Faith, Art, and Madeleine L’Engle

Madeleine L’Engle wrote a wonderful book called Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art. Reading it made me wonder why it took me so long to read it; it was one of those works in which I just wanted to underline every other line and cherish it, memorize it, and apply it to my life. I had read L’Engle before, but only once: as a fifth grader, when my class read A Wrinkle in Time. I don’t remember much from it, but I do recall it possessing a certain depth.

CLHere is a slice: “Unless we are creators, we are not fully alive.” Or “what our free will is meant to do is to help God write the story.” Or “I had yet to learn the faithfulness of doubt.” Or “if religion is true, it will stand up to all my questioning.” Or “Artists have always been drawn to the wild.” Or “if it’s bad art, it’s bad religion, no matter how pious the subject.” I could go on and on, but I hope you just pick up the book some day for yourself.

GNLOne summer, during my college years, I remember a particular conversation that surprised me. I was speaking with a man who’s name I don’t even remember. He had recently finished his undergraduate degree in English at Princeton. I don’t remember how we got around to it, but he told me he’d completed a thesis around the idea that we as humans create in response to a creative Creator. As I have since witnessed the beauty of places like Glacier National Park in Montana or Crater Lake in Oregon, it’s hard not to wonder if he was on to something. But we don’t have to go that far to experience the spirit of it all; just watch a little child play. The other day, I saw a little girl chasing a butterfly. It was majestic.

I think the L’Engle’s book suggests something very similar to that of the Princeton graduate that summer. Surely, worship is more than singing songs in church, though maybe that is part of the thing, too. But no more or less a part of it than writing a story, or painting a picture, or even building a home. We were given this creative instinct, if we can only keep it alive within us.

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