I don’t remember my own context—age, place, circumstance—when I first read Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. I was completely engrossed in the story, and the outside world slipped into periphery. Meg Murry, the main character, seemed closer than my own skin. I do remember that at family worship I asked in all sincerity to pray for Mr. Murry who was in trouble, and then I realized he didn’t need my prayers. The book had been written, the outcome already determined—whatever would happen would happen regardless my wishful thinking. But it was oh so real.
This is one of the great gifts of story: that we can participate vicariously in the learnings, loss, hope, and growing of others. Somewhere L’Engle says: “Stories make us more alive, more human, more courageous, more loving.” What I experienced—and experience it I did, and do with each re-reading!—in Wrinkle in Time was a profound sense of what it means to love and be loved. Indeed, the resounding theme throughout the book is the power of love.
In the manner of excellent storytellers, L’Engle does a whole lot more showing than telling. We all need to be told, now and then, a truth. But it rings so much truer—more alive, meaningful, shining, and touchable—when we can see it.
So what does love look like? (I’ll tell you here, but I highly recommend you read the book for yourself to actually see—in which case, spoiler alert!)
Love is a longing for and seeking after the one you love (Meg and her brother Charles Wallace, together with Meg’s friend Calvin, embark on journey through space and time in search of Meg’s missing scientist father, Mr. Murry).
Love is self-sacrifice for a cause bigger than you (Mrs. Whatsit gives up her life as a star, fighting against the dark cloud or “Black Thing”—evil).
Love is the intentional surrender of power for the sake of another (Charles Wallace allows IT, the evil brain on the planet Camazotz, to take control of his own mind in order to lead him to his imprisoned father).
Love is tender care for a stranger (Aunt Beast cures Meg’s paralysis after Meg, her father, and Calvin left Camazotz via tesseract).
Love is taking responsibility for what is yours to do (Meg struggles with anger and resentment others could not rescue Charles Wallace and discovers that only she can).
Love is the comfort that gives you courage to face unknown danger and the possibility of failure (Meg holds onto the certainty that Mrs Whatsit loves her as she returns to Camazotz alone to rescue Charles Wallace).
Meg finds Charles Wallace completely changed. Taken over by IT, he says mean, hurtful things. At first Meg tries to fight with anger. But she feels the anger turning to loathing and hatred for IT.
With the last vestige of consciousness she jerked her mind and body. Hate was nothing that IT didn’t have. IT knew all about hate….
“Mrs Whatsit hates you,” Charles Wallace said.
And that was where IT made ITs fatal mistake, for as Meg said, automatically, “Mrs Whatsit loves me; that’s what she told me, that she loves me,” suddenly she knew.
That was what she had that IT did not have.
She had Mrs Whatsit’s love, and her father’s, and her mother’s, and the real Charles Wallace’s love, and the twins’, and Aunt Beast’s.
And she had her love for them.
And so she turned all that loving toward her Charles, not the IT manipulating his mind and body, but the boy she knew. The force of Meg’s love—and the combined love that loved her—broke the evil power over Charles and brought him back to himself.
Though science fiction, A Wrinkle in Time weaves the familiar plot of conflict between good and evil in a most believable way. I am compelled by the palpable, human love that is both tender and fierce. It’s a story of real and messy emotions, of wrestling with the shadow side of self and life. Through these pages I also encounter the ultimate Love which includes and is bigger than Meg’s, than mine. This Love is like the tesseract itself—a folding of the space-time fabric, a wormhole that links everything together and transports us from here to there, making transformation and change possible. A Wrinkle in Time shows me how to love better and more and always.
Image: The Butterfly Nebula (NASA)