There are three women who, unbeknownst to them (and not totally consciously to me either, until recently) inspired the writing of Favored One, and exactly this year–the year I decided to publish the novel of the woman chosen to physically bear the Word of God in her body, and the year I became a differently Word-bearing sort of female, as pastor of a church–all three of these women have re-entered my life. One of them is now one of my spiritual directees. Another is now my spiritual director. And the third one is Madeleine L’Engle.
I’ll tell you about how each of these women inspired the book in other blogposts, but right now I want to talk about Madeleine L’Engle. Madeleine L’Engle, you might know, is not currently living–at least not in the plane of reality I’m currently inhabiting. (I was going to say “at least not in the plane of reality I, and those of you reading this, are inhabiting,” but who knows? Maybe people in the next life can read our blogposts–although I’m not sure why they’d want to.) So you may wonder how Madeleine L’Engle has re-entered my life since I’m not a spiritualist or anything.
I will tell you. First of all, a college friend of mine (another awesome woman in her own right, and something of an expert on the woman in question these days) wrote a book about her that came out last year and which I read at the beginning of this one. I recommend it.
Secondly Jeff, friend, Pilgrimage participant and supporter, and spiritual formation guide himself, a few months ago gifted me with a review of Favored One on Amazon.
I didn’t pay him to say this, and to be honest, I’m not entirely sure what, in Favored One, reminds him of L’Engle’s writing, but if anything does, I’m delighted. I’m also delighted because, some years before I even thought of writing a book like this, L’Engle put the irrational seed of its possibility in my mind without my even realizing it.
I was a literature student at a college in the Midwest, and the department had invited some illustrious authors for, I think, their annual literature festival. I don’t remember if there were more than Chaim Potok and Madeleine L’Engle because those two had been favorites of mine for years and I was already starstruck by their presence. Not starstruck enough to do the normal fangirl thing and buy a copy of a book that each of them had written so they could sign it. No, no–too broke and inherently cheap for that (though I have regretted it since).
There are some ways in which I have always been unusually mature for my age, and a whole lot more ways in which I developed much more slowly than most people in general. The way that manifested in this case was when I, a 19-year-old, presented myself before these two illustrious authors like the 8-year-old I had been eleven years before–with an “autograph book,” in which were (and later followed) the signatures of all and sundry of my friends and acquaintances with whom I had even slightly more than a passing interaction.
To be fair, I gave the two writers each their own two-page spread (on one page of which I had affixed their photos as they appeared in the campus newspaper)–and also, by the time I got to Mr Potok, I was feeling pretty dorky. But he graciously signed the page next to his photo and then I moved on to Ms L’Engle. “This is kind of silly,” I said as I proffered my book, “but I don’t have…” She smiled at me, took my autograph book, and wrote in it.
She did not say, “Don’t be so insecure, young woman. Have faith. And maybe write a novel about Mary if you feel up to it.” And I didn’t think it. But her taking the time to reassure me by writing her poem “After Annunciation” in my silly book, it cracked open a door in my head or heart to start intuiting some things about faith I had not considered before, and about life with God. And I did start wondering imaginatively how Mary felt about what happened to her which led to the whole God-becoming-human thing that Christians around the world celebrate at this time of year.
So I’m quite pleased to have anything I’ve written be associated with Madeleine L’Engle–but especially this thing. And at this time of year, too.