First, I wanted to send Patrick Rothfuss’s slim novel The Slow Regard of Silent Things to anyone who has a loved one struggling with obsessive compulsive disorder. I didn’t really realize, until about halfway through, that this would be a primary and accurate way to characterize the main (and only human) figure in the novel.
Auri lives under a city, finding perfect homes for found items. She listens to the silent things. She discerns their character and longing. She intuits the personality of a room to hear if it lacks a bottle or a button. She stops, regularly, to wash her face and hand and feet. Her life is devoted to making everything “just as it should be,” while keeping her own impact and desires as small as possible, save a few luxuries such as soap (of course it would be soap, in one who epitomizes OCD).
What’s shocking about this slim novel is how compelling all this listening and discerning and soap-making is for the reader. Although written in third person, we are pressed so closely against her back that we feel her heart beat against our breast; we lovingly regard the inanimate items as she encounters them. It becomes important to us whether or not there’s a button under a rug or whether a brass gear is content on the mantle. This novel helped me feel what a burden and a gift it is to feel the world so tenderly.
Which made me wonder if there was more going on here than a character study of a psychological disorder, made me wonder if somehow this willfully small girl carries within her the image of God.
I’ve heard, my whole life, of the MMA Champion version of God who takes up space with all His muscles and forcibly bends the cosmos to His will. In Auri, the image-bearer, we glimpse the god who wouldn’t claim a capital “g” for herself, the god who attends to the character of lost and helpless things, the god who sees that some items are more beautiful when broken. The god who, in smallness, is able to mend what is cracked and tend what is askew.
Auri carries the image of the god who works as hidden and quiet as a spirit, the god whose love whispers in slow breathes. She searches in the manner of the god who behaves like a woman searching for a lost coin or a shepherd seeking a lost sheep, restoring all things to their proper places. She lives like the god who is willing to become small, to empty herself and become humble.
Rothfuss’s novel is more than a psychological study. It is a parable, a portrait of a god who intimately and quietly loves a broken world.