It’s not often that you get to read a new passage from a book that’s over 50 years old, and over 10 years since the author has been deceased. But for myself and other fans of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, we are getting that opportunity.
L’Engle’s granddaughter came across an unpublished passage from an early draft of the book and shared it with the Wall Street Journal this week. Reading the passage sounds as timely today as it would have been in 1962:
For the moment [Meg] felt completely safe and secure and it was the most beautiful feeling in the world. So she said, “But Father, what’s wrong with security? Everybody likes to be all cozy and safe.”
“Yes,” Mr. Murry said, grimly. “Security is a most seductive thing.”
“Well – but I want to be secure, Father. I hate feeling insecure.”
“But you don’t love security enough so that you guide your life by it, Meg.”
[After recapping with Meg and Calvin the children's brave actions, he goes on]:
“I’ve come to the conclusion,” Mr. Murry said slowly, “that it’s the greatest evil there is. Suppose your great great grandmother, and all those like her, had worried about security? They’d never have gone across the land in flimsy covered wagons. Our country has been the greatest when it has been most insecure. This sick longing for security is a dangerous thing, Meg, as insidious as the strontium 90 from our nuclear explosions…”
(via WSJ.com. brackets indicate edits I made for space and relevance only.)
Now, obviously this passage has ramifications both for the Cold War of L’Engle’s day and today’s War on Terror. Looking beyond politics, this has major implications at the personal level.
I just finished reading Brené Brown‘s excellent book Daring Greatly. She talks about how everyone lives with shame, and how dealing with shame is one of the most difficult and brave things we can do in our lives. It involves a willingness to be vulnerable with other people. It involves leaning into shame.
And it involves a whole lot of discomfort.
God designed us in brilliant fashion. We are wired to protect ourselves, and we do a wonderful job of it. We keep up a level of comfort through all kinds of difficult situations. But our hearts are still left wondering. Is that all there is? Doesn’t God want us to grow?
The answer, according to Brown, seems to be leaning into discomfort to the point that we get used to it. Own all of our stuff. Have the difficult conversations. Say no to all of those little numbing tactics we use to get through the day.
Like L’Engle says above, security has its place. But don’t guide your life by it.
Instead, guide your life on a path of “daring greatly”. Make that difficult phone call. Stop and help the stranger, even if it might mean “getting involved”. Try to be an example of a good parent, a good spouse, a good boss, a good Christian.
And as much as we think that example is all about being strong, often it’s the opposite. It’s about admitting we don’t know everything. It’s owning our faults and imperfections, not in a celebrity tell-all kind of way, but in a way that feels natural and right with those who have earned the right to be a part of our lives.
This message means different things to different people. For me it means admitting to my kids that I’m not perfect. It means sharing with my wife all the tough things I’m going through. It means posting some not-so-perfect moments to Instagram and Facebook. It means going against the normal “dude” thing and sharing my weaknesses with other guys. It probably means something different to you.
Thinking back to Meg, she was able to save her father and brother by embracing discomfort. But in the end, she was able to defeat the enemy not by being someone she’s not, but by being exactly who she was. So maybe it’s time to let go of being who everybody else wants me to be. Maybe it’s time to be who I was made to be.
If we all quit trying to be so perfect, if we all quit trying to be so secure, and if we all lean into shame and hurt and not-perfect, we might be able to help each other just a little bit.
So let’s put down our security and get used to being uncomfortable. Let’s pick up our cross and try the higher road for a while. I think we would all be better for it.
Thanks, Brené, for a timely book. And thanks, Madeleine, for wisdom that is truly timeless.