Get Out of the Way
Madeleine L’Engle writes:
When the artist is truly the servant of the work, the work is better than the artist; Shakespeare knew how to listen to his work, and so he often wrote better than he could write; Bach composed more deeply, more truly than he knew; Rembrandt’s brush put more of the human spirit on canvas than Rembrandt could comprehend.
When the work takes over, then the artist is enabled to get out of the way, not to interfere. When the work takes over, then the artist listens.
But before he can listen, paradoxically, he must work. Getting out of the way and listening is not something that comes easily, either in art or in prayer.
It’s true in art and in prayer, but also in faith itself – particularly in sharing that faith. When we are ‘servants of the work,’ as L’Engle describes, just as the artist allows the work to take over, so we allow the Holy Spirit, which moves within us and through us, to take over. Just as the artist is enabled to get out of the way – to not interfere – we are enabled to become vehicles of transformation in the lives of others. Not the source of transformation, mind you, but fortunate witnesses of a power deeper that we can comprehend.
Like with the artist’s work, when the Holy Spirit takes over, we must listen – deeply, attentively, openly. Not only to the Spirit, but to the other with whom we share – listening deeply, attentively, openly.
But, as L’Engle says, there is a paradox. Like the artist, before we can get out of the way and listen we must work. To be a ‘servant of the work’ we must launch ourselves into it, trusting that the work is bigger and better than we are. So we make space, build relationships, take risks, share vulnerabilities and allow the Spirit to take over; allow the Spirit to enable us not to interfere, but to be fortunate witnesses of a power deeper than we can comprehend.