Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A Review of L'Engle's "Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith & Art"

I think 2016 went out with a fizzle for me. I've been down about current national and world events and moods. And, ever the introvert, discontentment with external events is eventually subsumed by disillusionment about my own lack of apparent contributions to the betterment of society over the last 38 — better make that 39 — years. I've been down on my writing, parenting...wife-ing... friend-ing...Christian-ing. And, as it turns out, being down on myself does not translate into becoming a better version of myself. 

I begin 2017 thinking about many of the thoughts contained in Madeleine L'Engle's classic book on being a Christian creative.There's this little flicker of hope when I read Walking on Water, first published when I was 2 years old, and now reprinted in portable paperback form with a lovely sunny rainy cover and a nifty reader's guide at the end. I've been reading and re-reading this book for a few months now, hesitating to write my review because then I'll have officially "finished" the book, so packed with treasures, tips, observations, philosophy and theology.  In L'Engle's theology, creative work is a spiritual discipline— a prayer— and listening to the work is the same as listening to God. 

To work on a book is for me very much the same things as to pray. Both involve discipline. If the artist works only when he feels like it, he's not apt to build up much of a body of work. Inspiration far more often comes during the work than before it, because the largest part of the job of the artist is to listen to the work and to go where it tells him to go. Ultimately, when you are writing, you stop thinking and write what you hear. To pray is to listen also, to move through my own chatter to God, to that place where I can be silent and listen to what God may have to say. But if I pray only when I feel like it, God may choose not to speak. (140)