Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Diary of an Old Soul

The human shadow revisited

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                            Mature Dawn Redwood at Longwood Gardens

Five years ago I posted comments on George MacDonald’s sonnet for June 9. Today I rediscovered it, right on time. It helps me think about my actions during this tumultuous uprising through which we must go together, or die. My lightly edited comments from five years ago follow.

June 9

Faith is the human shadow of thy might.
Thou art the one self-perfect life, and we
Who trust thy life, therein join on to thee,
Taking our part in self-creating light.
To trust is to step forward out of the night—
To be—to share in the outgoing Will
That lives and is, because outgoing still.

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

What does MacDonald’s opening line mean? “Faith is the human shadow of thy might.”

I can’t help thinking about the grand trees I saw yesterday. It was a hot, humid day begging for shade and breezes. We found it beneath huge trees reaching toward the sky. Could their welcome shade be like faith? An earthly shadow of God’s creative reach?

I imagine myself stepping out of burning sun (MacDonald’s ‘night’), into the shade. Into faith that exists only because of ‘thee’ and ‘thy might.’ I didn’t create the shade. I can’t touch it. I feel it in every part of me. It calms the boiling molecules in my body. It gives me energy to move forward and outward.

Imagine this. Perhaps the Creator’s towering tree-like presence reaches out large limbs that support a leafy umbrella offering respite and relief. I’m not the tree. Yet by standing within the tree’s shadow, I join myself to its life. To my true home. Unlike the tree, I can’t see this with my eyes, yet I know it by faith. Faith that dwells within the shadows of the Creator’s presence.

This means stepping forward “out of the night” is like stepping into the shade of a majestic tree. It’s a way of sharing in the life of the tree, of gaining strength and energy found only within its life, its ‘will,’ its outgoing nature.

The Creator’s will, like the tree, is outgoing. Reaching away from itself to create and recreate all nature including human nature. To become part of the Creator’s life is to ‘join on’ by stepping forward ‘out of the night’ (or out of the burning heat).

Only then do I exist truly and share fully as a human participant in the life of this world with all its upheavals and joys. Not because of my own great ideas, but as a participant in this strangely beautiful and demanding partnership with our Creator.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 June 2015, lightly edited and reposted on 9 June 2020
Photo credit: DAFraser, 9 June 2015, Longwood Gardens

Prayer

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Dear Friends,

This week was a roller coaster. Highs and lows one after the other. Still, I wrote in my journal and will post some pieces later. The picture is messy. Not because it’s ugly, but because it isn’t logical or sensible.

In the midst of the ups and downs I’ve followed George MacDonald’s sonnets for May. Some keep drawing me back for another read. Not because they’re profound, but because they’re simple and speak to my heart and situation right now.

Here’s one I’ve read over and over the last few days. It comforts me during this extended, unexpected Sabbath rest.

May 26

My prayers, my God, flow from what I am not;
I think thy answers make me what I am.
Like weary waves thought follows upon thought.
But the still depth beneath is all thine own,
And there thou mov’st in paths to us unknown.
Out of strange strife thy peace is strangely wrought;
If the lion in us pray—thou answerest the lamb.

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

I identify with every line, every word, every nuance. Especially the contrast between what I am not and what I am. Not because of myself, but because of the way God answers me. Not in kind, but in ways only a little lost lamb understands.

  • I roar with indignation; God whispers with comfort.
  • I get my back up; God rubs it gently.
  • I complain about the puny food that’s set before me; God smiles and pours a glass of wine.
  • I rage; God sings a lullaby.
  • I blame God; God holds me closer.

Stubbornly (!), God keeps responding to the little lost lamb. Taming my anger, showing me who I am in God’s eyes. Reassuring me, like waves that keep washing up on the shore, that God is found in the depths of the ocean. Not in the wearying repetition of my human effort to make a mark on life.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 May 2016
Image found at cityviewchurch.com.au

Teach me to pray

children-praying-church

This sonnet by George MacDonald took me back to childhood struggles with public prayer. Especially public prayer in front of my father when we had daily Bible reading and prayer after breakfast. My child’s prayer follows MacDonald’s adult prayer. Read the rest of this entry »

Thou carest more

Child Praying with Mother, Basco Light House Philippines, Ivatan Art Batanes Yaru Gallery-17
Do you want nothing but the best? If so, George MacDonald tells us exactly how to get it. My comments follow his sonnet. Read the rest of this entry »

Dignity

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Nothing is as amazing as God’s grace. MacDonald’s sonnet captures it with an image that invites me to hand over something I hold dear. My comments follow. Read the rest of this entry »

Thou art my life

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

Read the rest of this entry »

our inmost garments

God welcoming a prodigal
MacDonald has death on his mind. Not death as a process, but death as the proper goal of life. His images are positive, though the realities he names aren’t usually welcome. My comments follow. Read the rest of this entry »

Farewell, my dove!

Vitis vinifera Frankenthaler

Do you know when and how to prune a grapevine? George MacDonald wrote this sonnet in August, when grape leaves often begin dropping naturally, hopefully exposing clumps of ripe grapes. My comments follow his sonnet. Read the rest of this entry »

Thy gracious cup

Communion bread and wine

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…. Read the rest of this entry »

Neither this nor that

Mary and Martha, He Qi

In the late 1970s I was studying theology at Vanderbilt University. Getting through coursework and comprehensive exams was frightful enough. But more terrifying was the requirement that I write a dissertation that would Read the rest of this entry »

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