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Recent Reading: The Giant’s Heart, by George MacDonald

I read this story out loud with my daughter. I was ready to pronounce that I had found no ‘moral’ in this story, until I sat down to write my thoughts on it, and now it has become clear.

I do not read stories looking for a moral. I think to read in this way can cause the experience of reading itself to suffer. But, nevertheless, there must be themes that emerge. And the better the writing, the more vibrant the story, the more the themes will be illumined to the reader.

This is the story of two small children who enter into Fairy Land. They find themselves in the house of a Giant whose great delight is to eat pudgy kids. They discover that the Giant keeps his heart outside of his body for the purposes of security and that, at this particular time, it is being kept in the nest of an eagle.The children resolve to capture his heart so that they might gain control over him in order to urge him to live a better life by, especially, not eating children. I won’t give away too much, but I will reflect for a moment on the lasting impression left upon me by the story.

This story, if you can say such a thing about fiction, literally depicts the ‘guarding’ of one’s heart. This calls to mind, of course, the well-known proverb (Proverbs 4:23):

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.

The Giant keeps his heart safe by never letting it remain in the same place. He will not keep it in his body. He will not keep it in his house. He will not let his wife keep it. He must find various places throughout the Land that will serve for its protection. In the end I think he learns the lesson that putting your heart in a hard to reach place, or letting it be detached from you, or hiding it, will not always serve for the good. Perhaps there was another way he could have guarded it – perhaps a better way.

Perhaps there is a better way that you and I can guard ours as well. The only sure safe place for the heart is in Jesus Christ. By believing in him we are united to him by faith so that he objectively becomes our representative. Our hearts our hid in the ‘cleft of the rock’ so that God’s wrath, and the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil cannot pinch our hearts and cause us anguish (you have to read the story for that last part to make sense). We can guard our hearts by lifting them up, and offering them, to Christ. There is no other way – just ask MacDonald’s Giant. The Giant knew that the ‘wellsprings of life’ flowed from the heart, but he guarded it in the wrong place and in the wrong way.

Cheers to old MacDonald for making Scripture come alive to me again (whether he meant to or not, but I bet he did).

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