How Hardly Things go Right

Alas, how easily things go wrong!

A sigh too much, or a kiss too long,

And there follows a mist and a weeping rain,

And life is never the same again.

Alas, how hardly things go right!

'Tis hard to watch on a summer night,

For the sigh will come and the kiss will stay,

And the summer night is a winter day.

—George MacDonald, Phantastes

IF

 

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

 

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

 

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;

If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;

 

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,

And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools:

 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss;

 

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

 

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much;

 

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

 

~ Rudyard Kipling

Sorrow by Love’s Service Robed and Crowned

woman-walking-on-the-beach

 

She leaves, but not forsakes. Oft in the night,
Oft at mid-day when all is still around,
Sudden will rise, in dim pathetic light,
Some childish memory of household bliss,
Or sorrow by love’s service robed and crowned;
Rich in his love, she yet will sometimes miss
The mother’s folding arms, the mother’s sealing kiss.

 

~George MacDonald

 

 

Sorrow by love’s service robed and crowned

Leave it to me to pick out the little pieces, instead of looking at the whole. But they shine so brightly… And leave it to George to shine that holy light on everything he touches. As always, severity, combined with tenderness.

This plants a new picture: that when pain and sorrow come, we should not scurry off to a corner to hide, waiting for all to be made right some day. That we, even while suffering and in sorrow still have a job to do; to do love’s service. That we ourselves must learn to be more father-like. And that very service will robe and crown our sorrow. What? Boom. The time of our deliverance is not yet come, and we are not come to peace and ease in Zion – not yet. How could we be happy to be set up, perfectly happy and satisfied to our heart’s content, while so many of our brothers and sisters are still in pain, still under oppression, still crying for salvation? As we are… Our Lord does not sit happily in his Heaven, letting us go through hell, and waiting for the bell to ring. He did not shut down and sink into his own pain and sorrow on the cross. He looked to the needs of his fellow sufferers. To the end, he took on the role of a Father – always looking out for the good of those around himself, always looking to the needs of others more than his own, and caring for his little ones.

He walks beside us every step of the way, and in the dark Thy rod and thy staff comfort me. And so must we enter into His labors, and be a part of the great work of the Lord. We must run alongside our master, following his guide, helping where we can, being as strong as we can. And when we have run our race patiently, then we will have good reward for our labors. One day all will be made right – every tear will be wiped away, and we will have joy for all of our sorrows. So much so that we will remember the former things no longer somehow. That is what we can look forward to – that is our star of hope, to come to rest in the arms and house of our Father in the end.

But today, we must labor in the fields, and forget about our sorrow. But how? I am not that strong – my arms are weary and tired. I just want this to be over so much of the time. I am not a god, and my hands and feet are made of clay. But I know I must obey – that in the doing, will come the growth. Help us Lord, to be more like you. Fill us with your strength, with your spirit, with your joy and your youth – your LIFE. – We need so much more life… Give us the strength to follow after you, and fill us with your insurmountable and unending love. Give us wisdom, and come to our aid as we follow after you. Help us to look to you as we carry your yoke, even if we have no idea how we can possibly do it, and help us to trust that you will show us the way if you are asking us to do the job. Let your light and your spirit so live in us that we may one day be able to say that truly your yoke is easy, and your burden is light.

~Watergirl

Love is Enough

Love is enough for the loving, love without self’s alloy,

Its mighty breast enfolding the flame of a secret joy.

Love is enough for the loving as pure of envy and strife,

It is poured as a fiery torrent from the brimming urns of Life.

Love is no money-changer, to weigh the return as gold,

Love is not weak nor selfish, nor faileth, nor groweth old,

Love is as strong as death, his wings to the stars unfurled,

His feet in the deepest places of the chambered underworld.

Though the frowns and smiles of the loved be as fights that are lost and won,

Though the cry on the lips of thousands be light to the praise of one,

Though the light of our life that kindleth be set in another’s eyes,

Love doth not die in the darkness or wander away in the sighs.

Love is a crown to the loving, a mystical shrine untrod,

A secret lent to the spirit by the breath of the living God.

He stands in the innermost temple, and often in hours unsought

We hear the might of his stirring through the roar of the lovers of thought.

He rings with a lingering glory the dusky shapes we see

That move in a twilight chamber in the haunts of memory.

Love is no jester and courtier, no trifler in folly and guile,

To sing at rosèd casement and watch for a wanton’s smile.

Love is an earnest spirit, so patient and lonely and strong,

And the woe of his lips is silent, and the time of his torture is long.

His hope is high and distant, his path is steep and hard,

He giveth his all and watcheth, till God shall relieve his guard.

Keep we the might of his presence, a flash of the light of the Lord,

A breath of the mighty nature that shaketh its good abroad

That so we may be as the angels and rise to the loftiest lot

Of him who is highest of all things that he giveth and asketh not,

Who giveth a self and a will and a place in the ordered plan

Gives also the love of a God for the half-hearted worship of man,

As the awful eyes that are watching and the silent lips that bless

Are turned on the ways of his thousands in a great unconsciousness.

Love is enough for the loving, and let it suffice unto me,

As the golden eve is sinking on darkening wood and lea,

As the sun streams out in glory and floods the course of the spheres,

As the humblest rose breaks out from the earth in a simple trust

So shall the gifts of the loving be the crown of a living dust,

No spot on the earth of God can take what it never gave,

None, but bounds of Hell, and the rotting space of the Grave.

