“Gather my broken fragments…”

by Elouise

Here’s an excellent reading for today. It’s George MacDonald’s sonnet for February 29. I know, this isn’t a leap year. It is, however, appropriate for the end of any day, week or month of the year. Including February! So here it is, with my comments following.

February  29

Gather my broken fragments to a whole
As these four quarters make a shining day.
Into thy basket, for my golden bowl,
Take up the things that I have cast away
In vice or indolence or unwise play.
Let mine be a merry, all-receiving heart,
But make it a whole, with light in every part.

George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul,
© 1994 Augsburg Fortress Press

MacDonald is thinking about his life. The ‘broken fragments’ of his life. The bits and pieces of his life that he has left behind. The life God gave him. Trashed. Cast away due to “vice, or indolence or unwise play.”

MacDonald doesn’t offer to go out and gather them himself. Perhaps he can’t remember exactly where or when he discarded or lost them. He just knows they’re gone, and he wants to have them back in one piece. So he asks God to gather his broken fragments, all of them.

MacDonald doesn’t seem to fear this prospect. The end goal is that all these pieces add up to “a shining day.” What does this second line mean? I’m not sure. It may be as simple as dividing 24 hours into four quarters of a day.

However, it’s possible he’s referring to ‘quarter days.’ If so, he may be highlighting the difference between God’s economy and the early economy of quarter days in Britain, Ireland and Scotland. MacDonald wrote his Old Soul sonnets during the 1800s.

Historically, quarter days weren’t particularly ‘shining’ days. They were set days of reckoning, regular times to pay certain debts in full or settle legal issues. I can imagine some old souls fearing or even dreading these days of reckoning.

Perhaps this would have been similar to the way many of us in the USA dread April 15.  Our national day of reckoning with state and national tax offices.  Whatever the reference to quarter days means, MacDonald is talking about a day to be welcomed, not dreaded. Not a day of judgment, but a day of grace.

He also asks that God’s own basket be the collection plate. Could he mean a kind of reverse offering? So that instead of collecting gifts (offerings) for God in the offering plate, God is collecting MacDonald’s cast-offs in God’s own basket in order to restore MacDonald to wholeness? Turning the cast-offs into strange ‘gifts?’

Perhaps this is like the broken fragments of bread. The bits and pieces Jesus asked the disciples to gather up instead of leaving them lying out to be trampled underfoot.

It seems there may be value in these cast-offs. After all, they’re fragments of a human life created in the image of God. How many bits and pieces of God’s image might be left lying around unrecognized? Unsalvaged? Unredeemed?

This is certain: The basket of MacDonald’s cast-offs won’t be held up to remind MacDonald of his careless, thoughtless, ungrateful, wicked, disobedient, wasteful or riotous life. Or day. Or week.

Also certain: God isn’t going to get out superglue or some other magic snake oil cure to patch it back together. This is all about grace and God’s vision for MacDonald.

MacDonald believes God can take these fragments, make them whole, and re-gift them to MacDonald. Not cracked and not just a portion, but a whole heart, received with joy and reflecting ‘light in every part.’

Not a bad way to end any day.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 February 2015