Thou art my life

by Elouise

Lilith-book-cover-2-george-macdonald-35977449-297-475

Have you read George MacDonald’s adult fantasy, Lilith? I couldn’t help making a connection between this sonnet, the plot of Lilith, and Easter. My comments follow the sonnet.

August 12

Thou art my knowledge and my memory,
No less than my real, deeper life, my love.
I will not fool, degrade myself to trust
In less than that which maketh me say Me,
In less than that causing itself to be.
Thou art within me, behind, beneath, above—
I will be thine because I may and must.

George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul
Augsburg Fortress Press 1994

And if I am not thine, then what…?
According to MacDonald, the alternative is clear. If I am not thine, I would be a fool, utterly degraded, without support behind, beneath, above or within.

Nothing would remain but a shell, a vacuum, a hollow life. Everything turned upside down and inside out. Not a shadow of Me to be found, though I might be ever so convinced of my reality.

In MacDonald’s adult novel Lilith, Mr. Vane, the protagonist, spends most of his time navigating a parallel world in which he arrives almost by accident. It appears real.

Yet its landscapes, inhabitants and ‘natural’ laws are at least semi-alien. Its inhabitants are horrifying and beautiful. They appear real, yet change or fall apart without warning. Some seem to make painful progress, but will they ever get there?

Sometimes they have human-like abilities and bodies. Others are apparitions, with only a grotesque likeness to humans. All exist within a strange vacuum of seeming normality and empty chaos.

The larger landscape is unpredictable, with unnatural laws that have other-worldly logic, so that trusting one’s instincts is quickly thwarted. Not by instant death, but by haunting, never-ending stages of loss, hope, painstakingly miniscule progress (to what end?), and confrontation with evil itself in various guises.

What does it take, then, to become ‘Me’? More than once Mr. Vane is offered the opportunity to become his true self. He wants this, yet the cost is high, and he isn’t ready to pay it. Despite warnings, he blunders off with precious little to guide him. He’s intent on navigating his way through this half-life that feels more like non-life, though not yet death itself.

Sadly, this is how not to become ‘Me.’ What tempts him? Many things, especially his noble desire to do good for others. He wants to save this parallel universe from the evil lurking within. Evil that often appears good, beautiful, true and seductive.

Our protagonist fancies himself a humble and somewhat reluctant hero. Vainly he pursues what amounts to a non-mission. He’s drawn in by his weakness for lovely or distressed women and sweet, innocent children. Against all odds, he intends to make what he would call progress. A self-sacrificing pilgrim.

My point is this.
Like Mr. Vane, you and I will become ‘real’ only when we give up attempts to make ourselves into people we are not. According to MacDonald, that would be playing the fool. We can never be the heroes of our own lives or the lives of others, no matter how worthy the cause.

There’s only one crown of glory, and it’s already taken. Only one human being has demonstrated wise, unselfconscious tenacity from the beginning to the end. We celebrate this at Easter.

As for the rest of us, the best we can do is surrender, lay down our heroic, self-made storylines, and receive from God another script and a new identity. Only then are we fully ourselves–followers of Jesus in this world God created and loves so much.

Thou art within me, behind, beneath, above—
I will be thine because I may and must.

***

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 March 2016
Book cover from http://www.fanpop.com