Art is a Gift: Thoughts from Madeleine L’Engle


One woman that we consistently admire in her pursuit of art and faith is Madeleine L’Engle, author of the Wrinkle in Time series. During her life, she wrote a number of books related to art and Christianity, most notably Walking on Water (which comes highly recommended to you) and one I (Liz) am reading currently, Madeleine L’Engle: Herself, which is a compilation of her written and spoken words teaching others about writing.

Naturally, faith enters into these writings of hers, and lately, I have made a habit of reading one or two of her thoughts at a time before I sit down to begin writing. The book is written almost in a devotional style, with each page a new thought from Madeleine, and I thought I’d share a few of my favorite readings with you.


“We’re never sure that what we write is true and honest. We try to make it true and honest. How much I succeed is really beyond my control. It happens if I am given the Spirit to write the work.

“It is through the gifts of the Spirit that art comes, that love comes. But because we’re human, we’re never entirely sure. We know we haven’t served the work as well as we would want to. But if I had to serve the work to my satisfaction, I would still be on my first novel. And that would be pride.

“The important thing is to recognize that our gift, no matter what the size, is indeed something given us, for which we can take no credit, but which we may humbly serve, and in serving, learn more wholeness, be offered wondrous newness.

“If the work comes to the artist and says, ‘Here I am, serve me,’ then the job of the artist, great or small, is to serve. The amount of the artist’s talent is not what it is about. Jean Rhys said to an interviewer in the Paris Review, ‘Listen to me. All of writing is a huge lake. There are great rivers that feed the lake, like Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. And there are mere trickles, like Jean Rhys. All that matters is feeding the lake. I don’t matter. The lake matters. You must keep feeding the lake.’

“I have never served a work as it ought to be served; my little trickle adds hardly a drop of water to the lake, and yet it doesn’t matter; there is no trickle to small. Over the years I have come to recognize that the work often knows more than I do. And with each book I start, I have hopes that I may be helped to serve it a little more fully.

“Picasso says that an artist paints not to ask a question, but because he has found something, and he wants to share — he cannot help it — what he has found. ”

Let us be those servant artists who depend whole-heartedly on the Spirit for our work to get done! Because, boy, we need help. 🙂

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