In my dead moments | From an Old Soul
Do you recognize this tactic? I do. My comments follow.
My soul this sermon hence for itself prepares:–
“Then is there nothing vile thou mayst not do,
Buffeted in a tumult of low cares,
And treacheries of the old man ‘gainst the new.”—
Lord, in my spirit let thy spirit move,
Warning, that it may not have to reprove:–
In my dead moments, master, stir the prayers.
George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul
Augsburg Fortress Press 1994
What’s on MacDonald’s mind as he begins this sonnet?
Restlessness. He doesn’t like the stillness, the apparent absence of God. In the prior sonnet he calls it “God-silence.” MacDonald doesn’t want to rest. He wants to act! Things aren’t going so well for him right now. His old enemies are attacking him. They know him inside out.
He’s tired of waiting for God to guide or enlighten his behavior. His head knows that his life is “hid with Christ in God.” But his emotions and impulses want to do something. Now, not later.
MacDonald knows many things in his head:
- In a situation like this, independent action spawns nothing but death.
- Taking matters into his own hands would be foolish if not suicidal.
- Making his self-serving action sound like the only good or possible choice he has, even against his known enemy, is self-defeating and a betrayal of who he is. To say nothing of who God is.
Yet here he is, out on a limb all by himself. Well, not quite. Not if he stays in the safety of his God-nest. Right now he’s still thinking things over.
He knows what’s going on because he’s been here before. In fact, his favorite coping method might be worth a try! It’s simple. He could make up a little self-justifying sermon for himself.
Actually, MacDonald may not need to work hard to write this little sermon for and to himself. It seems he already knows how it goes.
You, G MacD, can do whatever you choose to do
because you’re fighting against an unscrupulous enemy!
Surely God will understand that I did the best I could. In fact, I may deserve a medal of honor for turning the enemy’s methods to ‘good’ use. Admirable use, I might add.
Did I pray about it? Actually, I did, but I didn’t hear any answer from You! I assumed that meant I would have to do the best I could, under the circumstances. Besides, I was acting in Your best interests, not just in mine. I thought You’d be proud of me. Or at least understand.
Yet You seem to think these self-made words simply cover over the truth: I’m in over my head. I can’t and won’t get out of this by my own quick thinking or by any so-called ‘sermon to myself’ that reasons my way into the camp, tactics or arms of the enemy.
So what other choice is there? Oh. You’d rather give me a warning than rebuke? You think I need to stop trying to justify my desires? That I should let Your spirit in me pray what I don’t know how to pray?
Easier said than done. Not just for MacDonald.
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 December 2015