Wednesday, November 12, 2008

FACES OF FRIENDSHIP

During the course of a 14-hour car trip from central Florida to Louisiana, I had an opportunity to read apace! Among the reading material was an unpublished manuscript about the wisdom of women written by my friend from Sewanee, author Isabel Anders. I read aloud this wonderful and absorbing manuscript and returned to Louisiana to take up a second reading of Isabel’s FACES OF FRIENDSHIP, a first-person account about the spirituality of friendship published by WIPF and STOCK Publishers. As I read the book again, I thought, also, about C. S. Lewis’s famous treatise, THE FOUR LOVES and his ideas about friendship in which he says that lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other, while friends, side by side, are absorbed in some common interest and often answer this question: “Do you see the same truth?”

In FACES OF FRIENDSHIP, a vivid example of friends engaged in the art of writing is included in a chapter entitled “Mentors As Friends.” It is a tribute to the famous author, Madeleine L’Engle, who became Isabel Anders’ personal friend and remained a faithful one, nurturing and mentoring Isabel for many years. Isabel met Madeleine L’Engle during the time she worked as an editor in a publishing house in Chicago. She and a fellow editor went to lunch with Madeleine to discuss the famous author’s poetry and religious writings. At that particular luncheon, Madeleine L’Engle’s dignity and faith impressed Isabel as much as the author’s writings. Madeleine kept her luncheon engagement with the two editors in spite of the fact that she had received the news her grandchild had been hit by a truck the day before and hospitalized. To add to the problem, Madeleine, in Chicago, could not reach the New York hospital because a blackout in New York had left phone lines dead. “Yet, Madeleine L’Engle, full of prayer and watchfulness, kept our lunch engagement, kept going, giving, thinking, feeling – ever mindful of the presence of the unknown outcome hanging over herself, her family, and this loved one. To us, as new friends and potential colleagues, it revealed the dignity and authenticity of her faith in a most trying situation,” Isabel writes in FACES OF FRIENDSHIP. (And by the way, the child survived the accident and eventually recovered fully.)

Isabel began a correspondence and an acquaintance with Madeleine L’Engle that blossomed into a friendship. She later attended some of Madeleine’s classes at Munderlein College where she was studying for a Master’s in Religious Studies. When Isabel wrote her classic about the season of Advent, AWAITING THE CHILD, Madeleine L’Engle wrote an inspiring introduction praising Isabel’s abilities as a spiritual writer. Madeleine and Isabel cultivated a friendship that lasted until Madeleine’s death, and to me, the example of the friendship between the two authors that Isabel records in FACES OF FRIENDSHIP aptly answers Lewis’s question “Do you see the same truth?” I particularly liked Isabel’s idea… “I would like to think that the love of beauty, of truth, of the good, of the incarnational vehicle of language is itself a milieu that often draws us to those we most need to meet and know and learn from. Love is the connection between friends, between teacher and learner, mentor and pupil…”

This blog isn’t a formal and comprehensive review of Isabel’s FACES OF FRIENDSHIP but perhaps the mention will titillate readers to pursue further some of my friend’s work about those faces of friendship we encounter and recognize as persons who “belong together” –just as Isabel encountered and recognized this mutual belonging between herself and her mentor, Madeleine L’Engle.
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