Inexorable Love: Reflections on G. MacDonald 2

Nothing is inexorable but love.  Love which will yield to prayer is imperfect and poor.  Nor is it then the love that yields, but its alloy…For love loves unto purity.  Love has ever in view the absolute loveliness of that which it beholds.  Where loveliness is incomplete, and love cannot love its fill of loving, it spends itself to make more lovely, that it may love more; it strives for perfection, even that itself may be perfected- not in itself, but in the object…Therefore all that is not beautiful in the beloved, all that comes between and is not of love’s kind, must be destroyed.  And our God is a consuming fire.

CS Lewis states in the introduction to his anthology of George MacDonald that he has given the title “Inexorable Love” to many of the entries, and that, indeed, that title “would serve for the whole collection.  Inexorability- but never the inexorability of anything less than love- runs through it like a refrain…yet this urgency never becomes shrill.  All the sermons are suffused with a spirit of love and wonder which prevents it from doing so.”

Inexorability: to be relentless, not given to compromise.  One can see MacDonald almost trying to describe a force of Nature: the unstoppable tsunami, the tornado cutting its own path where it will, the continuous layering of hail and snow (hello, New England!), the unrelenting heat of the desert sun.  Can love be described in this way?  We are prone to associate destructive forces with this idea of inexorability, as well as emotions like anger, hate, and wrath.  “And our God is a consuming fire” is seen as a threat to a tranquil existence, a disruption of our natural state, and the inevitable thought “God mus be angry.”  Love is supposed to be a breezy summer day, a soft pillow of niceness on which to lay our sleepy romantic heads.

MacDonald refutes this idea, more inclined to get us to see love as a Force, and God’s Love as the Greatest Force.  And look at its objective!   “Where loveliness is incomplete, and love cannot love its fill of loving, it spends itself to make more lovely, that it may love more; it strives for perfection, even that itself may be perfected- not in itself, but in the object.”  It has almost a frantic desire to uncover and hold up to itself the perfected beauty of the Other, and it will not stop until this is attained.  Certain shades of this can be seen in Francis Thompson’s “The Hound of Heaven,” or in the stripping away of Eustace’s dragon skin in Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  The type of love God wishes to share with us has no room and actively strips away that which hinders only that purest of all Loves: hate, greed, fear, anxiety, etc.  One can see how much more complex, true, and accurate this perception is rather than the juvenile, and often cited argument against Christianity, “I must believe and/or follow because I don’t want to go to hell,” or that bargaining mentality of Pascal’s wager, which reduces everything about God to a “you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours” mindset.  This reduces Love to the realms of economic theory.  MacDonald urges us to see the natural, transcendent force of God’s love for his creation.  Would that we may see it and give it to the Others in our lives as well.

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