Imitating the Saints

Heaven's gatesSt. Therese once wished aloud that her own mother would die. When her mother scolded her, Therese explained that then she could sooner go to heaven.

My children received this anecdote with perverse joy, telling their siblings to jump off a bridge, run out in the street, and let go of the tree branch…that you may sooner see paradise, of course.

Given a choice between heaven and hell, they will gladly choose heaven. But faced with a choice between heaven and earth, they start hedging: Are there Legos in heaven? Who’s going to be there? Is the music any good? Why do they have a gate that keeps all the fun people out?

They’ve already noticed the problem that villains are usually the most interesting character in any novel or movie. It’s far more troubling to envision characters who are not completely wicked, characters who struggle with temptation but don’t succumb.

I tend to love my heroes too much to attribute them with serious flaws. Or I imagine there is a class of unsullied souls, anointed souls who somehow, magically, don’t sin. They may have sinned in the past, but no more. They meet Jesus, they fall off their horse, or maybe they’re just born with an incredible endowment of piety, and sin can’t touch them. A heaven full of such insufferable people really doesn’t sound appealing. [Read more…]

Stumbling into the Waterfall: 25 Years of Image

To celebrate Image’s twenty-fifth anniversary, we are posting a series of essays from people who have encountered our programs over the years. Today’s post is the first.

I had been living a double life.

Two nights a week, I attended a large evangelical church, where I prayed, sang, and gave my money and time. I led a small group where we spoke fiercely of our spiritual struggles, relationships, careers, and painful pasts.

At the same time, while riding the train downtown to my publishing job every morning, I wrote poems. My notebooks revealed another flavor of faith and struggle, prayer wrought with image and metaphor.

Both of these lives manifested the “real” me, and one was not more valuable than the other. But sustaining two identities with equal passion cannot last long. I’d lived that way through most of college and grad school, and now it was 1999, the thick of adulthood.  Could I bring my two lives together? Could I experience the fullness of millennial joy Prince had promised years ago?

One afternoon at a local Barnes & Noble, I wandered to the newsstand and spotted a new acquisition: Image: A Journal of Arts and Religion. The cover image, Sacrificial Grace by Makoto Fujimura, gripped me with its decided lack of grip. This abstract, color-streaked waterfall “counted” as religious art? I wanted to enter it with my arms open, allow it to drench me with its mystery.

[Read more…]


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