Over the last week I have started to read a devotion by Joan Chittister called “A Passion for Life” and as I’ve worked through the pages I have been reminded of historical, yet not often thought of, icons in faith. With each reflection on a different person’s life I’ve been thinking about the guides in my life – the spiritual icons – who have made an impact on who I am and how I got to today. Those who have in unexpected ways spiraled my journey to the next ring mark. People whose lives created tension against that season in my life and moved me to a new normal.
Outside of the icons in my family one of my earliest recollections of an icon in faith was my professor Kathy Brawley at Covenant Bible College in Strathmore, Alberta. The image that comes to mind when I think of my time with her is a bench press. In her classes and in personal discussions with her it felt like I was on the bench holding the bar and thinking I had it down – she first showed me I had no weight on the bar, just the foundation to build upon my previous concepts of faith but that no new weight had been added. With each class, with each interaction where she didn’t give me an answer to my wonderments, with each disagreement of theology and ideology she allowed me the time to add weight to the bar. Kathy challenged me to wrestle with the weight of new thoughts and new beliefs but didn’t allow me to get too familiar with the weight, she always added new questions to the mix to add a new pound of pondering before that could happen. She never told me what to believe, just spotted me with each rep of wrestling as I grew into a new normal of faith.
Kathy is one of my icons of faith because she showed me I had the intellectual curiosity, soul wonderment, and desire for a perpetual new normal. The tension I experienced from her wisdom has forever shaped how I hope to teach, how I strive to lean into the stream of ever flowing questions, and how I find peace in knowing what I know now is not the final piece of the puzzle. Kathy, thank you for being one of my beautifully unexpected icons! My path is a lasting challenge to how you nurtured the grace of uncertainty in this journey of faith.
I encourage you to pick up Joan Chittister’s book and to think through who your icons of faith are.