“When the religious views of others interpose between us and the primary experience of Jesus as the Christ, we become unconvicted and unpersuasive travel agents handing out brochures to places we have never visited.” Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out
I struggle with all these words. How can I write about Someone who defies definition, whose best description is the mysterious “I AM WHO I AM”? What does that moniker point to if not mystery? How do I know if I see clearly in the glass or just what I’ve been taught to see?
I have an analytical mind, addicted to judgment and classification. I see a created thing, a part of nature or art, and I ask myself, “What does this mean? What is it for? What does it offer, and should I accept or reject? Is it good, bad, or best? Do I even have time for all this?”
This holding at arms length and squinting is bad enough for created things, much less Creator. God calls me to something different: a relationship. A place beyond judgment or comparison where I can simply be who I am and God can be who God is. The call is always so close, but so quiet that I can often only hear it in silence.
Some rare creations can slip through the defenses of my mind, evade all lines of questioning. All in a flash, I see them as they are, or as close as my clouded eyes can see. They speak to me like a dream, wake me up and make me see the world primal, tender, untaught and open. To me, this is what makes great art.
The late works of Mark Rothko are this for me. When they were on exhibit in my city, I would go visit them almost weekly, just to sit with them like friends, to linger my gaze on beloved details like with a loved one fast asleep. Reproductions can’t do justice to their life-sized worlds of subtle color and delicate, reverent brushstrokes, seeming smudged and uneven, but nonetheless right. Wandering from one painting to another, this one sunrise-colored, another one big green-blue shadow, I couldn’t help thinking the artist looked at these paintings with wordless, unmixed love. Some might dismiss his creations as unworthy of a second glance. He saw each one different, perfect, complete.
And as I looked, God whispered, “This is how I see you.”
This writing about God stuff is impossible. And yet, for you, I want to try. Anyway, God gave me this mind, this quixotic desire to describe. But I need to remember this always: The Good News is not the newspaper. It is the ultimate work of art, unwrapping my logic to ravish my heart.
As Rothko said when asked for an artist’s statement, “Silence is so accurate.”