One of the threads that runs throughout Walking on Water is Madeleine L'Engle's steadfast belief in maintaining one's childlike creativity. Which is not to be confused with childish creativity--but rather, the kind of earnest creativity that we all have as children and is so often stripped away by from us by the time we reach adulthood, even by the time we become teenagers. The kind of creativity that children have--the imagination, the desire to believe in magic and miracles and the unseen, the belief in the impossible--is very much like Christian faith.
I love the way she compares the undiluted imagination of a child to faith, and furthermore, how she views all creation as co-creation, a chance for us to "help God write the story." L'Engle has a way of thinking about art and faith as so necessarily linked, and now that I've had a chance to do my own reflection, there's really no other way to think about it.
Because L'Engle's own words are so beautifully strung together, I thought I would pull out a few excerpts from different parts of the book on childlike creation and the links between creating and Christianity.
With God, even a rich man can enter the narrow gate to heaven. Earthbound as we are, even we can walk on water.
To be able to be childlike involves memory; we must never forget any part of ourselves...If we lose any part of ourselves, we are thereby diminished. If I cannot be thirteen and sixty-one simultaneously, part of me has been taken away.
Creativity opens us to revelation, and when our high creativity is lowered to two percent, so is our capacity to see angels, to walk on water, to talk of unicorns. In the act of creativity, the artist lets go the self control which he normally clings to, and is open to riding the wind.
Something almost always happens to startle us during the act of creating, but not unless we let go our adult intellectual control and become as open as little children. This does not mean to set aside or discard the intellect, but to understand that it is not to become a dictator, for when it does we are closed off from revelation.
Jesus told us to call the Lord and Creator of us all Abba. Not only Father, or Sir, or Lord, but Abba--Daddy--the small child's name for Father. Not Dad, the way Daddy becomes Dad when the children reach adolescence, but Daddy, the name of trust.
God is constantly creating, in us, through us, with us, and to co-create with God is our human calling. It is the calling for all of us, his creatures, but it is perhaps more conscious with the artist--or should I say the Christian artist?
He gave His disciples no job descriptions; He did not disqualify Mary Magdalene because she had been afflicted with seven demons; He did not spend a lot of time looking for the most qualified people, the most adult. Instead, He chose people who were still childlike enough to leave the known comforts of the daily world, the security of their jobs, their reasonable way of life, to follow Him.
If we allow our "high creativity" to remain alive, we will never be bored. We can pray, standing in line at the super market. Or we can be lost in awe at all the people around us, their lives full of glory and tragedy, and suddenly we will have the beginnings of a painting, a story, a song.
Isn't her writing, and more importantly, her thinking, marvelous?