Living in thy realities | From an Old Soul
I want life to follow my way, truth, my notions about how things are or should be. I’m not alone. My comments follow George MacDonald’s sonnets.
Oh, let me live in thy realities,
Nor substitute my notions for thy facts,
Notion with notion making leagues and pacts;
They are to truth but as dream-deeds to acts,
And questioned, make me doubt of everything.
“O Lord, my God,” my heart gets up and cries,
“Come thy own self, and with thee my faith bring.”
O Master, my desires to work, to know,
To be aware that I do live and grow—
All restless wish for anything not thee,
I yield, and on thy altar offer me.
Let me no more from out thy presence go,
But keep me waiting watchful for thy will—
Even while I do it, waiting watchful still.
George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul
Augsburg Fortress Press 1994
MacDonald has a theme for each month of the year. He describes his theme for July’s sonnets like this:
He builds me now — and if I cannot see
At any time what he is doing with me,
‘Tis that he makes the house for me too grand.
July’s sonnets focus on what God is building. Is it a mansion or castle for MacDonald? Why is it taking so long to complete? MacDonald’s frail open-air tent on the moor invites whirlwinds and howling to sweep through, terrorizing him by night.
He recognizes himself in this dark terror. Only God can turn things around, though it seems to take a very long time. Not because God is slow, but because MacDonald has trouble giving God freedom to do this work. Two steps forward, one step backward. Much stumbling, complaining and losing his way.
Yet over time, MacDonald discovers the big picture. God isn’t building a house (MacDonald’s) into which God will come and go. No. This grand house is God, in whom MacDonald is invited to live and rest. Not just when he’s asleep, but when he’s restless, uncertain what to do next.
MacDonald abandons some of his notions about God and the way God relates to him, especially when God seems far away or slow to answer. For example, if God seems slow, it’s because God is working with him, not against him. God patiently adapts to MacDonald without rushing ahead or pushing him to hurry up.
Now it’s nearly the end of July, and MacDonald still has ‘notions’ that need to be questioned. Dwelling in the house of God isn’t dull. In fact, the more MacDonald relaxes into this ‘nest,’ this dwelling place in God, the more precarious it feels. Sometimes he wants to strike out on his own, asking and answering his own questions. Figuring things out so that his notions fit together, confirming each other.
I love to think and talk about notions. Especially notions about God, ourselves and this world God entrusts to us one day at a time. Didn’t God give me a mind? And ability to gather information and form well thought-out notions?
Yet the solution to MacDonald’s questions and notions often turn his own language inside out. Thus, God’s so-called logic sweeps away MacDonald’s best efforts to put it all into coherent words and ideas that make sense of what seems non-sense.
For example, God isn’t far away. I’m far away from God! Or how about this: When it seems God is absent, I don’t need to go looking for God. God’s seeming absence is itself a safe ‘nesting place’ where I’m free to do absolutely nothing but wait, rest and trust God. Growing up means staying in this nest, not leaving it.
In the end, I can’t keep up my faith by clinging to my beloved notions. Faith takes root as a gift when I offer the only thing God wants from me—my full self, not my fancy notions or even my restless best efforts to get things moving. As though I were God or better.
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 January 2016