Some thoughts on duty for the start of a new term

On the first day of term, when I’m tempted to wish I could return to my duvet and the responsibility-free life of the holidays, I’m finding the wisdom of George MacDonald helpful. In Weighed and Wanting, Cornelius is a young man stuck inside because of bad weather:

…None of his father’s books had any attraction for him. Neither science, philosophy, history, nor poetry held for him any interest. A drearier soul in a drearier setting could hardly be imagined than the soul of this youth in that day’s weather at Burcliff.

Does a reader remark, “Well, wherein was the poor fellow to blame? No man can make himself like this or like that! The thing that is a passion to one is a bore to another!…—I answer, It is true no one can by an effort of the will care for this or that; but where a man cares for nothing that is worth caring for, the fault must lie, not in the nature God made, but in the character the man himself has made and is making. There is a moral reason why he does not and cannot care. If Cornelius had begun at any time, without other compulsion than the urging within him, to do something he knew he ought to do, he would not now have been the poor slave of circumstances he was—at the call and beck of the weather—such, in fact, as the weather willed. When men face a duty, not merely will that duty become at once less unpleasant to them, but life itself will immediately begin to gather interest; for in duty, and in duty only, does the individual begin to come into real contact with life; therein only can he see what life is, and grow fit for it.

– Weighed and Wanting, by George MacDonald

So I’m attempting to repent of my procrastination and so-called ‘laziness’, which is really just fear. Fear of the inevitable hard work and unpleasant situations and emotional baggage involved in a term of Psychiatry and Neurology. Because, anyway, that fear is really just the fear of Life – if it wasn’t scary patients and scary consultants it’d be something else. But Mr. MacDonald is right: when I do what I should do because I know I should do it I’m often blessed to find that it’s a lot more interesting and meaningful, and somewhat less hard, than my brain would have me believe. And more than that, it is often then that I find that God in His grace is changing me and making me useful in ways I’d never have suspected.

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