In one of his meditations in Diary of an Old Soul, George MacDonald begged Christ “to possess me utterly. Take me and make a little Christ of me.” His poem then speaks of how resistant our human hearts are to this holy re-making and enlivening of our souls, and then he makes this beautiful prayer:
But we who would be born again indeed,
Must wake our souls unnumbered times a day,
And urge ourselves to life with holy greed;
Now ope our bosoms to the wind’s free play;
And now, with patience forceful, hard, lie still,
Submiss and ready to the making will,
Athirst and empty, for God’s breath to fill.
I love the playful and evocative language of MacDonald’s writing that teases us with bold and tantalizing images of this soul-blessing process of human hunger disciplined into attentive yearning for God’s holy touch of life. The first time I read his poem, I was especially taken by the phrase, “and urge ourselves to life with holy greed.” So accustomed are we to viewing greed as one of the seven deadly sins, that the phrase, holy greed, seems almost a contradiction in terms. That is, until we ponder the deeper mystery of those graces and gifts God has waiting for us to receive, if we but ask.
As an aside, I find myself drawn again and again to the twice repeated triad of invitation and promise which Jesus gave to his disciples, namely that if we but ask, seek and knock, it will be given, received and opened to us. In other words, our problem, as C. S. Lewis argued, is not that we ask too much of God, we ask too little. Indeed, half the time we ask not at all – the opposite of what Jesus again suggested in the parable of the persistent widow.
It is as if heaven’s storehouse has unlimited riches for the soul, yet somehow they remain out of reach, not because of God’s stinginess or reluctance to provide; rather because we are so slow, stubborn and lazy in the requesting. MacDonald’s words remind us of so many scripture passages about our need to want what God has for us with all our heart; in truth, to want God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength. We are called to hunger and thirst like starving men and women after the righteousness God alone can provide because we know no human effort or achievement ever comes close to the holy joy and freedom of God’s mercy and acceptance. We are called to pray without ceasing, not because heaven’s gate has to be battered down; rather it is the terrible self-reliance of the heart and the ingrained fearful disbelief that God could be that good which keeps our fists clenched in refusal and our souls shuttered from beholding the blessings promised to us.
A mentor of mine often speaks of his prayer for “more.” His prayer, spoken with holy greed, is to taste more of the Holy Spirit, to be filled more and more completely with the power of heaven’s joy and the presence of God’s renewing grace. He prays for more of his own broken and wounded soul to be surrendered into God’s healing mercies and to be made whole for the sake of the Kingdom. And he prays for more and more release of the Spirit within for the sake of serving his Saviour.
As September rolls around and our congregation gears up its various ministries and programs, my own prayer would be that we would be that above all God would spur and wake our souls unnumbered times a day, that we with holy greed would seek after not just the blessings of God but the God of all blessing. My prayer is that we would have such a holy longing and sense of desperate urgency to be used by God for what he wants to accomplish through us, and to be wholly submissive to whatever his calling might be. My prayer is that our hearts would long for the more of God.