To her joy and to our sorrow, Madeleine L’Engle died last Thursday at the beautiful age of 88 in Litchfield, Connecticut, near her beloved family home, Crosswicks.
Madeleine has profoundly influenced my wife Miska and me. For my part, she has enriched my imagination as a writer, and she has stretched my calling as a pastor. Madeleine will continue to influence us, and (if we have anything to say about it) she will continue to influence our boys.
In the very young life of this blog, L’Engle has had her say. Among our small scattering of entries, we’ve quoted her and listened to her and reminded ourselves that God used her unique voice and pen to tell us wide, deep and dark truths we might well have missed otherwise.
Perhaps I’m just melancholy, but it seems to me that the elder, wiser voices are leaving us, without persons of their stature and faith and authority taking their place. In an age filled with religious glitz and quick-fix discipleship and all things techno-church, I long for older eyes who have seen the wide world, in all its wonder and all its demise – and will tell me the truth about it. I long for older ears who have heard the shallow truths and the loud noise and the screeching demands (religious and pagan alike) – and will tell me what boisterous yammering I must ignore and what quiet, improbable truths I must pay close attention to. I long for an older voice to tell me plainly, without mincing words and yet heaped high with grace, both where I am living like a fool and where I am being true to myself and to my God. God is kind, and he will help me hear and see these things on my own when necessary. But I am thankful he gives us friends acquainted with truth and wisdom to help us along.
Madeleine L’Engle has been – and will continue to be — one of these wise, elder truth-tellers.
In the spirit of eulogy, I could offer any one of hundreds of L’Engle quotes here. Something on death would be appropriate. A meditation on a theological truth, some notion with real gravity, perhaps. However, today I just want to hear her challenge and guide me, to prod me further on my Christian journey, as she has so many times previous. Along the way, L’Engle has taught me the importance of a Christian imagination, of allowing my soul to be open to things beyond the purely rational. So, may we all heed Madeleine’s wisdom:
It might be a good idea if, like the White Queen, we practiced believing six impossible things every morning before breakfast.
John Podhoretz wrote a warm, personal tribute. Enjoy it, and thank God for having graced us with a dear friend, if for only a time.