, ugly, mean, carnivorous rats. They put this cage up to Winston’s face, and these rats are just fighting to attack him! Now, I want you to think for a minute and figure out what your Room 101 would be.”
I inwardly groaned. Did we have to have this discussion?
“What have you got?” Our teacher sat on the front of his desk and folded his arms expectantly.
“Spiders,” grinned one of the girls.
“Spiders! So for you, they’d put you in a room with huge, hairy-legged spiders.”
The girl shivered at the thought.
“Snakes!” declared another girl.
“Anyone else?” asked our teacher.
“Birds,” answered one girl.
“Birds! Why birds?”
“I’m terrified of birds,” she explained, shuddering while also laughing at herself. “I’m scared of having them fly at my head or something.”
“Like that movie, The Birds?”
“Yes! So creepy.”
I noticed the guys were staying out of this discussion.
Shifting on the desk, our teacher grinned. “This is actually fun! What other things are you afraid of? What things would cause you to betray someone?”
He was enjoying himself far too much. Thankfully for me, enough of the class was warming to the discussion so I didn’t feel the need to answer.
What would I say if he decided to call on me? I wasn’t sure what my greatest fear was, but I was hoping it was something deeper than spiders or birds.
While the rest of the class described their ridiculous fears that–according to our teacher–they would do anything to avoid, I tried to figure out my fear in case he called on me.
I glanced anxiously at my watch. Was he really going to drag this discussion out for one and a half hours? Oh how I despised this class.
Suddenly, I had a bizarre thought: Room 101 was similar to Daniel and the lions’ den.
This thought took me by surprise since I didn’t normally draw comparisons between my least favorite book and favorite Bible story. Yet somehow it made sense. In fact, I thought, the lions’ den could have been Daniel’s Room 101–his greatest fear. It was possible that Daniel had a fear of lions beyond the normal fear of powerful, sharp-teethed beasts. Daniel might have had an illogical fear of lions, but he was still willing to face them! My English teacher was wrong! A person’s Room 101 could be successfully endured. Through the strength of God, it was possible!
Once I figured out my Room 101, would I be willing to face it, knowing I had God at my side?
Horrified, I realized God had just used English class for my benefit. How was that possible? I had learned something because of 1984! How mortifying.
Not long after that, God did reveal my fears to me. I was forced to face those fears, but in my weakness I saw God’s strength at work. During that time I had the reminder of Daniel and his Room 101. God works all things–even annoying English classes and George Orwell–for good.
*Random side note: Do not do a google images search for “1984 and Room 101” late at night. Or any time actually. Oh my stars there are some creepy pictures out there!
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