Because Thou Knowest

I cannot tell why this day I am ill;

But I am well because it is thy will—

Which is to make me pure and right like thee.

Not yet I need escape—’tis bearable

Because thou knowest. And when harder things

Shall rise and gather, and overshadow me,

I shall have comfort in thy strengthenings.

When My Heart Sinks

Help me, my Father, in whatever dismay,

Whatever terror in whatever shape,

To hold the faster by thy garment’s hem;

When my heart sinks, oh, lift it up, I pray;

Thy child should never fear though hell should gape,

Not blench though all the ills that men affray

Stood round him like the Roman round Jerusalem.
George MacDonald

My Only Day


Afresh I seek Thee.

Lead me once more I pray–

Even should it be against my will, Thy way.

Let me not feel Thee foreign any hour,

or shrink from Thee as an estranged power.

Through doubt, through faith, through bliss, through stark dismay;

Through sunshine, wind, or snow, or fog, or shower–

Draw me to Thee who are my only Day.
—George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul

Take 4

I just got through a fresh listen to Till We shave Faces, and it’s been a great & deep experience every time for me, with room to see & appreciate more on subsequent reads. I really like the aspect of Lewis’s treatment and answer to lament of “Job” in this book, much like GKC’s The Man Who Was Thursday. I remember thinking after reading one of GMD’s books that it was much the same idea, but I can’t remember now which book that was. I liked the development of the idea of what happens when we go against the little ray of light we have been given. Which is usually all we get – a glimpse; John said no man hath “seen” God at any time, and maybe relates to truth as well, we can’t “see” it clearly because we are not such as are *able* to see it yet. Not till we have faces. And I liked how Orual was able to help make reparations for the damage she had caused, and that as she tried to find a way to do her work, she was always given help. And of course, that to be heard at all, and to know that there is “one who hears” and knows, is in some sense to be answered. Perhaps at this stage in our growth, it is the only sense in which we can be answered. As a babe cries out in its anguish, not even knowing what the cause of his pain is, just to hear the voice of his mother is a consolation, because he knows that help is on the way. So we, not having a full knowledge of the universe (or even of our own selves) cry out our blind complaint against the gods. And the God comes, and hears the cry of our hearts, and we have been heard. Help is on the way. 🌸

Thou Who Knowest

When I am very weary with hard thought,

     And yet the question burns and is not quenched,

     My heart grows cool when to remembrance wrought

     That thou who know’st the light-born answer sought

     Know’st too the dark where the doubt lies entrenched—

     Know’st with what seemings I am sore perplexed,

     And that with thee I wait, nor needs my soul be vexed. 
– George MacDonald

Deus Absconditus, and Reading Between the Lines

Image result for christ on the tree, painting

“Of all Biblical passages, the one which occurs most frequently in Lewis’s writings is Christ’s cry from the cross: ‘My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ (Matt. 24:46 and Mark 15:34, a quotation of Ps. 22:1a). Not only are its appearances in Lewis’s work very numerous, they are also spread across the whole range of his corpus In one form or another, the cry of dereliction appears in his diary, poetry, fiction, apologetics, journalism, literary criticism, correspondence, autobiography, and in his MacDonald anthology.  No other scriptural verse comes close to receiving a treatment in so many and various of Lewis’s works; and, interestingly, two of these nineteen mentions occur even before his theistic conversion.

The cry of dereliction, although not directly quoted in The Last Battle, may be heard echoing in Tirian’s cry from the tree, where he stands bound and bleeding:

And he alled out, ‘Aslan! Aslan! Aslan! Come and help us now.’

But the darkness and the cold and the quietness went on just the same.

In spite of such desolation, Tirian persists with his prayer:

‘Let me be killed,’ cried the King. ‘I ask nothing for myself. But come and save all Narnia.’

And still there was no change in the night or the wood, but there began to be a kind of change inside Tirian. Without knowing why, he began to feel a faint hope. And he felt somehow stronger.

We observe here a felt abandonment, followed by self-abnegation, followed by the awakening of the contemplative faculty, the perception of spiritual presence despite unchanging external circumstances. It is admittedly vague. Tirian experiences a ‘kind of change,’ but it involves no ‘knowing why,’ it comes about ‘somehow.’ But it is not nothing; it is something. As with Jane’s experience of sorrow, things are not visibly changed, but they are changed. Aslan does not ‘come and help’ in the way Tirian wants, but ultimately the King is stronger for calling on him. Aslan evidently becomes present to him in the role of Luther’s ‘hidden God,’ the deus absconditus, who can only be discerned with what Lewis calls ‘the seeing eye.’ Tirian conceives this gift of insight; Aslan appears to him, as it were, like a transparent silhouette: nothing subtantial, but at least the outline of a shape. In that gap is the thing that Lewis is trying to communicate, ‘the conviction of things not seen’ (Heb. 11:1).  Tirian demonstrates what Lewis (following MacDonald) called ‘The highest condition of the Human Will… when, not seeing God, not seeming itself to grasp him at all, it yet holds Him fast.’ He exercises ‘obstinacy in belief,’ finding Aslan perceptible despite his invisibility: ‘I give myself up to the justice of Aslan,’ he says; ‘in the name of Aslan let us go forward’; ‘I serve the real Aslan.’ He is resolved to take the adventure that Aslan would send,’ for ‘we are all between the paws of the true Aslan’: ‘Aslan to our aid!’ Jewel likewise sustains faith in the face of failure, trusting that the stable ‘may be the door to Aslan’s country and we shall sup at his table tonight.’ In all this we are to discern a parallel with Christ’s faithful contemplation of his Father, for even in his cry of dereliction he addressed the One by whom he felt abandoned. ‘He could not see, could not feel Him near; and yet it is ‘My God’ that He cries.’ (52, GMD)

Tirian, Jewel, and the others see Aslan with the eyes of their heart, thus sharing in his own resignation when, bound and shorn on the Stone Table, he had looked up at the sky and had endured its blank response in quietness and sadness. Lewis argued in The Problem of Pain that ‘only God can mortify,’ that is, put sin to death. Tirian accepts the calamities that befall him as necessary tribulations, understood from within by Aslan, that furnish him with an occasion for utter submission to the holy and perfecting purpose of the divine surgeon. As a result, after death, he receives the divine accolade: ‘Well done, last of the kings of Narnia, who held firm in the darkest hour.’

 

– Michael Ward, Planet Narnia; IX – Saturn

 

By His Side Needs Must They Stay

He knew their hearts were foolish, eyes were dim,  And therefore by his side needs must they stay.

Even when their foolish words they turned on him,He did not his disciples send away;

He knew their hearts were foolish, eyes were dim,

And therefore by his side needs must they stay.

Thou will not, Lord, send me away from thee.

When I am foolish, make thy cock crow grim;

If that is not enough, turn, Lord, and look on me.
— George MacDonald