Morning, at the Brown Brink Eastward, Springs

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.

It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;

It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil

Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?

Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;

And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;

And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil

Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.


And for all this, nature is never spent;

There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;

And though the last lights off the black West went

Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent

World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.


I’ve been enjoying once again this beautiful piece by Gerard Manley Hopkins. Elizabeth Goudge uses the final six lines as an epigraph to The Heart of the Family, which was what brought it to my mind again. I love this sonnet’s portrayal of God’s renewing a weary, wicked world, but I like to think I can apply it more widely than that (as Goudge does), and think of our individual lives, and of everything that goes wrong or seems hopeless because of sin, or almost unbearable because of weakness or sorrow. And to think that in each person who is a child of God–even in me–there is “the dearest freshness deep down things” that the Spirit can make flourish. And that in each situation where the West is blackening–whether in the life of a Christian or in the life of the world–morning will spring again, because God is at work.


Dear Future Boyfriend

Please don’t propose to me by orchestrating an elaborate event that goes viral on Youtube. You know what I mean: proposing at a football match or with a flash mob or via a specially designed movie.

I’m not out to tear down the men who do that. They obviously care about their girlfriends. I’ve watched some of those videos. They make me go a little mushy inside. But why would you want millions of people you care nothing about–and who care nothing for you–going mushy at your declaration of love? There’s only one heart you need to capture: mine.

Perhaps you want everyone to know how much you love me. Dude, we already have a term for the public declaration of love between a man and a woman. It’s called a marriage ceremony. You can show everyone how much you love me then, when you tell me–not that I complete you or that you can’t live without me–but that you’ll stick with me even when those gushy feelings stop gushing. For better or for worse. Yes, for worse.

Perhaps you want your proposal to be special and memorable. That’s sweet of you. Really. But it’s also like some kind millionaire writing me a huge cheque and then pausing to put it in a pretty envelope. Like I care. Trust me, if anywhere in this wide world there is a man I can love and respect and who actually asks to marry me–me with my self-centredness and awkwardness and spots and a cupboard full of skeletons I’d rather not mention here–I can promise you I won’t need a fancy proposal to make it a special event. It will be unspeakably precious, even if the proposal comes while we’re washing dishes or crossing a road or doing any one of the mundane little things we’ll spend the rest of our lives doing.

Okay, part of me likes the thought of the extra sparkle that a fancy proposal brings, I admit it. But being a man in a world like ours is hard enough as it is. Why should I make it harder for you by placing on you the additional burden of orchestrating a Hollywood-style proposal?

Our love story won’t be a glamorous one. Why should we pretend it is?

We’re not film stars. Why should we try to act like we are?

People don’t need to see another four-minute version of love, complete with background music. They do need to see a man and a woman who will love each other year after ordinary year, on the days when they like each other and the days when they don’t, and who–in the midst of bills and screaming babies and colds and all the rest of it–sacrifice themselves for each other time and again.

If that’s what you want, I’ll marry you.

Elaborate proposal or not.