George MacDonald, the Scottish minister who lived during the early 19th century, has written the marvelous children’s fantasies, The Princess and the Goblin and The Princess and Curdie. Perhaps one reason I like these books is because God is symbolized by the figure of the wise and mysterious great-great-grandmother, Irene. In the second book there is a section of which I am particularly fond. Curdie, the miner’s son, has been sent from the mountains to undertake a treacherous assignment. Before he leaves he is commissioned by Irene.
Up into her tower he climbs, winding through the multiple passages, then into her remarkable chamber. Curiously he notices that on the hearth a fire is glowing. It is a fire of roses which burn and give forth a sweet pungency, yet they are not consumed.
“Curdie,” says the great-great-grandmother, who now appears in a form of youth and beauty. “You have stood more than one trial already, and have stood them well: now I am going to put you to a harder.”
She instructs him to thrust his hands into the fire. He obeys, enduring the intense pain only to discover, when he is given permission to take them out, that his hands have not been destroyed or charred, but are rather as white and smooth as those of the princess.
“Now here is what the rose fire has done for you,” explains the princess. “It has made your hands so knowing and wise, it has brought your real hands so near the outside of your flesh gloves, that you will henceforth be able to know at once the hand of a man who is growing into a beast…According, then, to your knowledge of that beast will be your knowledge of the man you have to do with. Only there is one beautiful and awful thing about it, that if any one gifted with this perception once uses it for his own ends, it is taken from him, and then, not knowing that it is gone, he is in a far worse condition than before, for he trusts to what he has not got.”
I wonder how much George MacDonald understood the Scriptural doctrine of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts. This short passage contains many excellent symbols relating to these Christian concepts. Our discipleship is certainly a treacherous mission on which we are sent by our Lord.
But, before we do His work in this world, He bids us cast ourselves into the rosyfire of Himself. In obedience we must yield to His burning, be it chastisement or agonies of spiritual warfare, or the dismays of ordinary circumstances or suffering. Here the stubby chaff and the cherished dross are destroyed and the soul-calluses are smoothed. We withdraw ourselves, refined and new, childlike again.
For decades, Karen Mains and her husband, David, have served God through religious communications—radio, television, and print publication. The are the co-authors of the Kingdom Tales Trilogy: Tales of the Kingdom, Tales of the Resistance, and Tales of the Restoration. To find many valuable resources for pastors and churches at the Mainstay Ministries main website, please click here.
Karen has long had an interest in Christian hospitality and is the author of the best-selling book, Open Heart, Open Home.
An award-winning author of several other books, Karen continues to write content for her Christian blog, “Thoughts-by-Karen-Mains.” In so doing, she desires to touch the lives of Christian women and men and help them find ways to walk closer with the Lord Jesus Christ. In addition, through silent retreats, spiritual teaching, women’s retreats, Christian vacation opportunities, and other ministry activities, Karen helps each Christian woman and man receive vital spiritual food.
Through her Hungry Souls ministry, Karen serves as a spiritual coach to many Christian women and men, and teaches a mentor-writing class. And, through the Global Bag Project, she is working to develop a network of African women who sew exquisite cloth reusable shopping bags. This micro-finance women opportunity helps provide a much-needed sustainable income for struggling African families. For more information on this critically important project, please click here.
In addition, pastors will find special resources to help them create effective, life-transforming Sunday sermons by visiting David Mains’ website by clicking here.