Hi there. I wrote this thing for a college exercise which was to talk about how my theology has changed. Quickly I realised the question isn’t how it has changed but which particular change I should talk about. So I borrowed an idea from the delightful Gail Ramshaw, and made the following. A list of the shapes of the theology that has held me and been held by me, over my life.
My theology as scenic background.
I parade in front of it in a variety of guises, each of which I play with gusto. It stands upright and thin and stiff, telling myself and the viewers what surrounds me. A closer look would reveal that its paint is thinning and that what it depicts is not realistic. I forget it is there.
My theology as comfy blanket.
It is always waiting for me, tucked in a cupboard or stuck awkwardly down the side of my bed. I put it away for months at a time, but I know where it is and how comfortable it makes me. It is sometimes, the reason I go to bed.
My theology as the blue sky.
It is above, it is blue. This much we know for sure. This cannot be contradicted. We know where it is, how to point it out to tourists and children. It contains mysteries, yes, but we know where it is, how it should appear. To conceive otherwise would be lunacy. It is above, it is blue.
My theology as scaffold.
A green and rigid structure, holding up the façade of a building. It’s not pretty, but by God is it necessary. Its removal results in catastrophe.
My theology as petals on a pond.
They float idly by, so small they are almost tucked into the water. It is nice to watch them move, which they do with no discernible pattern. They do not tie you to the pond and when you return, if you return, the petals will have gently swirled into different positions, their water-top dance unknowable and unimportant.
My theology as parent, or grandparent.
It has held you and raised you and now is yours to walk with or visit or ignore for days and weeks, forgetting to call. When you visit you are warmed by its wisdom and eat the treats it offers you gladly, but often find yourself keen to leave again. You call when you need help with your taxes.
My theology as smorgasbord.
A table groans under the weight of dozens of plates, heaped with food of all colours, smells and textures. Or a long serving section with trays in bain marie’s, each one a surprise and a delight. You take your time wandering to each in turn as your whims lead, sampling a little here and there. The food is delicious, and after you eat it you feel as nourished as you’ve ever been.
My theology as balloon.
Once draped inelegantly and uselessly over the ground, its outer patterns indiscernable, it has begun to fill gently with warm air, growing slowly larger, and yet larger, filling to a shocking, an extraordinary size, the images printed on it’s surface widening until they are proud and taught, until it rises calmly from the earth to transport one in a basket to heights previously unreached.
My theology as question.
Uttered as one sentence, that may be a different sentence on the next utterance, rising in a plaintive peak at the end, curling through the air in abject wonder, now asked, not returnable, concrete in utterance but not meaning, giving the speaker a toe through the door, a jimmying elbow to force a gap. It seeks response.
My theology as tree.
Tall, or short, or rough, or smooth and dotted with knots. Its roots dig deep in the ground but it moves gently with the wind. Small creatures, lovely and strange, hide amongst its leaves. Sometimes we eat from it, others, we use it as firewood. It talks to other trees, grows in daylight and darkness, doesn’t always talk easily to humans. Stretching up by virtue of its birth into other spheres, not content with sitting still, its branches can shelter from the heat or support one who seeks a different vantage point, and who will rest against bark covered limbs for hours, surveying the landscape.
This is beautifully written.
Carly! Do send me a text when you have time. I was thinking of your dear self just the other day. I wrote out a text but Lo! your contact had trundled off. Somewhere into the land of iPhone-backup mishaps. I’d love to hear from you. Do text! Love you. Ali Stanfield.