~ GK Chesterton

 

The feeling I had after reading this poem was Where has this poem been all my life? And two,  How does he understand love so clearly? As happens so often, I had just been thinking I need to learn more about love – Lord, help me to learn more about love. The following day I discovered a book of Chesterton’s poetry on my husband’s book shelf. That poem was the first, and it leapt off the page into my heart. How I love the mind (and insight) of Chesterton – I don’t think I will ever get tired of reading him. As I read through the stanzas, the things I had been telling myself about love melted under the scorching light.

 

Love doth not die in the darkness or wander away in the sighs.

In retrospect, I actually can’t remember what I was telling myself about this. But I think it was something along the lines of “If I am not loved, I cannot love; my love will fade away, until all that is left is a small dark ember, which will only come back to life in the warmth of another’s love.” Through the eyes of Love is Enough, I see love as a bigger thing – and a stronger, than I (currently) am.

 

Love is an earnest spirit, so patient and lonely and strong,

And the woe of his lips is silent, and the time of his torture is long.

His hope is high and distant, his path is steep and hard,

He giveth his all and watcheth, till God shall relieve his guard.

I think I had an impression of love as seen through the image of a mother, feminine, soft, and yet somehow persevering. I guess I had ideas about love as being soft & feminine, and yet on the other side somehow also strong. This picture of love still includes all that I see in the ideal of a mother, yet it is somehow a different picture of that strength, and more rock-solid than I had pictured it before. It now seems so masculine  – masculine in the sense that it originates, it puts into motion, it drives, it seeks, it gives, it goes on, and on and on, and never stops. Sigh. – We are indeed the lesser children of greater sires. It is a picture so beautiful, so right, so pure. How can I not love it – want it for my own, see my lack in that space, and want to be more like that? Ah love – come in to me; inhabit me, possess me. But there is no “magic pill” to be had. I cannot get love inside merely by desiring to, or by hoping I will “catch” the bug if I get close enough. (Although that is part of it too.) I must grow my love – grow in love, practice love, and shape my love, that it may look like its original at last. Thankfully we have a wonderful teacher to follow.

 

Love is as strong as death, his wings to the stars unfurled,

His feet in the deepest places of the chambered underworld.

This – wings in the stars, and feet in the deepest places of the underworld, reminded me of CS Lewis’s picture of the diver.

One has a picture of someone going right down and dredging the sea bottom. One has a picture of a strong man trying to lift a very big, complicated burden. He stoops down and gets himself right under it so that he himself disappears; and then he straightens his back and moves off with the whole thing swaying on his shoulders.

Or else one has the picture of a diver, stripping off garment after garment, making himself naked, then flashing for a moment in the air, and then down through the green, and warm, and sunlit water into the pitch-black, cold, freezing water, down into the mud and slime, then up again, his lungs almost bursting, back again to the green and warm and sunlit water, and then at last out into the sunshine, holding in his hand the dripping thing he went down to get. This thing is human nature; but, associated with it, all Nature, the new universe.

Wouldn’t that make a beautiful painting?

 

I thought I should make a list, to clarify the thoughts put forth about what love is, and isn’t.

Love Is:

⁃    Enough for the loving
⁃    Without self’s alloy
⁃    Flame of a secret joy
⁃    Pure of envy and strife
⁃    A fiery torrent from the brimming urns of life
⁃    Strong as death
⁃    A crown to the loving
⁃    A mystical shrine untrod
⁃    A secret lent to the spirit by the breath of the living God.
⁃    Rings with a lingering glory the dusky shapes we see
⁃    Love is an earnest spirit
⁃    Patient and lonely and strong
⁃    The woe of his lips is silent
⁃    The time of his torture is long
⁃    His hope is high and distant
⁃    His path is steep and hard
⁃    He giveth his all and watcheth, till God shall relieve his guard
⁃    A flash of the light of the Lord
⁃    A breath of the mighty nature that shaketh its good abroad
⁃    He giveth and asketh not
⁃    Giveth a self and a will
⁃    Gives the love of a God for the half-hearted worship of man
⁃    Eyes that are watching
⁃    Silent lips that bless

Love is Not:

⁃    No money changer
⁃    Does not weigh the return as gold
⁃    Does not die in the darkness
⁃    Does not wander away in the sighs
⁃    Love is no jester and courtier
⁃    No trifler in folly and guile

~Watergirl

Not Overcome

Christianity is not a promise to enjoy a life without pain, nor to be given a shortcut through it. It is a promise that pain, sorrow, sin – ours and others’ – will not swallow us, destroy us, define us, or have the final word.

~Stasi Eldredge

8:31 What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 8:32 Indeed, he who 35  did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, freely give us all things?

8:35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will trouble, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 38  8:36 As it is written, “For your sake we encounter death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 39  8:37 No, in all these things we have complete victory 40  through him 41  who loved us! 8:38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, 42  nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, 8:39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

~Romans 8:31-39 NET

Forgiveness

To forgive the incessant provocations of daily life – to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son – how can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night,”Forgive our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.” We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves. There is no hint of exceptions and God means what he says.

~CS Lewis, The Weight of Glory