Thank you, Old Soul | Part 1 of 2
Years ago I fell in love. Not with a man, but with his writings. George MacDonald and I share at least this: He too was deeply connected to the church and struggled with depression. In addition, he was a Scottish pastor, sometimes at odds with his church. He died believing himself to be a failure. MacDonald was also the father of many children, some grievously lost to death long before his own death.
I’m not sure who first told me about MacDonald’s Diary of an Old Soul. I was hooked from day one, and began using his daily reflections as part of my daily meditation and prayer time.
MacDonald’s poems are in sonnet form, with each day’s entry containing the first or last half of a sonnet. Though his language is sometimes regional and dated, his vision captures vividly the stormy interior an old soul betting everything on Christian faith.
Below is his lyrical prayer for October 1. Though it’s but the first half of the full poem, it’s more than enough to stand alone. A bit of daily bread, one mouthful, food enough for one day’s reflection. It’s one of my favorites, and comes to mind continually as I write about my life. Did I really need this? Did it all have to be the way it was?
MacDonald’s answer is stunning.
Remember, Lord, thou hast not made me good.
Or if thou didst, it was so long ago
I have forgotten—and never understood,
I humbly think. At best it was a crude,
A rough-hewn goodness, that did need this woe,
This sin, these harms of all kinds fierce and rude.
To shape it out, making it live and grow.
George MacDonald, The Diary of an Old Soul, Augsburg Fortress Press 1994
First published as A Book of Strife in the Form of a Diary of an Old Soul, privately published 1880
When asked about my childhood, I’ve often been at a loss for words. I could tell many stories about happy days and exhilarating experiences. Indeed, they helped shape who I am today and the way I view this world God loves so much.
And then there are other stories—the beatings, the shopkeeper, way too many rules for good girls. To say nothing about my untold adult adventures. Wouldn’t it be better to cut them out of my life? Wave a magic wand and declare them null and void? Hit the delete button and trash them permanently?
Perhaps. But only at great cost. These unhappy stories of “. . .this woe, This sin, these harms of all kinds fierce and rude,“ also shaped who I am today and the way I view this world God loves so much.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 September 2014