From Doubts to Assurance

Doubt must precede every deeper assurance; for uncertainties are what we first see when we look into a region hitherto unknown, unexplored, unannexed. In all Job’s begging and longing to see God, then, may well be supposed to mingle the mighty desire to be assured of God’s being. To acknowledge is not to be sure of God. One great point in the poem is–that when Job hears the voice of God, though it utters no word of explanation, it is enough to him to hear it: he knows that God is, and that he hears the cry of his creature. That he is there, knowing all about him, and what had befallen him, is enough; he needs no more to reconcile seeming contradictions, and the worst ills of outer life become endurable. Even if Job could not at first follow his argument of divine probability, God settled everything for him when, by answering him out of the whirlwind, he showed him that he had not forsaken him.

— George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons; the father of Till we have Faces and GK Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday?

The First Knock

“Doubts are the messengers of the Living One to rouse the honest. They are the first knock at our door of things that are not yet, but have to be, understood; and theirs in general is the inhospitable reception of angels that do not come in their own likeness. Doubt must precede every deeper assurance; for uncertainties are what we first see when we look into a region hitherto unknown, unexplored, unannexed.”

~George MacDonald, The voice of Job, unspoken sermons

Shining Transitions

There is a glory in all completion, and all good endings are but shining transitions. ALL you that feel youth slipping past you and that are desolate at the approach of age, be merry; it is not what it looks like from in front and from outside. There is a glory in all completion, and all good endings are but shining transitions. There will come a sharp moment of revelation when you shall bless the effect of time… All you that have loved passionately and have torn your hearts asunder in disillusions, do not imagine that things broken cannot be mended by the good angels.
~Hilaire Belloc: “The Path to Rome.”

Marvels, Terrors, and Our Goal

For who in heaven or on earth has fathomed the marvel betwixt the man and the woman? Least of all the man or the woman who has not learned to regard it with reverence. There is more in this love to uplift us, more to condemn the lie in us, than in any other inborn drift of our being, except the heavenly tide Godward. From it flow all the other redeeming relations of life. It is the hold God has of us with his right hand, while death is the hold he has of us with his left. Love and death are the two marvels, yea the two terrors–but the one goal of our history.
~ George MacDonald, ‘What’s Mine’s Mine.’

Progress vs. Growth

“The fatal metaphor of progress, which means leaving something behind us has utterly obscured the real idea of growth, which means leaving things inside us.”

~GK Chesterton 


More on growth vs. progress from Lewis:

“That is another notion they have which a little travel would soon blow to pieces. They think that the landlord works like the factories on Claptrap, inventing every day a new machine which supersedes the old. As machines are among the very few things that they do know something about, they cannot help thinking that everything is like them. But this leads them into two mistakes. First of all, they have no conception how slowly the landlord acts – the enormous intervals between these big changes in his type of picture. And secondly they  think that a new thing refutes and canceled the old, whereas, in reality it brings it to a fuller life. I have never known a case where the man who is engaged in ridiculing or rejecting the old message became the receiver of the new.”

~CS Lewis, Pilgrim’s Regress 

A Revelation of Spirit

“The body was not the material clothes of a person but that by which the spirit was seen to be a person and known to be a person. Therefore the body could not be matter in the sense in which other things were matter. It was so interpenetrated, adapted, clothed, and fitted to certain meanings, certain unseen realities, that it was not merely a revelation of things that relate matter and its laws, but a revelation of spirit and things that belong to spirit, and therefore, he said, spiritual clothes.”
—George MacDonald

“But the immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.” 1 Cor. 18-20, NET

The Hound of Heaven

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;

I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways

   Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears

I hid from Him, and under running laughter.

            Up vistaed hopes I sped;

            And shot, precipitated,

Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,

From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.

           But with unhurrying chase,

           And unperturbéd pace,

       Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,

           They beat—and a Voice beat

           More instant than the Feet—

       “All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.”
   I pleaded, outlaw-wise,

By many a hearted casement, curtained red,

    Trellised with intertwining charities;

(For, though I knew His love Who followèd,

            Yet was I sore adread

Lest, having Him, I must have naught beside.)

But, if one little casement parted wide,

    The gust of His approach would clash it to:

    Fear wist not to evade, as Love wist to pursue.

Across the margent of the world I fled,

    And troubled the gold gateways of the stars,

    Smiting for shelter on their clangèd bars:

            Fretted to dulcet jars

And silvern chatter the pale ports o’ the moon.

I said to Dawn: Be sudden—to Eve: Be soon;

    With thy young skiey blossoms heap me over

            From this tremendous Lover—

Float thy vague veil about me, lest He see!

   I tempted all His servitors, but to find

My own betrayal in their constancy,

In faith to Him their fickleness to me,

    Their traitorous trueness, and their loyal deceit.

To all swift things for swiftness did I sue;

    Clung to the whistling mane of every wind.

          But whether they swept, smoothly fleet,

        The long savannahs of the blue;

            Or whether, Thunder-driven,

          They clanged his chariot ’thwart a heaven,

Plashy with flying lightnings round the spurn o’ their feet:—

    Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue.

