His Own Secret Stairs

Years ago, I was reading The Lady’s Confession by George MacDonald, and was thrilled to come across this poem. It felt like a bonus, to find this treasure in the middle of a story.

Now, every year, in Advent and the extended celebrations leading up to Christmas, I revisit the poem often.

They all were looking for a king
To slay their foes and lift them high;
Thou cam’st a little Baby thing
That made a woman cry.

O Son of Man, to right my lot
Naught but Thy presence can avail;
Yet on the road Thy wheels are not,
Nor on the sea Thy sail.

My how and when Thou wilt not heed,
But come down Thine own secret stair;
That Thou may’est answer all my need,
Yea–every bygone prayer.

I reflect on God’s ways, and witness His comings and goings that are completely unpredictable. In my beautiful, broken world, He keeps showing up. He changes things and heals hearts and bodies. He does it in endlessly creative ways without fanfare or announcement, and never in the way that I was expecting.

This is a season that always invites me to nostalgia and reminiscing. I mark time and progress in myself by what other Christmases were like. Four years ago, two weeks after major surgery, I flew home, using the airport’s handicap services. Three years ago, I ran and up down four flights of steps to host a ladies’ evening at a friend’s apartment. Two years ago, I was newly living in the US, visiting my sister and her little family. One year ago, I was in Greece with another sister who supports those caring for refugees.

Greece broke something in me that is still not cured or answered or solved. I cannot reconcile my comfort and ease of living while thousands of beautiful women, children, and men barely survive in super-crowded, cold refugee camps.

There are lots of overwhelming, devastating things going on across the globe that tempt me to despair. I want answers, solutions, a king to sweep in and slay the foes.

I would most certainly despair if I weren’t so sure that He has His ways, His own secret stairs, and somehow, in a most mysterious exchange, my by-gone prayers make a difference.

On this surety, I can sleep well and delight in beauty and rejoice in miracles and not stay crumpled in a heap about the injustices in my world.

Who can know how He’ll show up today?

9 thoughts on “His Own Secret Stairs

  1. Yes! In some mysterious, unknown way, our prayers and efforts do contribute to the work He is doing in the world, but His work does not depend on our efforts or abilities. Thank you for offering this insight into how we can reconcile the gifts we enjoy with the pain and injustice that is all too common.

  2. George McDonald’s writing was life changing for me as a teen, struggling with the inscrutable ways of God. I had forgotten about this poem. Thanks for sharing it.
    I still struggle with a sense of oppression about the inequities of the world, and really love how you said it in your concluding paragraphs. I can give grace to a friend who is wading through 271 area rug choices for her new living room, even while feeling the sadness and injustice that hundreds of thousands no longer even have homes.

  3. Anita, you have no idea how much this blog post has spoken to be in the days since you posted it. In a world of pain and brokenness and feeling helpless to know how to be involved… your post brings a message of hope and rest in knowing that it’s not unseen by a God who is working in the shadows and that while He invites my participation, He’s not dependent on it. Thank you.

    • Thank you, Kelly. I’m so glad this met you where you are. He is in the shadows, has never left us, and is up to something good. Oh! This reminds me of another poem! Another of MacDonald’s, and I often go back to it: I have not knowledge, insight, wisdom, thought/Nor understanding fit to justify/Thee in Thy work, O Perfect. Thou hast brought/Me up to this–and lo!–what Thou has wrought/I cannot call it good. But I can cry/”O enemy, the Maker hath not done;/One day thou shalt behold and from the sight wilt run.”

      The victory and confidence and truth in these words makes me cry.

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