“When I no more can stir. . .”

by Elouise

Late last week I felt like a dry well.  Not sure what I wanted to write next for the blog.  I decided to see what George MacDonald might have to say to me in his Diary of an Old Soul.

His January 10 and 11 entries grabbed my attention.  Here they are, followed by my comments.

When I no more can stir my soul to move,
And life is but the ashes of a fire;
When I can but remember that my heart
Once used to live and love, long and aspire,–
Oh, be thou then the first, the one thou art;
Be thou the calling, before all answering love,
And in me wake hope, fear, boundless desire.

I thought that I had lost thee; but, behold!
Thou comest to me from the horizon low,
Across the fields outspread of green and gold—
Fair carpet for thy feet to come and go.
Whence I know not, or how to me thou art come!
Not less my spirit with calm bliss doth glow,
Meeting thee only thus, in nature vague and dumb.

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.

Even though I don’t feel like an old soul most of the time, my numbered days keep diminishing.  Every now and then, when I think about all life has offered me and how I’ve responded, I feel way beyond weary.  Even about the wonderful things.

  • MacDonald reminds me that it isn’t up to me to “stir my soul to move.”  The one who first called and awakened me to life will once again come calling.  As often as needed.  I may be lost to myself, but not to the one who first loved me and awakened me to life with all its “hope, fear, boundless desire.”

MacDonald’s image of nature captivates me:  a “fair carpet for thy feet to come and go.”  Lately I’ve felt a bit deprived because of the weather and the time of year.  Winter can be stunningly beautiful.  But after a while, the same-old same-old syndrome kicks in and I don’t notice or appreciate as much as I might in the spring, summer or fall.

  • Nature invites me to pay attention–always.  To be ready, awake, expectant!  At any moment God’s feet may be coming and going my way.  True, I don’t have “fields outspread of green and gold” outside my kitchen window right now.  But that’s no reason to turn a blind eye.  Nature reflects God’s glory and faithfulness, though I may not always discern how that can be.

At first I was put off by MacDonald’s description of nature as “vague and dumb.”  But ‘dumb’ here means unable to speak in human language, which explains why nature is ‘vague.’  It doesn’t parse things out for me.  It just shows up 24/7, doing what it’s meant to do–proclaim the glory of its creator.

  • My part is to recognize and respond with “answering love” to God’s comings and goings.  They’re everywhere, if I have eyes to see farther than my inability “to stir my soul to move.”

Finally, here’s a question I would like to ask George MacDonald,
but will ask you instead:
Might we also, as God’s handiwork, 
become a “fair carpet for thy feet to come and go”–
at least from time to time?

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 January 2015