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A Wrinkle in Time September 7, 2007

Posted by peterong in Reflections.

Today Madeleine L’Engle passed away and I remember my encounter with her in the mid 90’s. My friend Judi was her assistant and all I knew was that my friend worked for an author. Judi wanted to host a party for some international students and myself. I went with the hope of some home-cooked food and good time. Her boss was away on some trip. When I arrived to the apartment, I was stunned to see the photos of this writer with President Kennedy and several celebrities (all the photos were black and white). The author was away on a trip and we would have the apartment to ourselves…but at the last moment Judi tells me, that she will be joining us for dinner.

I still didn’t know who this author was.

L’Engle walks in and sits down.

I have that awkward, I am sorry I am at your home….feeling. Like I crashed the place.

She peels the boiled shrimp and dips it in the sesame, ginger, soy sauce mix…I recall her commenting on how good the food was.

So, getting enough courage, I ask her…”I hear you are a writer…what did you write?”

She responds, “A Wrinkle in Time”

My heart thumps, my jaw drop and for a moment I stutter…

“Have you heard of it?” she asks.

Silence. gulp. Silence.

“It has been translated in some languages…a small book…” Judi grins.

She walks over to her bookshelf and brings me a copy. “Here you can have this one.” I don’t know why but I was speechless. For me the book represented so much of my childhood and this was my first brush with celebrity. And here I sat, at the table with this amazing creator of a world that spoke to my imagination.

A little later, she invites me into her library where there are countless pictures of Christ. She shows me a photo of an ancient medieval depiction of Christ. She looks at my face carefully and asks, “what do you think of when you see this picture.” I was a reluctant atheist at the time and I muttered something to the effect, “I don’t know, Mrs. L’Engle…he is someone who I don’t have much to feel about.” She pushes me, “do you think him kind?” I am stunned by the question, “yes, very much so, almost too kind.” She smiles. She tells me that my view of Christ is something that I should continue to explore. She tells me that pictures are really good gateways for me to encounter God…sometimes, it is those pictures that move us most. I look around I remember a picture of angels attending to Christ and my heart was very heavy. In this room I am sitting with one of the most beloved writers and all she cares about is how I can encounter Christ through art. She took a sip of her tea.

And to this day, I wonder if she said a prayer for me. I wonder if one day when we meet again, she will see the answer to that question of that evening. This time. I could give a very different answer.

Thank you for giving me this memory.  Thank you Madeleine for your words, your pictures, and your heart. I am grateful for this encounter and tonight I say good night to you and we will meet again.  This encounter with a woman who wanted this young prodigal to see that Christ is kind.

Almost too kind.