Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: The Book of Strife in the Form of the Diary of an Old Soul

This weariness of mine | George MacDonald

For several months I’ve been up, down, and all over the place trying to figure out who I am now, and why I feel so weary. To things that fell apart years ago, new things arrive unannounced, no matter how long or short the distance may be from here to the end of life as I’ve known it.

On January 1 of this year I began reading one of George MacDonald’s sonnets each day. It’s my 3rd or 4th time going through them. This time, however, I’m finally beginning to hear MacDonald as he was when he wrote them. He was living through a slow, painful death following many years of chronic tuberculosis, the loss of five of his children (4 to tuberculosis), and ongoing debates with church officials who didn’t find his brand of Christianity fully acceptable.

My life has been a lark compared to his. Yet even as I write this I know it’s not the truth. My life has NOT been a lark. I have often not been fully accepted as the person I am, beginning with my upbringing and continuing through my adult years. I must also say I wouldn’t have made it without unnumbered friends and strangers along the way.

These days, weariness is a constant companion. Some of it because of new and old health issues; other pieces because of what it has cost, and still costs me to be the woman I am. I’m often tempted to feel sorry for myself, or angry because of what I inherited the day I was born.

This sonnet, however, isn’t about the past. It’s about the present and the future. It’s about the wonderful gift of accepting weariness as a sign that I’ve done what I could do. Like fruit past ripe, I too am waiting to drop wearily into the good earth. Finally at rest.

Here’s the sonnet I didn’t understand until today.

3 December, from George MacDonald’s The Book of Strife in the Form of the Diary of an Old Soul

This weariness of mine, may it not come
From something that doth need no setting right?
Shall fruit be blamed if it hang wearily
A day before it perfected drop plumb
To the sad earth from off its nursing tree?
Ripeness must always come with loss of might.
The weary evening fall before the resting night.

© 1994 Augsburg Fortress, page 120

Thanks for reading and listening. I couldn’t ask for a better audience.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 December 2022
Tanbirul Islam, photographer; photo found at http://www.pexels.com

Thou answerest the lamb | George MacDonald

Most mornings I read one of George MacDonald’s sonnets while I’m eating breakfast. I’ve read through them more than once in the last three decades.

However, life has changed since then. I’m approaching death (as I always have but didn’t feel so keenly). In addition, churches and religious leaders, state and national leaders, and educational institutions (to name a few) are often addicted to choosing politically ‘correct’ sides. It’s costly to acknowledge our failures and blindness in order to listen to the least protected and vulnerable among us, and act accordingly.

Violence and tragedies are in the news these days. My first response is often outrage. This sonnet strikes a chord in me. It helps me get focused yet again on who and what I am and am not.

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.

From George MacDonald’s The Book of Strife in the Form of the Diary of an Old Soul, 1880
Sonnet for May 26
The text is in the Public Domain.

I’m not suggesting all I have to do is remember I’m a lamb. Instead, though I’m not a lion, prayers that flow from my distress and anger won’t be discarded. Instead, answer to our prayers will come from One who understands today’s “strange strife” better than we understand any of it.

This sonnet isn’t about being disciplined by our Creator. It’s an invitation to be a lamb, letting my prayers be what they are and knowing our Creator works behind the scenes, moving “in paths to us unknown.” It isn’t magic; it’s a partnership.

Thanks for stopping by, especially today.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 May 2022
Photo found at edgarsmission.org

remember then thy fear | George MacDonald

The sonnet below blows me away. Not because it’s beautiful, but because it’s timely, true, and thought-provoking. Especially now, when we’re surrounded on all sides by friends and strangers haunted by dismay and death. The possibilities are endless: suicide, warfare of all kinds, bombing, Covid, lynching old style or new style, aging….

George MacDonald (1824-1905) dealt with his own incurable tuberculosis, witnessed the early death of six of his children, and was not well received by many church leaders. He also wrote amazing novels such as Lilith, and books for children such as At the Back of the North Wind. Dismay and death were regular visitors in his life.

Here’s MacDonald’s March 24 sonnet from The Book of Strife in the Form of the Diary of an Old Soul, also known as The Diary of an Old Soul.

O Christ, have pity on all folk when they come
Unto the border haunted of dismay;
When that they know not draweth very near–
The other thing, the opposite of day.
Formless and ghastly, sick, and gaping-dumb,
Before which even love doth lose its cheer;
O radiant Christ, remember then thy fear.

George MacDonald (1824-1905), author
First published in The Book of Strife in the Form of the Diary of an Old Soul
© 1994 Augsburg Press, Diary of an Old Soul
Sonnet for March 24 found on p. 36

The last line of the sonnet says it all. MacDonald is praying on behalf of human beings “haunted of dismay.” They know death has moved too close for comfort. Too close for cheer.

This is what moves me. Instead of asking the “radiant Christ” to restore their cheer, he asks Christ to “remember then thy fear.” In other words, he’s asking Christ to accept and thus honor their fear, anguish, and anger. Including, I would add, MacDonald’s and that of our friends and family, plus our own.

Thanks for visiting, and for remembering friends and neighbors dealing with their own deaths.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 March 2022
Photo found at amazon.com, Kindle

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