I’m reading a new George MacDonald (GM) book…and if you’ve never read any George MacDonald, this one might be a good one to start with. (Read why in my first post here.)
Just to catch you back up to speed, Curdie is a young boy, 12ish, who spoke with a magical old woman one night. There are a lot of rumors about the woman. Everyone has heard about her, but few have had any real encounter with her. The suspicions about her (despite appearances and circumstances) are generally negative and fearful, assuming her to be a powerful witch who is out to do them all harm. Curdie, however, has a different perspective, having met her—different, but fragile, as she is still much a mystery to him.
In the first post I wrote about the ridiculous logic of the miners—how they saw what they wanted to see with rather Monty Python Holy Grail type reasoning. In the second post I talked about how spending a lifetime in dirt and darkness affected the miner’s frame of mind.
Today I want to talk about Curdie’s response…and if you aren’t a fan of George MacDonald’s by the end of this, then I have failed miserably. I surely think the fault will be mine for getting in the way, for how could it be that anyone who likes to read at all could encounter GM without falling in love with his genius!
All the while the miners are talking their foolish, fearful, negative nonsense about the “witch”, Curdie kept silent (as the woman had ordered him to). One of them noticed his withdrawal and asked what he was thinking about.‘How do you know I’m thinking of anything?’ asked Curdie. ‘Because you’re not saying anything.’ ‘Does it follow then that, as you are saying so much, you’re not thinking at all?’ said Curdie.
… ‘I think,’ said Curdie, ‘it would be better that he who says anything about her should be quite sure it is true, lest she should hear him and not like to be slandered. …If bad things were true of her, and I knew it,… I would not hesitate to say them, for I will never give in to being afraid of anything that’s bad. I suspect that the things they tell, however, if we knew all about them, would turn out to have nothing but good in them; and I won’t say a word more for fear I should say something that mightn’t be to her mind.”
Of course the miners all busted up laughing and teasing the “parson”. They couldn’t believe that he clearly believed in “the witch,” or that he was afraid of her, with a healthy kind of fear. They surely couldn’t believe that he felt that all she did must be good.
Curdie hardly knew her. He wasn’t sure how what she did was good, nor was he sure what things could be attributed to her doing in the first place. What Curdie did know, however, was that she was real, and she was to be respected and feared, and that she could be trusted. That was it, but it was enough to shape his world view…and to make it substantially different than, even opposed to, that of the miners.
Don’t you see the world around you playing out in this story? Do you know people who say all kinds of things they suppose about God, or have heard about God, without ever once caring if the thing is true? Some of those things make God sound like an awful tyrant. Some of those things make Him sound like a giant teddy bear. Some make Him sound powerful but rob Him of His compassion while others make Him sound loving and kind, but rob Him of His power and Holiness. How many times though have you ever heard anyone have the wisdom to hold their tongue on things they didn’t know? I mean, sometimes people don’t say anything because they don’t have anything to say, but in Curdie’s case it was different. He had more to say and speculate than most, because he HAD seen her, but held his tongue because he feared her. He had the wisdom to realize she wouldn’t want to be misrepresented, and the sense to realize he didn’t know her well enough to represent her truly.
Do you have the courage to speak the truth?
Curdie said he would never be afraid of what was bad – can you say the same?
Do you have the wisdom to know when not to speak?
How conscientious are you about representing God fairly and truly and fully?
Curdie isn’t afraid of the woman, per se, but he does fear her. Do you fear God, or are you afraid of him, or neither?
Do you trust that, even in the ugliest of rumors of God, if you knew the whole story, you would find them “to have nothing but good in them”?
Now…discuss amongst yourselves.