I will forever remember 2019 as the year I fell in love with George MacDonald. I stumbled on a recording of The Elect Lady on my podcast app. I knew who George MacDonald was, but I did not really begin to know him until I met Andrew Ingram. This brilliant, rebellious, faithful, simple, obedient character so enamored me and reflected back to me the hopes I held for my own discipleship that I had to have more of his creator. Finding this kindred spirit across the century made me giddy. The confirmation of much of what I held dear from so far away in time and space buoyed my faith during a tumultuous time. I soon discovered all the Librivox recordings of GMD’s works and gobbled them up.
What made me search “George MacDonald” in the podcast app? My mother gave me a copy of GMD’s collected fairy tales when I was a young man. I read them but learned little, perhaps adding another lived example to the Lord’s formula in Matthew 13:12, “Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” I inherited an esteem for GMD and understood the power of the imagination in faith formation, but my appreciation for GMD had thus far not surpassed his Inkling heirs. However, that recording of The Elect Lady worked some magic through my earbuds and I knew I had finally met the man, and I loved him.
Listening to GMD’s often dense prose challenged me in a beneficial way. To understand any of it at all required my highest level of focus. This created an almost meditative quality to my listening. There was no room for distraction. I have often likened the experience to breathing in a CPAP ventilator which forces air into the lungs. I have not experienced this first hand, but those who have often say it feels like drowning until one submits and receives. I was drowning in a good way. I probably listened to 20 books that first year.
In the last couple years since I have listened to all of the Librivox recording, David Baldwin’s masterful reading of “Unspoken Sermons” several times; I’ve read many of the children friendly stories to my boys; read books that are not recorded yet; helped record even more books on Librivox; gotten copies of hardbacks for Christmas; and spent a whole year with Diary of an Old Soul in my journal each day. George MacDonald has become my spiritual grandfather.
I am an aspiring George MacDonald geek. I love the George MacDonald Society Facebook Group. I now have a running joke with most of my friends, “I am contractually obligated to bring up George MacDonald in every conversation.”
It has been a whirlwind romance. I think I fell so hard for him because he so exhaustively and consistently demonstrates the gospel as I have come to understand it. To describe that adequately would take too much more space, so I will name only this: his insistence on the knowing that is gained in obedience. Essentially, it is an incarnational, mystical lens which makes so much more sense to me than any alternative. “Our Lord’s arguments are for the presentation of the truth, and the truth carries its own conviction to him who is able to receive it.” (Unspoken Sermons – The Child in the Midst) It is in doing the things of Christ that we come nearest to him.
This will also be posted on the MacDonald and Me section over at worksofmacdonald.com/macdonald-and-me
Illustration above by Caleb Crawford