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  • Writer's pictureLinda Odhner, with photos by Liz Kufs

Excerpted Inspirations #13

"The Dean sat down for a moment on the seat in the lime walk where Isaac had sat, his head bent, too tired to be much aware of the beauty of the night but vaguely quieted, vaguely ashamed of his own shame. What did it matter if he was incapable of preaching a decent sermon? Why be ashamed of failure? Failure was unimportant. The fact was that mounting the pulpit steps, standing there before all those bored men and women who, like the hungry sheep in Lycidas, looked up and were not fed, had become to him a sort of symbol of the failure of his life. As priest and husband he had failed. They said he had been a good schoolmaster but he believed them to be wrong. His apparent success there had been due, he believed, solely to a formidable presence. He had always been able to impose discipline because people were afraid of him. There was of course that other thing, that power that had been given him of taking hold of an evil situation, wrestling with it, shaking it as a terrier shakes a rat until the evil fell out of it and fastened on himself. Then he carried the evil on his own shoulders to the place of prayer, carried it up a long hill in darkness, but willingly.

Each time he felt himself alone, but each time when the weight became too much for him it was shared, then lifted, as if he had never been alone. Even if there had been no hope of help he would still have been just as willing. But in that mystery nothing was his own but the willingness, and willingness in no way mitigated failure. Nothing mitigated failure except the knowledge that it did not matter. But how could he bring himself to think it did not matter that he had failed Elaine? It was impossible." -Elizabeth Goudge, The Dean's Watch (1960), p. 164

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