Living upon thy air | From an Old Soul
“Living upon thy air.” The air God gives me with each breath. Air that binds me to you by way of Christ, the Lord of life. Not with ropes, chains, locks, or any number of good deeds to prove I deserve special treatment.
MacDonald’s last two sonnets for July are straightforward. They point to themes and images that exercised his mind and heart all month. They point to God as the dwelling place offered and brought to life in Christ. The “secret thing” in which we’re to rest–God’s castle, nest, silence.
In the second sonnet below, MacDonald uses a line from Shakespeare’s MacBeth to name this habitation yet again. “In the great hand of God I stand, and thence….”
Whatever we call it, this dwelling place is costly. It cost God everything, and it requires us to give up control. I can’t have it both ways. I can’t own even a tiny fraction of it. Rather, day by day I must choose yet again to “live upon thy air,” not my striving.
Without apology or self-pity, MacDonald lays out his daily struggle to stay centered in the hollow of God’s hand. God’s nest. God’s house.
Though the choice is clear, it isn’t automatic. It’s like getting married, earning a degree or learning a new skill. When people say ‘practice makes perfect,’ they mean well. They mean to encourage me.
Even so, practice doesn’t make perfect. It shows how far I’ve come, and how far I have yet to go. Each day I must choose yet again, moved by my thirst for something more.
So here’s to more writers like George MacDonald who share their internal struggles in life. I’d like to think of MacDonald’s writings as part of the ‘nest’ God has built for us. It isn’t a single-dweller unit (for MacDonald’s benefit only), but an open, welcoming, ever-growing habitat for people such as you and I.
Being grounded in God means that through Jesus Christ we’re linked to each other for better and for worse. In God’s great hand we view the world as God sees it: God’s “endless, holy feast.” Not leftovers or discards, but a feast laid for anyone willing to receive from God “endless more than I could find” on my own.
Here’s MacDonald’s poetic farewell to July.
July 30 – 31
Thou art the Lord of life, the secret thing.
Thou wilt give endless more than I could find,
Even if without thee I could go and seek;
For thou art one, Christ, with my deepest mind
Duty alive, self-willed, in me doth speak.
And to a deeper purer being sting:
I come to thee, my life, my causing kind.
Nothing is alien in thy world immense—
No look of sky or earth or man or beast;
‘In the great hand of God I stand, and thence’
Look out on life, his endless, holy feast.
To try to feel is but to court despair,
To dig for a sun within a garden-fence:
Who does thy will, O God, lives upon thy air.
George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul
Augsburg Fortress Press 1994
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 January 2016