The Red Couch: The Irrational Season Discussion



To learn more about The Irrational Season, please read the introductory post. Be sure to peruse The Nightstand in that post, which has resources for those wanting to learn more about the topic and themes of this month’s selection.

I didn’t know when that first book by Madeleine L’Engle was placed in my hands at the age of 23 it would be the start of a lifelong obsession with a prolific literary sage of spiritual creativity.

The woman that handed me that book was to become my mentor and spiritual Mother. She gave me Walking On Water: Reflections on Faith & Art. To say those words were life-changing for me would not be an exaggeration in the least. Reading that glorious book led me next to Madeleine’s set of Crosswicks Journals, and with that, my love of spiritual memoir was born. 
I carried my dog-eared L’Engle titles with me on the touring buses of various musicals and backstage in countless theaters and dressing rooms. When I moved from state to state, her books were the first ones I packed into moving boxes. When I lived and worked in New York City, the Crosswicks Journals were tucked into my purse like a field guide from the past. 
This year, when it came time for the Red Couch team to help select the books for 2016, I hastily chimed in with my favorite L’Engle titles.  
At the top of the list was The Irrational Season.  Framing the book around the arc of the liturgical calendar year, Madeleine guides us through the seasons by sharing the moments of her daily life, along with her musings and questions that are rich with wisdom and reflection—all shared through lush and dense prose. I love the reminder that “there is no better way to search for the truth of history than to look in poetry and story.” (p. 30.)   
One of the joys of this particular Crosswicks volume is the spontaneous and frequent offerings of L’Engle’s poetry.
This is the irrational season
When love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
There’d have been no room for the child. (p. 27)
As I read this book, I was struck by the timeless nature of L’Engle’s writing. The Irrational Season was first published in 1977, yet her words speak to both my own personal circumstances and the world at large, as if she penned them last week.
Madeleine seems to leave no subject unturned or off limits. In the span of one chapter, she schooled me in topics from suffering to the church—even theological questions based in science and higher Math as it relates to her faith. A few paragraphs later, she espoused the joy and agony of the writing process, then brought me back to my fundamental beliefs that my art and my faith are indelibly intertwined: “Art is for me the great integrater, and I understand Christianity as I understand art.” (p.21.)
I read paragraphs like the one below and feel such a kinship with her across time and space, realizing my own questions and musings have meaning:
“When I think of the incredible, incomprehensible sweep of creation above me, I have the strange reaction of feeling fully alive. Rather than feeling lost and unimportant and meaningless, set against galaxies which go beyond the reach of the furthest telescopes, I feel that my life has meaning. Perhaps I should feel insignificant, but instead I feel a soaring in my hearth that the God who could create all this—and out of nothing—can still count the hairs of my head.” (p.11.)
During Lent in 2015, I decided to read each chapter dedicated to a particular time in the liturgical calendar in that corresponding season.  {i.e. Lent in Lent, Easter, Advent, etc.}
Discovering L’Engle’s words afresh were pure gift for me in this year that has held numerous challenges, unexpected heartbreak, and a waiting season such as I have never experienced. 
It was Advent when I first sat down to write this post. Not only was I waiting for the “symbolic” moment to celebrate Christ’s birth, I’ve been sitting in a season of barrenness. Walking through months of infertility resulted in learning the news that I should never carry a child because of a rare blood disorder. Unreturned phone call after phone call to adoption agencies yielded little or no response. Multiple auditions at various theaters only resulted in rejection and continued unemployment.
Madeleine reminds me throughout this book of the unchangeable fact that God sometimes does his best work in me through these types of painful seasons.
“I am forced to accept that my best work has been born from pain; I am forced to see that my own continuing development involves pain. It is pain and weakness and constant failures which keep me from pride and help me to grow. The power of God is to be found in weakness, but it is God’s power.” (p. 34.)
An Irrational Season, indeed.
By the time you read these words, we will have moved into the season of Epiphany. Even the word itself glitters and shimmers with promise. I am grateful to be reminded by Madeleine that “a new year can begin only because the old year ends.” (p. 2.) No matter what fate has befallen me in the previous year, January always spreads out wide and open before me with no mistakes, and I believe that this time, this year, I can move closer, in all of it—the relationships, the artistry, the writing, the living—to deeper meaning and healing.  
Madeleine reminds me to take my focus off of perfection and striving, and rest as I nestle into the hands of my beloved, my community and ultimately, my Maker and Creator.
Unclench your fists
Hold our your hands.
Take mine.
Let us hold each other.
Thus is his Glory 
Manifest. (p. 39)

Questions to Consider/For Reflection:

 **What aspects of this book resonated most deeply with you and why?
**One of the subjects Madeleine broached in this book is her writing process. If you are a writer, how did her words affect you?  Did they resonate? Did they help you figure out something specific and new about your writing process?

**Were you raised in a tradition where the liturgical calendar was used? Whether you answered yes or no, did this book help you understand the church calendar in a deeper way?

**So much of The Irrational Season is filled with stories of relationships in Madeleine’s life.  How do your own personal relationships draw you closer or farther from your walk with God?


Our March book is Between The World And Me by Ta-Nahesi Coates. Come back Wednesday March 2 for the introduction to this important book. The discussion post will be up Wednesday March 23.  As a reminder, there will not be a formal book discussion in February but we do have something special up our sleeves. You won’t want to miss out! Details coming soon in the Red Couch Facebook group.

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