Madeleine L’Engle’s Faith and Persistence

Her children’s classic, A Wrinkle in Time, was rejected 42 times before it was published. Her trust in God helped it see the light of day.

Posted in , Mar 9, 2018

MADELEINE L'ENGLE, author, circa 2000. Credit:  © Shaw/Everett Collection

I haven’t seen it yet but I’m thrilled to think a new film version of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time has come out, bringing to life an enchanting novel.

Madeleine L’Engle’s own story is one of faith and persistence. She was a familiar figure to me when I first moved to New York, living not far from my first apartment on the Upper West Side and serving as the librarian–surely an honorary position–at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine nearby.

What anyone who has ever written–and has ever experienced the sting of rejection–is sure to remember about this woman is how she persisted long after most of us would have given up.

In 1959 L’Engle wrote A Wrinkle in Time and then spent the next two years trying to get it published. The manuscript was rejected 42 times–can you imagine how disheartening that must have been?–before it was finally picked up by Farrar, Straus and Giroux and released in 1962.

It went on to become a classic and win the prestigious Newberry Award. Did all those editors who rejected it go into spasms of regret? Most of them probably did their best to forget the masterpiece they passed up. But what made her stick with it?

L’Engle gave an interview in 1987 to my Guideposts colleague Nancy Schraffenberger and Nancy asked L’Engle about her childhood. “You had some harsh experiences,” she said, “What kept you going?”

“Trust in God,” said L’Engle. “For me, God was the One Who took the side of the underdog. In the Bible, you notice, the people He chooses are always the flawed ones, the failures. That was important to me because I was not a successful child. I found my acceptance didn’t come from peers, but it did come from God. I didn’t have to win relay races to be loved by God.”

“How did you come to this benevolent view of Him?” Nancy asked.

“Through Scripture,” L’Engle said.

“So many stories in the Bible are about weak people who became strong with God’s help. This was important to me because I felt abandoned and hunted by my peers, and I didn’t have the support of my teachers.”

L’Engle was born on November 29, 1918 (she died in 2007) so she would have celebrated her 100th birthday this year. Nice to think that her timeless classic gets celebrated this year too.

Without the writer’s faith and belief in Scripture, it probably wouldn’t have seen the light of day.

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