Keeping it Tight with a Timely Tale

Excerpt taken from Madeleine L’Engle’s delightful book, Walking On Water: Reflections on Faith and Art:

“There’s a story of a small village (about the size of the village near Crosswicks) where lived an old clockmaker and repairer. When anything was wrong with any of the clocks or watches in the village, he was able to fix them, to get them working properly again. When he died, leaving no children and no apprentice, there was no one left in the village who could fix clocks. Soon various clocks and watches began to break down. Those which continued to run often lost or gained time, so they were of little use. A clock might strike midnight at three in the afternoon. So many of the villagers abandoned their timepieces.  

One day a renowned clockmaker and repairer came through the village, and the people crowded around him and begged him to fix their broken clocks and watches. He spent many hours looking at all the faulty timepieces, and at last he announced that he could repair only those whose owners had kept them wound, because they were the only ones which would be able to remember how to keep time.  

So we must daily keep things wound: that is, we pray when prayer seems dry as dust; we must write when we are physically tired, when our hearts are heavy, when our bodies are in pain. 

We may not always be able to make our “clock” run correctly, but at least we can keep it wound so that it will not forget.”

As Christian artists, Madeleine posits, we pray and we write. We write and we pray. And we’re supposed to do it everyday.

I’ve been doing the writing part. If not everyday, then at least every other day.

The best lesson I learned as a creative writing student was to spend 20 minutes a day with my butt in a chair and a blank screen in front of my face. Even if I just stare at the screen. Even if all I write is “I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write” for twenty whole minutes.

Because even on the days the “clock” isn’t working properly, it’s a way of keeping it wound for the days when inspiration strikes. For the days the clockmaker returns with his tools and his tinkering.

On the writing front, I understand this. It’s been drilled into me since Freshman Comp. Even in the midst of burnout. In the midst of “hating” all work and all writing, I still couldn’t help but write. Couldn’t help but keep my own sort of time.

But on the praying front I’ve had a harder time with discipline. I’ve whined and I’ve cried, “God why haven’t you healed me? Why haven’t you shown up?” before taking the time to ask for healing or to invite His presence into my life.

I make time to write. Why shouldn’t I make time to pray?

I believe that God speaks to me. That God can speak to all of us in different ways. This week he used a friend to remind me how desperately He wants to spend time with me, to pour out out his love on me.

What if I took time to just “sit with God?” In short, to pray?

20 minutes a day. My butt in a chair. My heart open to the One who loves me.
No notes, no writing–although writing is spiritual for me, this is different from my writing time–just chatting with God. Sitting with a friend. Even if I don’t want to. Even if I don’t feel his presence or can’t hear him speak. I will sit there in anticipation. I will keep the clock wound.

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One thought on “Keeping it Tight with a Timely Tale

  1. Susan Lewis says:

    I really like the word picture of keeping the clock wound.

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