From Phantastes by George MacDonald<:
Then first I knew the delight of being lowly; of saying to myself, “I am what I am, nothing more.” “I have failed,” I said, “I have lost myself—would it had been my shadow.” I looked round: the shadow was nowhere to be seen. Ere long, I learned that it was not myself, but only my shadow, that I had lost. I learned that it is better, a thousand-fold, for a proud man to fall and be humbled, than to hold up his head in his pride and fancied innocence. I learned that he that will be a hero, will barely be a man; that he that will be nothing but a doer of his work, is sure of his manhood. In nothing was my ideal lowered, or dimmed, or grown less precious; I only saw it too plainly, to set myself for a moment beside it. Indeed, my ideal soon became my life; whereas, formerly, my life had consisted in a vain attempt to behold, if not my ideal in myself, at least myself in my ideal. Now, however, I took, at first, what perhaps was a mistaken pleasure, in despising and degrading myself. Another self seemed to arise, like a white spirit from a dead man, from the dumb and trampled self of the past. Doubtless, this self must again die and be buried, and again, from its tomb, spring a winged child; but of this my history as yet bears not the record.
Self will come to life even in the slaying of self; but there is ever something deeper and stronger than it, which will emerge at last from the unknown abysses of the soul: will it be as a solemn gloom, burning with eyes? or a clear morning after the rain? or a smiling child, that finds itself nowhere, and everywhere?
From Sir Gibbie by George MacDonald:
It had not dawned upon him yet that he was not unfortunate, but unworthy. The gain of such a conviction is to a man enough to outweigh infinitely any loss that even his unworthiness can have caused him; for it involves some perception of the worthiness of the truth, and makes way for the utter consolation which the birth of that truth in himself will bring.
From The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction by Eugene H. Peterson (in a section entitled “Small Talk: A Pastoral Art”):
Most of us, most of the time, are engaged in simple routine tasks, and small talk is the natural language. If pastors belittle it, we belittle what most people are doing most of the time, and the gospel is misrepresented.
“Lord, how I loathe big issues!” is a sentence I copied from C.S. Lewis’s letters and have kept as a reminder. …Lewis warned of the nose-in-the-air arrogance that is oblivious to the homely and the out-of-the-way, and therefore misses participating in most of the rich reality of existence.
…Humility means staying close the ground (humus), to people, to everyday life, to what is happening with all its down-to-earthness.
But what we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert—himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt—the Divine Reason.
From G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, chapt. III, “The Suicide of Thought.”
I’ve decided that posting daily during my school year (which starts this coming week) would be too much. My goal will be at least one little thanks per week.
From the yesterday’s Valley of Vision devotional prayer (a collection of Puritan prayers):
Help me to see myself in thy sight,
then pride must wither, decay, die, perish.
Humble my heart before thee,
and replenish it with thy choicest gifts.
As water rests not on barren hill summits,
but flows down to fertilize lowest vales,
So make me the lowest of the lowly,
that my spiritual riches may exceedingly abound.
When I leave duties undone,
may condemning thought strip me of pride,
deepen in me devotion to thy service,
and quicken me to more watchful care.
From some reading with the kids yesterday in The Hobbit:
[Bilbo] did not, or course, expect that any one would remember that it was he who discovered all by himself the dragon’s weak spot; and that was just as well, for no one ever did.
(chapter 15, “The Gathering of the Clouds”)
Tolkien describes a character quality here that I can hardly imagine. Probably the top reason for this attribute is that Bilbo’s chief motivation, in all of his most heroic acts, is the thought of home (and of breakfasting upon eggs and bacon). Bilbo embodies the Ciceronian ideal of a bold public servant who longs only for the quiet life of his country estate.