Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Pre-Birth Self-Portrait #2

By Ramone (pre-birth) - September 1997

This was the second half of my art professor's "self-portrait" assignment, to draw a picture of yourself but without using your likeness. Quite a challenge, actually!

But somehow I don't remember having trouble doing it. It seemed to come together easily. I had taken a picture inside St.Albans Abbey on a high school band tour back in 1993 (of the Wallingford Screen) which had a neat "dark" framing effect because the flash didn't go off. Then I took a picture of my hand reaching out towards...

The meaning of the picture was meant to be ambiguous. In class after we drew pictures or after we brought in homework, we posted it on our art boards and put everyone's pictures together so we could talk about them. You could call it "criticism", but it was not bad -- always constructive. It was actually very nice. When I put this picture up, of course, everyone was trying to figure it out.
Was the hand reaching for the cross?

Or was the hand falling away from the cross?
I'm not proud to say it, but at the time I actually got a kick out of how they were trying to figure it out. I hadn't thought about it deeply myself, but when the idea came to me I knew it would generate a lot of speculation. I felt like I didn't really put anything "deep" into it, and there was no "answer" to the questions.

But actually, it did have a deep meaning. I just didn't know it -- I wasn't able to face it completely, but somehow I had drawn it. Art had brought my innermost feelings out of me without my philosophical mind's approval! This was how I felt! Part of me inside wanted to be closer to God, wanted to know Him, wanted to know if He was real. Inside I was crying out because I needed Him. But I felt like I was in darkness, falling away. I couldn't get past my doubts and unbelief. I couldn't bridge my "darkness" to reach Him.

On top of it, being raised Seventh-day Adventist, I hadn't clearly understood the Gospel because of the denomination's mixing of the Bible with its unbiblical prophet, Ellen White. So my "image" of that cross I was reaching for was also skewed. I had been raised learning "The Ten Commandments" before I ever learned "God is love". In fact, it seems as if a lot of conservative Adventists I knew couldn't endure the words "God is love" without adding some disclaimer or qualifying statement, "Yes, but... (insert law/requirement)".

Amazingly, the gift of art God put in me somehow was already revealing the inner cries of my soul, even if my mind rationalized them away. In the next few years I would be attracted to Christianity, but loathe "faith" while singing the virtues of "doubt". It was a sin (so to speak) to have faith, to be certain. (I realize now this is post-modernism). This picture fit that struggle, and some might find it (that struggle) to be beautiful, poetic, and revealing. But it was pain to me deep inside.

Years later after meeting God and being swept off my feet by Him -- after He came and bridged my darkness to reach me and bring me to Himself! -- years later I was visiting with a friend in Phoenix. We had met a few times when I was passing through and had a great time discussing what he called "theological existentialism". We both appreciated Dostoevsky, but I think we both identified with his "underground narrator" and with Ivan Karamazov more than with Dostoevsky himself (because when I re-read his works now, "faith" is screaming from off the pages!).

The last time I met my friend and tried to share what Jesus had done for me, how He had revealed Himself to me and how He is still speaking to us today, he was kind of upset or offended at what I was saying (not at me). "What happened to theological existentialism?" he asked. I didn't know how to tell him everything, and I was still young in my new birth, still young in the ways of the Holy Spirit whom I'd only just come to know.

This picture shows who I was before I knew Him. I saw a faint glimpse of Him that religion had shown me, but it gave me no way to reach Him. Religion taught me "law" before it tried to teach the gospel (grace), and as a result when "grace" was finally taught, the darkness was already firmly in place. Add to this my depression and philosophical doubts and fear of being hurt, and well... it was quite a darkness.

But He rescued me from it! He took my hand and pulled me through. He brought me to Himself. Not to a cathedral. Not to a crucifix. Not to a statue, a ritual, a "church service" or obeying a set of laws or lifestyle rules. No, to Himself. It is because of His love and His voice that I am with Him now. He told me I'm not alone, and I am His first love. And you are not alone, either! You are His first love, too! Thank You, Jesus!

Previous: Pre-Birth Self-Portrait #1
Next: Crucifixus (The Naked Son of Man)

Ramone... I didn't realize you had visited St Alban's Cathedral. As a child I visited that Cathederal a number of times because it wasn't too far away from where we lived in Watford. Since it sits on beautiful park-like grounds which are open to the public, it was a place where my family had several picnics.

I love what you shared about the picture and your thoughts concerning how God knew you and was drawing you to Himself even before you understood His love for you!

Yes, it's amazing how the cry of our hearts is often revealed in our art even before we realize we're searching for intimacy with Him!

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