I'm fairly certain that Andrew Peterson has read Madeline L'Engle's book Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art. I finished re-reading it a few weeks ago and this particular passage jumped out at me in light of Andy's song, "All Shall Be Well," which is still finding rotation in my CD player quite often. I wonder how much this passage by L'Engle might have influenced him to write a song using Julian of Norwich's words? Anyway, I thought I'd share some thought-provoking quotes.
(I'd also like to plug the book Walking on Water-- if you haven't read it, you should. You may not agree with everything she says, but it's definitely thoughtful prose. Basically, it's a memoir/discussion about her life as a writer who happens to also be a Christian. According to L'Engle, there is no such thing as a "Christian artist" or "Christian art," there are only artists who are Christians. Even unbelievers can declare the glory of God through their creations unknowingly. Christians just happen to know the purpose for which they create.) And we should continue to create, even in the midst of what seems like chaos.
Here's a story from Chapter 9 where L'Engle describes what she went through after hearing how her granddaughter, Lena, had been hit by a car and was in the ICU, and she was far away and unable to be with her.
Madeline L'Engle wrote:
I opened the small prayer book I bring with me when I travel, and when I came to the psalms for the evening, there was a picture of nine-year old Lena, taken just a few weeks before, at the baptism of her baby brother. It was almost more than I could bear. I held the prayer book loosely and a card fell out... On it were the words of John of the Cross: "One act of thanksgiving made when things go wrong is worth a thousand when things go well."
And I knew I had to make that act of thanksgiving. I'm sure I was given the grace to give it, that night, and during the several days that followed, when I jammed as many lectures and classes into a short a time in order to be able to get home to the family as soon as possible. The largest part of that act of thanksgiving was gratitude for my children and grandchildren, for the first nine years of Lena's life, and then to say with Lady Julian of Norwich, "But all shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well," and then to add, "No matter what." That was the important part, the "No matter what."
It was ten days before Lena regained full consciousness and we knew she would recover.
At the end of the chapter she comes back to the earlier reference:
All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well. No matter what. That, I think, is the affirmation behind all art which can be called Christian. That is what brings cosmos out of chaos.
When we experience difficult times -- a dying family member, trouble at work-- it can often seem that things are out of control. But they aren't. And though we are never promised that everything will be fair, or right, or just for us in this life, we know that the One who was and is and is to come rules and reigns NOW. It may not seem that way from our earthly vantage point, but that is why we see as through a glass, darkly. As Julian's assessment and Andy's song agree, all SHALL be well, one day, when the whole creation which is groaning and waiting in eager anticipation will be redeemed, along with those who are in Christ, and we will have new bodies and a new creation in which to explore. But for now, by writing a few words, carefully placing paint on a canvas or clay on a potter's wheel, by building a cake or mowing the lawn, by constructing a house or fixing someone's plumbing, even by balancing accounts or fixing a computer, we all have our part to play in bringing cosmos out of chaos.
Andy's music certainly brings cosmos out of chaos, and explicitly declares and affirms that no matter what we may struggle with in this life, we look forward in the hopes that one day, Christ shall return to redeem the earth, and then all shall be well. I was especially reminded of this while watching him and about twenty other amazingly talented musicians and vocalists perform "Behold the Lamb of God" on December 11th.
Gather round ye children come,
Listen to the old old story
Of the power of death undone
By an infant born of glory
Son of God, Son of Man
Thanks, Andy, for the affirmations.