By The Reverend Dr. Katie Snipes Lancaster
When all seems uncertain, and our “normal” plans unravel, it’s sometimes hard to get up the gumption (as Bev Kirk says) to do what needs to be done. Even when we do have energy, imagination, creativity and love enough to start “doing” it’s hard to know in what ways we are qualified to even help in this time of crisis. In a section of her book Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, Madeline L’Engle encourages us saying, “In a very real sense not one of us is qualified, but it seems that God continually chooses the most unqualified to do his work, to bear his glory. If we are qualified, we tend to think that we have done the job ourselves. If we are forced to accept our evident lack of qualification, then there’s no danger that we will confuse God’s work with our own, or God’s glory with our own.”
She notices how so many of the so-called heroes in the bible are equally unqualified—Jacob, Nathan, Paul, and Moses to name a few. Remembering the ways that your heroes were also just as unqualified, just as ordinary, just as mystified by how to make a difference in this complicated world encourages me. God is calling you to make a difference, and who you are—with your exact qualifications and hopes and dreams and gifts and foibles—is exactly who the world needs.
L’Engle, born in Manhattan in the midst of the 1918 flu pandemic, is most famous for writing A Wrinkle in Time and was a distinguished theologian. Her capacity for writing children’s science fiction, I think is a testimony to her theological imagination. Wonder, awe, creativity, and a knack for suspended disbelief leads to what Poet Samuel Taylor Coelridge called a “poetic faith.” Her theological writing can transport us into the presence of the divine in the same way her children’s literature can transport us into another world. She helps us transcend, surrender to, and draw near to the presence of the divine in a way that allows us to drop our guard and be at peace.
My L’Engle’s reflection on prayer below (also from Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art) make a way into prayer for you today, a prayer full of “Gimme… help me… I want…” that transports you regularly into the mystery of the divine.
Let us pray:
Before I can listen to God in prayer,
I must fumble through the prayers of words,
of willful demands,
the prayers of childish “Gimmes,”
of “Help mes,”
of “I want…”
The prayers of words cannot be eliminated.
And I must pray them daily,
whether I feel like praying or not.
Otherwise, when God has something to say to me,
I will not know how to listen.
Until I have worked through self,
I will not be enabled to get out of the way.
—Madeleine L’Engle, 1918–2007
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