Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Will the real George Herbert please stand up?

"to their surprise"
Judges 3:24

I read an interesting quote a few weeks ago, and jotted it down in my Quote Book Notebook. 

It's not really called that, but I should totally get one of those!

Anyhow, I also wrote down the name of the gentleman who said it, but when I further researched him, I discovered that I didn't really have enough information about him. 

His name was George Herbert, but I don't know which George Herbert, and according to the internet, our choices are:

a Welsh poet (1593 - 1633)
an English Egyptologist and 5th Earl of Carnavon (1866 - 1923)
an English MP (Member of Parliament) for Monmouthshire (no dates given)
an English MP for Glamorganshire (d. 1580)

I also had my choices of the 11th or 13th Earls of Pembroke; the 8th Earl of Carnarvon; the 2nd or 4th Earls of Powis, an Anglican priest, a British Conservative party politician, or a gang leader from Belize.

I'm gonna go with the Welsh poet.

photo credit: The National Portrait Gallery, wikipedia

So, George Herbert the Welsh poet (who was also an Anglican priest, but at a different time in history than the other Anglican priest who was my choice) was in fact a metaphysical poet who attended Trinity College before serving in Parliament and holding a position at Cambridge. 

Three years before his death, he took his holy orders, and became rector of the small parish of ~ are you ready for this? ~  Fugglestone St Peter, in Wiltshire, England. 

He is commemorated on February 27 in the Anglican church.  That was my grandmother's birthday.  She wasn't Anglican; she was Catholic, but I've always liked that day, as it makes me think of her.  And he has a window honoring him (or "honouring him" as the Brits would say) in Westminster Abbey.   I wish I'd known that when I was there, but I'll make a point of noticing it if I ever go back to England.  

What am I saying ~ I have to go back to England someday so I can visit Fugglestone!

Okay, brief bio on George Herbert finished.  Now to the quote which caught my eye:

"Surprise me, Lord, as a seed surprises itself."

Now, to be honest, I was a little taken aback by this thought at first.   Is a seed surprised?  If we pretend for a moment that a seed is capable of emotion, does it not know what to expect from its growth?  Does an animal know what to expect from its metamorphosis?  An "ugly duckling", a tadpole, a caterpillar, an acorn... If you asked them what they would look like later in their lives, would they know?

I thought, at first, that they would not be at all surprised.  There are, after all, extremely limited possibilities for what a seed will become.  It has only one choice. 

But then I thought how many variations there are on that one choice.  How tall will the plant grow to be?  Will it flower?  Will it fruit?  How long will it live?  All of these questions are answered not by the genetics of the seed, but by its surroundings.  Sun, water, soil, pruning, weeds... All are factors beyond its control.

And how about George Herbert?  Not a terrifically unique name, as you can see.  Each George Herbert was the product not only of his genetics, but of his surroundings ~ the time in which he lived, his education, his health, the opportunities he had.  Each young George Herbert knew he would grow up to be George Herbert.  Much else would unfold for him.

You and I could look at many different seeds, and not have any idea what they would turn into.  They have to be planted, they have to be tended to, and we have to wait.  Then all of a sudden, one day ~ unexpected beauty. 

Wondering what God has planned for you?  You'd be surprised.

~ "If you are Christ's 
  then you are Abraham's seed,
    and heirs according to the promise." ~
Galatians 3:29

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