Faith and Focus for the New Year: George MacDonald

George Macdonald (1824-1905)

George MacDonald (1824-1905)

That man is perfect in faith who can come to God in the utter dearth of his feelings and desires, without a glow or an aspiration, with the weight of low thoughts, failures, neglects, and wandering forgetfulness, and say to Him, “Thou art my refuge.”

Happy New Year to all! I have not made any New Year’s resolutions per se, but in order to offer some focus to this blog, my writing, and my devotional meditations (3 birds with one stone!), I am embarking on a journey through C.S. Lewis’s anthology of George MacDonald. This consists of 365 readings of the Scottish novelist, poet, and clergyman focusing on everything regarding to the faith, from God’s Love to Death, Forgiveness, Prayer, Miracles, and everything in between. I will use the blog to either simply post the daily reading as I go along, or reflect on portions of the daily reading. Normally my modus operandi consists of devouring several books at once, and from there attempting to sift through the information to find a kernel of wisdom lost from the inundation of my gluttonous reading habit. This different approach, similar, I think, to the monastic practice of lectio divina, will hinder the sense of confusion which usually results from my normal practice, and do what all good reflective reading is meant to do: slow down the mind. I usually stay away from “devotional reading” books as I find them trite and often too sentimental. I trust that this anthology will be different, as I do have respect for the discerning mind of its compiler.

For those of you who do not know much about George MacDonald, you can find a biographical sketch of his life here. The Golden Key is another good resource.  MacDonald was influential in the writings of both C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and many others. Oh, and we share a birthday, too. When you get a chance, please wish him a happy 184th birthday.

So, onto the quote above “That man is perfect in faith….” Here I think we start off the year with a wonderful paradox. How can one be perfect “with the weight of low thoughts” and “wandering forgetfulness?” We are able to come to God in prayer sometimes with a joyous heart- if we have had a good day, or in the memory of a good day from the past. However, often I know I settle down for my prayers not even wanting to pray, with my mind distracted with thoughts and activities that either will be coming up (morning prayer) or which I have had to deal with (evening prayer). But MacDonald seems to bring that act of prayer back to its barest essence- the recognition that, with heads bowed, our reliance is on the God who offers Himself as refuge for us- no matter what the circumstance. For we are perfect in faith when in any situation, we rely and hope in the love of God the Father. When we see those low thoughts, distractions, and failures as the ultimate reality of our lives, then we have no faith. But turning to the One who can lift us beyond that “reality,” therein lies the hope and joy that comes from life in Him.


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