Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Madeline L'Engle

I know I'm behind the curve in writing about the death of Madeline L'Engle, but things have been kind of crazy here lately (typical).

I just wanted to draw attention to the beautiful interview with her that originally appeared in Christianity Today in 1979, and which they reprinted earlier this month. I heard about L'Engle's death in the most perfect way possible. I was helping Bethany pour drinks for a big family dinner, and she said, "Did you know, Madeline L'Engle died today?" The way she said it, loving the way the name fit in her mouth, not doing any of that awkward "luh-Angle" stuff that I heard later on the news, made me know she was a fan, though we had never discussed it before. This was the only way I could have handled it. If I had to hear it from some TV announcer who probably didn't even know who she was, I probably would have lost it.

I, of course, was a fan of the highest order as a child, though I didn't realize that L'Engle was writing an essentially Christian fiction until I was in middle school and picked up the (unfairly ignored) third book in the Wrinkle series, Many Waters. If you haven't read Many Waters, go find yourself a copy. It brings the antediluvian world into sharp focus, and it's just such an interesting look at God and love and miracles and angels.
I remember learning the parts of a cell in 9th grade biology, and I was fascinated to learn that mitochondria weren't something that L'Engle just made up for A Wind in the Door. I always thought it was just a fantasy word. It made me wonder, though I've yet to find an answer, whether she invented farandolae or not, as well.

The next day, on my lunch break, I surfed up the interwebs to find articles about her. This interview was the very best one.

There's something she says about a third of the way into it that has been rattling around in my head. L'Engle is talking about the best Christian influences in her life, and she mentions a woman who had a terrible life, an alcoholic husband, painful arthritis,

"But she always brought laughter with her.
A close friend of mine says that a Christian is someone who's met one. I met one, early."
That really challenged me, because I sometimes wonder whether I am the kind of Christian who converts people just by knowing them. I'm roughly 99% sure that I'm not. Things at work have been seriously frustrating lately (by lately, I mean for the past year), and I'm not handling it all as graciously as I would like to. I get ANGRY, I get SNARKY, I get plain MEAN. And I HATE that. I pray and pray and PRAY that this will be easier for me, that I will walk through the leper colony of my office with a beatific smile and not be fazed by any of it. Thus far, my God has not chosen to answer my prayer, at least not with a yes. I know this is not something I can do by my own will alone, though. It would be so much easier if I could! And so I get impatient with God and even more difficult to be around. L'Engle also writes about how her work is an act of worship, that good, honest, joyful work is an act of devotion. She notes that
"for many people their work is drudgery—neither a gift, nor a vocation."
I miss when my job was a gift. It's been mostly drudgery for a while now. It really was a blessing, too, for so long, which is what makes considering leaving so hard. It's also the most interesting game in town, even at its worst, so maybe I'm sticking around a little longer. I just wonder if it's the most socially relevant thing I could be doing, if it's helping people (well, it's helping people who wouldn't blink at spending $500 to learn French...). One of my frustrations is that we have such a great opportunity to help people and we don't do it. There are always money reasons and market reasons, but I get tired of those after a while, and angry at them after just a little longer.

Going to Ghost Ranch in just over a week. Here's to retreats in the wilderness. I hope I can come back renewed and prepared to be a better representation of Christ in the world.