I was looking for this passage in order to quote it elsewhere and stumbled into a bit of extra blessing in the context of where I found it, a blog article titled “A Sonnet kind of life” written by Joanne Heim for her site, The Simple Wife.
“How can I explain it to you? Oh, I know. In your language you have a form of poetry called the sonnet.”
“Yes, yes,” Calvin said impatiently. “What’s that got to do with the Happy Medium?”
“Kindly pay me the courtesy of listening to me.” Mrs. Whatsit’s voice was stern, and for a moment Calvin stopped pawing the ground like a nervous colt. “It is a very strict form of poetry, is it not?”
“There are fourteen lines, I believe, all in iambic pentameter. That’s a very strict rhythm or meter, yes?”
“Yes.” Calvin nodded.
“And each line has to end with a rigid rhyme pattern. And if the poet does not do it exactly this way, it is not a sonnet, is it?”
“But within this strict form the poet has complete freedom to say whatever he wants, doesn’t he?”
“Yes.” Calvin nodded again.
“So,” Mrs. Whatsit said.
“Oh, do not be stupid, boy!” Mrs. Whatsit scolded.” You know perfectly well what I am driving at!”
“You mean you’re comparing our lives to a sonnet? A strict form, but freedom within it?”
“Yes.” Mrs. Whatsit said. “You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you.”
— Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time, Kairos
Of this quote she wrote,“Once more, I’m faced with the idea of freedom within boundaries. Of the inside being bigger than the outside. Of being bound to be free… …Boundaries. Time, place. Finances, family. Skills, talents. Energy, resources. The strict form that makes up my life. Your life. The structure that surrounds us, that contains us. That protects us. That shapes us. But absolute freedom within that structure.”
Madeleine L’Engle may be suspect in many areas of theology (I have a talent for understatement), but I appreciate her grasp of this essential concept of the Christian life, or more generally, the life of one who recognizes, acknowledges, and tries to honor the Sovereign God of the universe. We have the freedom to choose what is most important in our lives and the freedom for that choice to be God, His Glory, His instruction, and a very great promise if we make the choice to reject sin and put our faith in Him. It brings to mind the words of Jim Elliot, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” In a world that rages against boundaries and limits, who “Believe that taboos are taboo”, which rebels against even the impersonal limits imposed by common sense, physics, and reality, it’s nice to be able to illustrate with such simple compelling clarity why there is freedom in obedience.