Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Mirror of Our Imagination

I just love George MacDonald and when I saw Ariel Lawhon's post over at She Reads I couldn't resist asking permission to reprint her post.  I hope you enjoy!

Most people have never heard of an old Scottish storyteller named George MacDonald. Born in 1824, he was a friend to such literary giants as Lewis Carroll, Walt Whitman, Charles Dickens, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Over the course of his prolific career, MacDonald wrote over 70 books, one of them a fantasy called Phantastes. Years later an avid skeptic named Clive Staples Lewis picked up the book in a train station book stall.

“A few hours later,” said Lewis, “I knew I had crossed a great frontier.”

Phantastes was a crucial stepping stone to Lewis’ becoming a believer in Christ. He was so taken with the wisdom and simple faith of MacDonald that he would later say that he never wrote a thing in which he did not quote George MacDonald, a ringing endorsement indeed from the man we consider one of the greatest apologists of our time.

For writers, finding the truth and translating it into the written word can be daunting. In Genesis 1:2-3, God spoke into the void and created a world from nothing. Writing is a similar creative force and is just one way we reflect the God in whose image we are made. Imaginations are a wonderful and terrifying thing. We can create beauty yet we can also create horror. How then do we reflect the glory and beauty and redemption of a holy God? George MacDonald was on to something when he said the following:
"It is God that gives thee thy mirror of imagination, and if thou keep it clean, it will give thee back no shadow but the truth.”
Dirty, broken, warped mirrors, distort the image they are meant to reflect. MacDonald challenges us to keep the mirror of our imaginations clean so they will give us back no shadow by the truth. He spoke the truth in Phantastes and the result was that God used his words to change the world through a man named C.S. Lewis. Philippians 4:8 challenges us to think only on things that are pure, true, noble, right, lovely, admirable, and praiseworthy. I suspect that MacDonald had that verse in mind when he wrote his own words. A clean imagination, consecrated to the purpose of God is a powerful thing. Be free to use it, to wield your words as agents of change in a world clouded by distortions. And in so doing, provide truth.

Your thoughts . . .


  1. A clean imagination - I like that!
    Good post:)

  2. Amen! we have a high calling, Carla. Fanstastic, thought-provoking post.

  3. This is wonderful, Carla. Thanks for posting this. I love the thought of a mirror of our imagination. The only book by MacDonald I've read is "Lilith" and I loved it. Talk about an imagination! It is no wonder that Lewis found inspiration in him.

    Happy Thursday,

  4. My one MacDonald book as a child was The Golden Key. Thanks for reposting this Carla, I'd have missed it otherwise. It's so true that we get out of our souls what we put in. And so do our characters and stories and everyone around us.

  5. I'm glad to see we have some George MacDonald fans here.

    Have any of you heard the saying, "Garbage in, garbage out?" I think this is so true. Yet, because we live in the world with its many flaws, and we ourselves are flawed and have been wounded - life is not always pretty), it's important to remember that even the dark and dirty things of life can be redeemed. We can also write about them, with tact and sensitivity, to point toward the Light of our imaginings.

  6. Carla, This is one of the best posts I've ever read. I have some of MacDonald's books and am always struck by the beauty of his writing. Beauty and truth go together. This ministers to me in ways you don't know about!

  7. Laura, I'm so glad this post was a special blessing to you, as it was to me. Beauty and truth do go together!

  8. Hi Carla -

    His quote goes along with the Scripture telling us to think on things that are beautiful, pure, etc.

    I'd love to read some of his work.

    Susan :)

  9. I am thrilled to have found your blog!! It is just the inspiration that I need!

  10. I have heard of him actually, because I found and listened to a short story of his on audio book. The title was something about the north wind. Wonderful tale about a young boy in Victorian London.



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