The post title is a paraphrase and I’ll tell you the author if you take the time to read down. Long posts typically aren’t encouraged. But if you have a few minutes today, I hope you’ll stay with me and be rewarded with some prose from a really great author who may be new to you.
I picked up an old friend in the form of a worn out book a few moments ago and turned to a dog-eared page with my notes and underlines in the margins. I like to write commentary in my books, it’s one of the reasons I haven’t purchased an e-reader yet. Maybe there’s a way to do that, let me know. One of my favorite things is to pick up a book that spoke to me in the past and re-read sections again. Often whatever it was that made me highlight the phrases the first time, has a way of speaking to me in new ways that are relevant now. Does that ever happen to you?
The passage I marked is one of the best pieces of prose I’ve ever discovered. The selection is perfectly aligned with the dominant red quadrant in my Hermann Brain Dominance Index. It paints pictures with words that help me see possibilities. It’s so good that I’m going to type up a portion of it for you and encourage you to use the comments section to tell me if it helps you too.
The author is a Scotsman named George MacDonald (1824-1905). He was a preacher who wrote poetry, prose, and children’s stories. You probably never heard of him, which is too bad because G.K. Chesterton referred to MacDonald as “one of the three or four greatest men of the nineteenth century.” Unfortunately, not many writers of that era are widely remembered. Especially in the twentieth century as writing styles changed drastically. Victorian writers wrote hefty volumes with 150 word complex sentences. Many got paid by the word, so economics produced a style that paid the rent. Today it’s the opposite and arguably no better. We’re dominated by instant-messages limited to 140 characters for the Twitter-verse. Not many people have the patience or attention span to read anything other than a headline. But I’m going to take a chance on a long post in the hope that the extended weekend will entice you to fly back in time and read something truly worthwhile. If you made it this far without leaving, you’ll be glad to know that this excerpt is from the works of Michael Phillips who took the time to edit MacDonald’s Victorian era style in Your Life in Christ, copyright 2005, Bethany House publishers – Minneapolis, MN. (Links to Amazon).
Courage to Fight for Life
Let us in all the troubles of life remember that our one lack is life, that what we need is more life – more of the life-making presence in us making us more, and more largely, alive.
When most oppressed, when most weary of life, as our unbelief would phrase it, let us remind ourselves that it is in truth the inroad and presence of death we are weary of. When most inclined to sleep, let us rouse ourselves to live. Of all things let us avoid the false refuge of a weary collapse, a hopeless yielding to things as they are. It is the life in us that is discontented. We need more of what is discontented, not more of the cause of its discontent.
Discontent, I repeat, is the life in us that has not enough of itself. He has the victory who, in the midst of pain and weakness, cries out, not for death or for the repose of forgetfulness, but for strength to fight, for more power, more consciousness of being, more God in him. He has the victory who, when sorely wounded, says with Sir Andrew Barton in the old ballad:
Fight on my men, says Sir Andrew Barton
I am hurt, but I am not slain;
I’ll lay me down and bleed awhile,
And then I’ll rise and fight again.
We summon such courage with no silly notion of playing the hero – what have creatures like us who are not yet barely honest to do with heroism! – but because so to fight is the truth, and the only way to live.
If in the extreme of our exhaustion there should come to us, as to Elijah when he slept in the desert, an angel to rouse us and show us the waiting bread and water, how would we carry ourselves? Would we remain faint and unwilling to rise and eat? Would we answer , “Lo, I am weary unto death! The battle is gone from me! It is lost, or not worth gaining! The world is too much for me! Its forces will not heed me! They have worn me out! I have wrought no salvation even for my own, and never should work any, were I to live for ever! It is enough. Let me now return whence I came. Let me be gathered to my fathers and be at rest.”
I should be loath to think that, if the enemy, in recognizable shape, came roaring upon us, we would not, like the red-cross knight, stagger, heavy sword in nerveless arm, to meet him. In the feebleness of foiled effort, it requires yet more faith to rise and partake of the food that shall bring back more effort, more travail, more weariness.
The true man trusts in a strength which is not his and which he does not feel – which he does not even always desire. He believes in a power that seems far from him which is yet at the root of his fatigue itself and his need of rest – rest as far from death as is labour.
To trust in the strength of God in our weakness is victory. To say, “I am weak; so let me be. God is strong, is victory.” To seek from him who is our life, as the natural simple cure of all that is amiss with us, the power to do, and be , and live, even when we are weary – this is the victory that overcomes the world.
To believe in God our strength in the face of all seeming denial . . . to believe in him out of the heart of weakness and unbelief in spite of numbness and weariness and lethargy . . . to believe in the wide-awake real, through all the stupefying, enervating, distorting dream . . . to will to wake when the very being seems athirst for a godless repose – these are the broken steps up to the high fields where repose is but a form of strength, strength but a form of joy, joy but a form of love.
“I am weak,” says the true soul, “but not so weak that I would not be strong, not so sleepy that I would not see the sun rise, not so lame but that I would walk! Thanks be to him who perfects strength in weakness, and gives to his beloved while they sleep!”
If we will but let our God and Father work his will with us, there can be no limit to his enlargement of our existence, to the flood of life with which he will overflow our consciousness. We have no conception of what life might be, of how vast the consciousness of which we could be made capable.
Many can recall some moment in which life seemed richer and fuller than ever before. To some, such moments arrive mostly in dreams. But shall a soul, awake or asleep, embrace a greater bliss than its Life, the living God, can seal, perpetuate, and enlarge? Can the human twilight of a dream be capable of generating or holding a fuller life than the morning of divine reality? Surely God could at any moment give to a soul, by a word breathing afresh into the secret caves of that soul’s being, a sense of life before which the most exultant ecstasy of earthly triumph would pale to ashes!
If ever a sunlit, sail-crowded sea, under a blue heaven flecked with wind-chased white, filled your heart as with a new gift of life, think what sense of existence must be yours if he whose thought has but fringed its garment with the outburst of such a show make his home with you. And while imagining the gladness of God inside your being, think of the wonder that he is carrying you as a father in his bosom!