Thank you, Old Soul | Part 2 of 2

by Elouise

Alas!  The second half of George MacDonald’s sonnet is as tough as the first.  When I first read it years ago, it sounded like 100% Bad News.  Especially for me.

Here’s the entire sonnet so you can see and hear how they’re connected.  If you haven’t already done this, you might try reading them out loud.  Sometimes this helps me put myself into the picture.

October 1

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.

October 2

But thou art making me, I thank thee, sire.
What thou has done and doest thou know’st well,
And I will help:–gently in thy fire
I will lie burning; on thy potter’s wheel
I will whirl patient, though my brain should reel;
Thy grace shall be enough the grief to quell,
And growing strength perfect through weakness dire.

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

My comments relate to the October 2 reading.

At first I couldn’t help seeing MacDonald’s God as a version of Daddy intent on breaking my will.  The only difference is that now I’m supposed to be the willing, cooperative, even helpful victim.  Just stay there, burning on the whirling potter’s wheel.  No resistance at all.  No attempts to jump off the wheel or take initiative.  My worst nightmare.

In reality, this sonnet addresses one of the most difficult parts of my healing:  taking responsibility for my adult choices.  The sonnet is about growth pains.  It’s about what it takes to be rewired from the inside out.

Ultimately, it’s about taking my adult place as one of God’s beloved daughters.  This sounds glorious, but it isn’t.  Growing up is painfully difficult for Good Girls who habitually seek and depend upon the Approval of Others.

What does it look like for me to whirl patiently on the potter’s wheel?  Most of the time it looks like any or all of the following:

  • Walking into my fear of being misunderstood (I want you to understand and approve of me.)
  • Giving up my need to be right and my need to be liked (Feels like choosing sudden death or certain failure)
  • Making mistakes, requesting and accepting feedback, trying yet again.  And again. (Almost beyond my comprehension)
  • Asking for and accepting help from one of God’s many angels in disguise  (Not as difficult as it sounds after the initial shock of meeting an angel in disguise)
  • Showing up whether I feel like it or not  (Sometimes I’d rather do anything but show up.)
  • Acknowledging and expressing my grief when I let go of old ways that are no longer comforting, comfortable or safe  (A hard discipline that exposes the extent of my neediness)
  • Not second-guessing God when  things I don’t like and didn’t choose come into my life  (I like to second-guess God as in ‘I can’t believe You let that happen!’)

That’s more than enough for most days.  Baby steps toward becoming a rewired, mature, responsible adult woman—God’s beloved daughter child, sometimes honorary member of the Disobedient Daughters of Eve Society.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 September 2014