Too eager I must not be to understand.
How should the work the master goes about
Fit the vague sketch my compasses have planned?
I am his house—for him to go in and out.
He builds me now—and if I cannot see
At any time what he is doing with me,
‘Tis that he makes the house for me too grand.
My God, I look to thee for tenderness
Such as I could not seek from any man,
Or in a human heart fancy or plan—
A something deepest prayer will not express:
Lord, with thy breath blow on my being’s fires,
Until, even to the soul with self-love wan,
I yield the primal love, that no return desires.
—George MacDonald, The Diary of an Old Soul
THOU art of this world, Christ. Thou know’st it all;
Thou know’st our evens, our morns, our red and gray;
How moons, and hearts, and seasons rise and fall;
How we grow weary plodding on the way;
Of future joy how present pain bereaves,
Rounding us with a dark of mere decay,
Tossed with a drift Of summer-fallen leaves.
Thou knowest all our weeping, fainting, striving;
Thou know’st how very hard it is to be;
How hard to rouse faint will not yet reviving;
To do the pure thing, trusting all to thee;
To hold thou art there, for all no face we see;
How hard to think, through cold and dark and dearth,
That thou art nearer now than when eye-seen on earth.
Have pity on us for the look of things,
When blank denial stares us in the face.
Although the serpent mask have lied before,
It fascinates the bird that darkling sings,
And numbs the little prayer-bird’s beating wings.
For how believe thee somewhere in blank space,
If through the darkness come no knocking to our door?
If we might sit until the darkness go,
Possess our souls in patience perhaps we might;
But there is always something to be done,
And no heart left to do it. To and fro
The dull thought surges, as the driven waves fight
In gulfy channels. Oh! victorious one,
Give strength to rise, go out, and meet thee in the night.
Wake, thou that sleepest; rise up from the dead,
And Christ will give thee light.” I do not know
What sleep is, what is death, or what is light;
But I am waked enough to feel a woe,
To rise and leave death. Stumbling through the night,
To my dim lattice, O calling Christ! I go,
And out into the dark look for thy star-crowned head.
– George MacDonald.
“A Book of Strife in the Form of The Diary of an Old Soul.”
The mass of men have been forced to be gay about the little things, but sad about the big ones. Nevertheless (I offer my last dogma defiantly) it is not native to man to be so. Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul. Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday; joy is the uproarious labour by which all things live.
~ G.K. Chesterton
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
(The year of the trouble in Lancashire.)
The skies are pale, the trees are stiff,
The earth is dull and old;
The frost is glittering as if
The very sun were cold.
And hunger fell is joined with frost,
To make men thin and wan:
Come, babe, from heaven, or we are lost;
Be born, O child of man.
Thy children cry, the women shake,
The strong men stare about;
They sleep when they should be awake,
They wake ere night is is out.
For they have lost their heritage –
No sweat is on their brow:
Come, babe, and bring them work and wage;
Be born, and save us now.
Across the sea, beyond our sight,
Roars on the fierce debate;
The men go down in bloody fight,
The women weep and hate;
And in the right be which that may,
Surely the strife is long!
Come, son of man, thy righteous way,
And right will have no wrong.
Good men speak lies against thine own –
Tongue quick, and hearing slow;
They will not let thee walk alone,
And think to serve thee so:
If they the children’s freedom saw
In thee, the children’s king,
They would be still with holy awe,
Or only speak to sing.
Some neither lie nor starve nor fight,
Nor yet the poor deny;
But in their hearts all is not right,
-They often sit and sigh.
We need thee every day and hour,
In sunshine and in snow:
Child-king, we pray with all our power –
Be born, and save us so.
We are but men and women, Lord;
Thou art a gracious child!
O fill our hearts, and heap our board,
Pray thee – the winter’s wild!
The sky is sad, the trees are bare,
Hunger and hate about:
Come, child, and ill deeds and ill fare
Will soon be driven out.
– George MacDonald
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.
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.