Thy gracious cup
Can you imagine a grapevine hoarding a single grape? Refusing to let it drop to the ground? George MacDonald suggests he might be a fool of a similar sort. Read on….
I am a fool when I would stop and think,
And lest I lose my thoughts, from duty shrink.
It is but avarice in another shape.
‘Tis as the vine-branch were to hoard the grape
Nor trust the living root beneath the sod.
What trouble is that child to thee, my God,
Who sips thy gracious cup, and will not drink!
George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul
Augsburg Fortress 1994
Fear of losing my thoughts? What’s so awful about that? MacDonald says avarice is the problem. Excessive greed. At least one notch above everyday greed. Greed that leads to shrinking from my duty.
This isn’t about excessive greed for money or worldly goods. Rather, it’s about avarice that hoards small, visible signs of what seems life-giving, yet stops me dead in my tracks.
It keeps me clinging for dear life not to money, but to my thoughts. Why? Perhaps they seem to give me life, or at least prove I’m still alive.
Think about that grape. The grapevine doesn’t want to give up the precious grape. After all, it’s juicy, spectacular, luscious, and a visible sign of the grapevine’s life and fruitfulness! At least right now.
MacDonald likens his greedily hoarded thoughts to the grapevine’s hoarded grape. He suggests a connection between avarice and pride. The kind of pride we might have about earthshaking insights we think we’ve discovered. Especially about God and God’s ways with us. The fruit of our thoughtful labor.
Yet according to MacDonald I must give them up, let them go—one way or another. Otherwise, I can’t do my ‘duty’ as God’s beloved daughter-child. I’ll be so full of myself that I’ll have no room left to accept God’s gracious cup.
This isn’t about the worth of my thoughts. It’s about clinging to them so that my lifeline to the living root beneath the sod is in danger of being severed.
The living root is the only true source of my life. Not my great thoughts. If I don’t stop hoarding them, I won’t have time or room for the contents of God’s gracious cup.
That’s easier said than done. The more admiration my luscious grape-like thoughts receive, the more alive I feel! How could I possibly let them disappear into the ground below? Or even worse, give them away!
Indeed. Perhaps I’m greedy to be like God instead of being God’s daughter-child. If so, I can just sip a bit now and then. I don’t really need to drink all of God’s gracious cup, do I?
I don’t want to appear needier than I am. Better to hold onto those precious thoughts that serve as signs I’m alive, and take a little sip from time to time. It would be greedy to take too much. Besides, I’m not that thirsty right now!
I can’t help thinking about communion or celebrating the Eucharist. The grape is not the ground of my being. Nor are my deeply profound or everyday thoughts about God or God’s world. I desperately need every gracious drop God offers me, not a polite ceremonial sip every now and then.
When we celebrate communion in my church, we take a piece of bread from a loaf and dip it into the cup.
I wonder. Perhaps I need the entire loaf, not just a pinch or even a hefty chunk. Not because of my excesive greed, but as a sign of my total dependence upon God, my “living root beneath the sod.”
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 March 2016
Photo from FreeFoto.com, found at mamasemptynest.wordpress.com
Just found your blog. It comes at a good time. I happened to be looking up information about mill wheels to decipher a George MacDonald poem. You wrote about it, so thanks for your help. I am also a surviving PK who is working on a seminary degree. I found myself drawn into your honest writing. Looking forward to journeying with you on your blog.
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Dear Karis (what a lovely name!),
I’m so happy you found me because of your connection to George MacDonald! What a wonderful surprise. I’m delighted to have you following along. Thanks for your kind comment.