“No Comparing:” Reflections on George MacDonald 20

Here there is no room for ambition.  Ambition is the desire to be above one’s neighbor; and here there is no possibility of comparison with one’s neighbor: no one knows what the white stone contains except the man who receives it… Relative worth is not only unknown- to the children of the Kingdom it is unknowable.

A note of context before we begin: the “white stone” that MacDonald refers to alludes to Revelation 2:17 (“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  To him who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone which no one knows except him who receives it.”)  MacDonald notes that each of us gets a “white stone” from God, that expresses, in Him, our deepest identity and meaning.

We like ambition in the United States.  We need ambition now- the drive to get this country moving again, to recover what’s been lost- sense of unity and hope.  But it’s necessary to define the first word in this reflection: “Here.”

What “here,” is MacDonald talking about?  When ambition is “the desire to be above one’s neighbor,” it is an ambition based on the Self.  What “I” want, what “I” deserve.  Therefore, the “here” that MacDonald speaks of , which has “no room for ambition” must be a place of Non-Self, or a focus to where the Self is not the Center.  This is a “here” in the presence of God.  There is no measure, no “relative worth,” for, as Jack Kerouac once said, “All is precious and holy.”

This is why when Jesus was approached by the mother of the sons of Zebedee, who wanted her two sons to sit at the right and left of Christ in Heaven, he said “You do not know what you are asking.” Later in the passage he spoke to the other disciples: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.  It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mt. 20: 25-29)

Those who long to be close to God must first let go of the desire to be first among others.  There is no hierarchy of Love with God.  It encompasses all completely and fully.  To desire to have more of the Love than another corrupts that Love, and makes it unattainable.

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