            Still with unhurrying chase,

            And unperturbéd pace,

        Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,

            Came on the following Feet,

            And a Voice above their beat—

        “Naught shelters thee, who wilt not shelter Me.”
I sought no more that after which I strayed

            In face of man or maid;

But still within the little children’s eyes

            Seems something, something that replies,

They at least are for me, surely for me!

I turned me to them very wistfully;

But just as their young eyes grew sudden fair

            With dawning answers there,

Their angel plucked them from me by the hair.

“Come then, ye other children, Nature’s—share

With me” (said I) “your delicate fellowship;

            Let me greet you lip to lip,

            Let me twine you with caresses,


            With our Lady-Mother’s vagrant tresses,


            With her in her wind-walled palace,

            Underneath her azured dais,

            Quaffing, as your taintless way is,

                From a chalice

Lucent-weeping out of the dayspring.”

                So it was done:

I in their delicate fellowship was one—

Drew the bolt of Nature’s secrecies.

            I knew all the swift importings

            On the wilful face of skies;

            I knew how the clouds arise

            Spuméd of the wild sea-snortings;

                All that’s born or dies

            Rose and drooped with; made them shapers

Of mine own moods, or wailful or divine;

            With them joyed and was bereaven.

            I was heavy with the even,

            When she lit her glimmering tapers

            Round the day’s dead sanctities.

            I laughed in the morning’s eyes.

I triumphed and I saddened with all weather,

            Heaven and I wept together,

And its sweet tears were salt with mortal mine;

Against the red throb of its sunset-heart

            I laid my own to beat,

            And share commingling heat;

But not by that, by that, was eased my human smart.

In vain my tears were wet on Heaven’s grey cheek.

For ah! we know not what each other says,

            These things and I; in sound I speak—

Their sound is but their stir, they speak by silences.

Nature, poor stepdame, cannot slake my drouth;

            Let her, if she would owe me,

Drop yon blue bosom-veil of sky, and show me

            The breasts o’ her tenderness:

Never did any milk of hers once bless

                My thirsting mouth.

                Nigh and nigh draws the chase,

                With unperturbèd pace,

            Deliberate speed, majestic instancy;

                And past those noised Feet

                A voice comes yet more fleet—

            “Lo! naught contents thee, who content’st not Me.”
Naked I wait Thy love’s uplifted stroke!

My harness piece by piece Thou hast hewn from me,

                And smitten me to my knee;

            I am defenceless utterly.

            I slept, methinks, and woke,

And, slowly gazing, find me stripped in sleep.

In the rash lustihead of my young powers,

            I shook the pillaring hours

And pulled my life upon me; grimed with smears,

I stand amid the dust o’ the mounded years—

My mangled youth lies dead beneath the heap.

My days have crackled and gone up in smoke,

Have puffed and burst as sun-starts on a stream.

            Yea, faileth now even dream

The dreamer, and the lute the lutanist.

Even the linked fantasies, in whose blossomy twist

I swung the earth a trinket at my wrist,

Are yielding; cords of all too weak account

For earth with heavy griefs so overplussed.

            Ah! is Thy love indeed

A weed, albeit an amaranthine weed,

Suffering no flowers except its own to mount?

            Ah! must—

            Designer infinite!—

Ah! must Thou char the wood ere Thou can’st limn with it?

My freshness spent its wavering shower i’ the dust;

And now my heart is as a broken fount,

Wherein tear-drippings stagnate, spilt down ever

            From the dank thoughts that shiver

Upon the sighful branches of my mind.

            Such is; what is to be?

The pulp so bitter, how shall taste the rind?

I dimly guess what Time in mists confounds;

Yet ever and anon a trumpet sounds

From the hid battlements of Eternity;

Those shaken mists a space unsettle, then

Round the half-glimpséd turrets slowly wash again.

            But not ere him who summoneth

            I first have seen, enwound

With glooming robes purpureal, cypress-crowned;

His name I know, and what his trumpet saith.

Whether man’s heart or life it be which yields

            Thee harvest, must Thy harvest-fields

            Be dunged with rotten death?
                Now of that long pursuit

                Comes on at hand the bruit;

            That Voice is round me like a bursting sea:

               “And is thy earth so marred,

                Shattered in shard on shard?

            Lo, all things fly thee, for thou fliest Me!

            Strange, piteous, futile thing!

Wherefore should any set thee love apart?

Seeing none but I makes much of naught” (He said),

“And human love needs human meriting:

            How hast thou merited—

Of all man’s clotted clay the dingiest clot?

            Alack, thou knowest not

How little worthy of any love thou art!

Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,

            Save Me, save only Me?

All which I took from thee I did but take,

            Not for thy harms,

But just that thou might’st seek it in My arms.

            All which thy child’s mistake

Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home:

            Rise, clasp My hand, and come!”

    Halts by me that footfall:

    Is my gloom, after all,

Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?

    “Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,

    I am He Whom thou seekest!

Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.”
Francis Thompson (1859-1907)