“Gloriously wasteful, . . .”
Do you fall in love with gorgeous sunsets and starry skies? Here’s a sonnet from George MacDonald that talks about this and more. I’ll comment at the end.
Gloriously wasteful, O my Lord, art thou!
Sunset faints after sunset into the night,
Splendorously dying from thy window-sill—
For ever. Sad our poverty doth bow
Before the riches of thy making might:
Sweep from thy space thy systems at thy will—
In thee sets every sunset still.
George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul,
© 1994 Augsburg Fortress Press
What do we make of this?
- God is “gloriously wasteful!”
- “Sunset faints after sunset into the night, splendorously dying.”
- Not one, but six references to God, as well as calling God “my Lord.” Thou, thy (4 times), thee.
It seems God is head over heels besotted with the beauty of God’s own creations–not just one, but thousands upon thousands, day after day, night after night.
If this sounds extravagant, it is. MacDonald’s description of God at work doesn’t sound anything like language I heard growing up or in my places of work. For example,
- Waste not, want not.
- Don’t throw it away, you might need it someday!
- A penny saved is a penny earned.
- Our resources are limited! We need to keep our galaxies under control! No unnecessary galaxies (or rainbows) unless you petition for an exception.
- We can’t afford another sunset. You’ll just have to live without them. Stop whining.
Instead, MacDonald depicts God as a lavish spender. Wasteful! Throwing sunset after sunset, night after night, without a second thought or even a lovely photo to capture the moment.
It seems there are more than enough sunsets and galaxies within God’s “making power” to last forever. No need to hoard them. No calculating, slicing and dicing the numbers, keeping track, or weighing input and output.
No reports. No assessments of effectiveness. No performance reviews. Just glorious wastefulness and splendorously dying sunsets flung daily from God’s window-sill. Splendorous dying–meaning majestic, imposing, grand and glorious dying!
Think about it. Not just one sunset per day, but thousands, seen daily around the globe and who knows where else in the universe. Flaming out before dying, over and over (“for ever.”). In fact, God’s “making power” can sweep away entire galaxies and suns. The last line seems to suggest they return to God and are at rest: “In thee sets every sunset still.”
MacDonald may have another truth in mind. A truth to which nature points in its glorious wastefulness. That would be God’s unlimited storehouse of grace. Just as God doesn’t hesitate to lavish magnificent sunsets on us, God doesn’t hesitate to lavish magnificent grace upon us. Day after day. Night after night.
It’s difficult for me to grasp this reality. In fact, I can’t. I don’t understand God’s logic of gloriously wasteful grace that benefits me just as it benefits others–regardless of who we are or what we’ve done.
Maybe that’s why I love sunsets and watching the night sky. They remind me of how much God loves to fling grace from God’s window-sill. Lavishly, exorbitantly, without calculation and without holding back because there might not be enough for tomorrow. Or enough to go around.
As MacDonald says, “Sad our poverty doth bow Before the riches of thy making might.” We’re sad in the poverty of our imaginations and in our capacity to create beauty in nature. We’re also sad in the sense of not beginning to hold a candle to God’s riches. We’re not, however, sad in the sense of rejoicing (riotously, wastefully!) and even swimming (fully immersed!) in wave after wave of God’s vast ocean of grace.
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 March 2015