Defining Christian art is an inordinate task. When Madeleine L’Engle was asked to offer her thoughts on that topic, she felt unqualified. Despite being considered a successful Christian author for both children and adults, she starts off the book confessing she isn’t really sure where art and religion meet. Even if she did, “far be it from me to tell God where he can and cannot be seen.” Still, she gives it her best efforts in Walking on Water. She describes the purpose behind all art whether it is considered sacred or secular. Despite the fact that sacred art can sometimes be dry and lifeless, and art we consider secular can still somehow shout the existence of a Creator.
She defends the value of storytelling and the reason behind it. Despite many saying that fiction seems like an escape, she explains how story can actually be a lens with which to see the world. Audiences find themselves in characters of books and moments in songs. The journey of any work of art is where the audience finds their strength to keep creating their own story in line with God’s grand narrative.
Madeleine L’Engle states that humanity is broken and in need of healing. Because of this, each of us individually and collectively are constantly trying to repair ourselves, and creativity is an effort towards becoming whole. Christians’ individual identity and identity in Christ, a key part of our wholeness, will be visible in what we create no matter how secular the topic.
The common challenge of art is time and inspiration. Madeleine L’Engle argues that there is always time for everything we need to do. The opportunity is available. It is up to the artist to take it. As for inspiration, she describes the paradox of needing to take action and listen. Both must happen at the same time in order to create. The gift of creativity is free, yet a high price of discipline and patience and self-forgetfulness must be paid in order to get it. Once that is achieved, the art creates itself and turns out to be more of the art molding the artist than the other way around. Work must be picked up but not strangled. Instead, it is held in an open hand.
Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art is a challenging book for both the artist and the Christian, let alone someone who goes by both. The author takes a personal narrative approach as she shares personal experiences from working on her past projects and offers the lessons she has learned from them as a Christian and as an artist.