As an addendum to the post earlier this week on Vain Selfishness, here is a quote by George MacDonald on the same topic.
Here there is no room for ambition. Ambition is the desire to be above one’s neighbor; and here there is no possibility of comparison with one’s neighbor: no one knows what the white stone contains except the man who receives it…. Relative worth is not only unknown to the children of the Kingdom it is unknowable.
The comparison that MacDonald is talking about here is in our very natures. Why compare each other’s wealth or material goods when what really matters is our nature itself? And that is “not only unknown … [but] unknowable.” So why even bother? To bother is apparently MacDonald’s version of ambition. While I disagree that this is the only use of the word ambition, as we can be properly ambitious in our pursuit of God, but if our ambition is fed by our desire to be better than others, then that certainly qualifies as “vain ambition”.
He discusses the White Stone earlier and it is referenced in Revelations 2:17:
The giving of the white stone with the new name is the communication of what God thinks about the man to the man. It is the divine judgment, the solemn holy doom of the righteous man, the “Come, thou blessed,” spoken to the individual. . . . The true name is one which expresses the character, the nature, the meaning of the person who bears it. It is the man’s own symbol – his soul’s picture, in a word-the sign which belongs to him and to no one else. Who can give a man this, his own name? God alone. For no one but God sees what the man is. … It is only when the man has become his name that God gives him the stone with the name upon it, for then first can he understand what his name signifies. It is the blossom, the perfection, the completeness, that determines the name: and God foresees that from the first because He made it so: but the tree of the soul, before its blossom comes, cannot understand what blossom it is to bear and could not know what the word meant, which, in representing its own unarrived completeness, named itself. Such a name cannot be given until the man is the name. God’s name for a man must be the expression of His own idea of the man, that being whom He had in His thought when he began to make the child, and whom He kept in His thought through the long process of creation that went to realize the idea. To tell the name is to seal the success-to say “In thee also I am well pleased.”
These are some interesting ideas. While I know that God is trying to work me into a better me, a more complete me, not even I realize where we are headed or what the result will be. Maybe I won’t until I receive my “white stone” and see – for the first time – myself as God sees me. I certainly hope it comes with a “In thee also I am well pleased”.
The name is one “which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” Not only then has each man his individual relation to God, but each man has his peculiar relation to God. He is to God a peculiar being, made after his own fashion, and that of no one else. Hence he can worship God as no man else can worship Him.
Similar thoughts, but in addition to being told that we are unique and made in God’s own image, this phrase at the end “Hence [the individual man] can worship God as no man else can worship Him.” That’s incredible. In our perfection, amidst all the billions of inhabitants of Heaven, because we were made in God’s infinite image and perfected through him; that small sliver of Him in us allows us to worship God, to contribute to the Heavenly economy in a unique way. In a way that no one else can fulfill. Anyone who doesn’t come to Christ and seeks banishment then, does that mean that Heaven misses out on that small sliver of perfection? That is something to consider. If indeed we bring something unique to Heaven (only because of the infinite uniqueness of God in us) then every soul that turns away from the White Stone in their own vain ambition could potentially reduce Heaven. But that seems impossible and not right. Perhaps that is my own vanity speaking. If we are perfected in Christ, then he that doesn’t have Christ has nothing to offer anyways, not in the infinite sense. So it isn’t that Heaven is made less by our human omissions, but that rather if we had allowed Christ to perfect us, we would have been made fuller and added to Heaven’s perfection in a deeper sense.
There is a chamber also (O God, humble and accept my speech)- a chamber in God Himself, into which none can enter but the one, the individual, the peculiar man-out of which chamber that man has to bring revelation and strength for his brethren. This is that for which he was made-to reveal the secret things of the Father.
We all have something to contribute. I once heard a sermon on doing what God wants us to do. The speaker said that often we think that if we don’t do something – whether its preach, or helping someone in need, or whatever God puts on your heart – that often we think or feel that “God will get someone else to do that, I don’t need to do that”. He then implored us to consider “what if there isn’t someone else? Or what if you ARE that someone else?” MacDonald references something similar in the above. He states that we are peculiar men, unique. What if God needs something unique from us and we turn away and God is unable then to complete that aspect of His will because of us? We were made to reveal the secret things of the Father, if we don’t do what we were made to do, the world suffers and we will continue to trudge along, both as individuals and as a world.
A better world starts with each of us discovering the peculiar secret things of God, the peculiar things God has for us, sharing it with the world in a worshipful manner that only we can do. God is infinite, and even a small sliver of that infinity is greater than I could ever hope to achieve on my own.