Freedom within boundaries. ‘A Sonnet kind of life.’

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.

So what?”

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.

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