About a year and a half ago I was introduced to the poetry of Madeline L’engle. Now, I don’t mean to be overly dramatic and to demean this phrase, but it changed my life. I was with two friends and we sat down in a coffee shop, taking turns reading poems from L’engle’s “The Ordering of Love.” (BUY THIS BOOK!) As each person read, the other two would nod their heads, sigh and “mmhmm” in agreement. We all eventually said, “Oh Madeline, you just get it.” Her writings paint an honest picture of the Christian life, which is a rare find. Soon after I purchased my own copy and continue to savor her beautiful words. I’ve bought it as gifts, I’ve used it in spiritual direction, I’ve tried to convince people of its brilliance (at times, even writing blog posts).
One of the poems that has been a continual comfort for me is called “The Birth of Love”:
To learn to love
is to be stripped of all love
until you are wholly without love
until you have gone
naked and afraid
into this cold dark place
where all love is taken from you
you will not know
that you are wholly within love.
Stop. Read this poem again. Just let it sink in for a moment before continuing on.
The process of being born must be traumatic. One starts wholly contained in the mother’s womb, but then must leave, naked and afraid, not knowing where this tunnel will lead to. In that moment, it must seem like the world is ending. Wholly in confusion. No wonder a child emerges crying. But from the place of unknowing and fear, the child is met with the reality of the mother, with ready, open arms. Wholly contained again.
I love that L’engle uses the imagery of birth in this poem. It just seems to perfectly capture the journey of life with Christ. I feel that I am continually going through this cycle of being held, then birthed, then held again. Each time of birth is scary and seems never ending. I find it hard to trust what will be at the end. My memory is short and I struggle to remember how God has been with me.
As I read this poem today, I am reminded that even though I feel stuck in this “cold dark place,” devoid of love, that in actuality, God holds me. I am actually surrounded by his love. My prayer as I read was “Lord, help my see this ‘cold dark place’ for what it really is, a place full of love, instead of a prison.” I want to truly believe that I am contained and loved by God. Wholly.