Just finished reading Madeleine L’Engle’s book Walking on Water, on being a Christian and an artist. (She doesn’t talk so much about “Christian artists,” because the phrase suggests something about both the art and the artist that may not be true; some overtly Christian works are poor art, and some great “Christian” works have been produced by nominal Christians or non-Christians.)
This book was recommended by a former colleague and friend of mine, Cerdo — he of Squad 19 and Harley-Davidson fame, and true to his word, it’s solid. L’Engle’s not afraid to believe and proclaim the hard parts of more “orthodox” or traditional Christianity — the Annunciation, the Incarnation, Transfiguration, Resurrection … sin and the devil … angels and redemption. She sees the artists role (whether writer, composer, sculptor, painter, or actor) as “incarnational” — much like Mary. Whatever the medium, we are called to be co-creators with God; the artist who is true to his or her vocation says yes to work — the gift — God has given to make Him present in the world. Sometimes the work is hard, and it’s easy to be led astray; to choose not to serve, and use the gift to destructive ends. (The book is 30 years old now, but she speaks frequently and well about the problem of pornography, as though she saw this online epidemic coming.)
L’Engle’s use of the “title story,” of Peter stepping off the boat to walk toward Christ on top of the waves, beautifully to illustrate how a deep and almost childlike faith lies at the root of creative work, of following inspiration where it leads. She describes Peter’s (and our) situation more like we’ve forgotten how. It’s not that Peter was doing the impossible and sank when he lost faith, but instead, that he was doing what we are all meant (and able) to do — walking with God — and sank when he “remembered” that he didn’t know how to walk with God.
Deep down, we all know. I’m realizing that these cement shoes are my own handiwork.