Posted on

Who do you say that I am?

I painted an icon, and I promised you the story of why I painted what I did.

It’s based on a very old image, the oldest icon we know of from the sixth or seventh century. It’s known at Christ Pantocrator – which means almighty or all sustaining. I chose it because I wanted to reconnect with the person of Jesus. I’ve been a follower of Jesus for 25 years or so and in that time, my understanding of who he was and is has fluctuated. Painting this gave me time to reflect on the changing nature of that faith.

I first became captivated by the idea of Jesus relating to me personally, and at the time, it was a simple relationship. I came to rely on him. It was a one-sided dependency – and that’s exactly what I needed at the time. It strengthened me. Now though, I’m in danger of being too self-reliant and I need to go back and renew that relationship on different terms. Otherwise I may be in danger of discarding it altogether as a childlike affectation.

The icon I chose has a particular symbolism in that it is an attempt to depict both the human and divine aspects of Jesus. The two sides of his face have different expressions, one supposedly more stern than the other. In mine, I’ve also used the red and blue colours in his robes that feature in orthodox iconography. The red corresponds to the earth and the blue to heaven. I think there’s something in there about the complexity and mystery of Christ, and that’s something I want to experience more.

As you may expect, if you know me, I didn’t come to any simple conclusions. So, I wrote something that is more about coming to terms with the mess and the mystery….



Who do you say that I am? Jesus asked.

You are a character in a story book, I replied. A mythic, twisting figure pulsing fragments of truth from the storm of false remembrance. And I am the reader, locked into my role, compelled to ebb and flow with your narrative drift. I cannot let go or I’ll drown in the sea.

Who do you say that I am?

You are a true miracle. Born from the earth with your spirit on fire. A danger, a wonder, with power and knowledge that conjures a vision. Shimmering silver, embraced by the air but never to know a woman’s touch. Even your mother knew you as ephemeral, a mist that slipped through her fingers, a knife through her heart. And I am your lover, rejected. To me you came reborn as perfect saviour but I can never know you, never hold you. ‘Do not cling to me’ you said and I let you go. My sorrow at your constant leaving clings to me instead, even as I sing my eternal praise.

Who do you say that I am?

You are a man with splintered fingers, on whose body rests the smell of dust. You are carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus. You are a memory and scattered stardust. And I am you.

Who do you say that I am?

You are the sun on a bend in the river. You are the blue of the sky. You are the turn of the earth, the conductor of clouds, the fusion at the heart of a star. You are the craftsman who moulds the worms and sets them free to crawl. You are the soil in which they burrow. You are the crust of the earth, cracking your bones as you stir in your sleep. You are furious lava flows, singing out on cold mountainsides. You are the crack and rumble of thunder. You are life. You are destruction. And I am your toy.

Who do you say that I am?

You are wisdom. Wrapped in a tattered robe, whispering consolation to refugees and standing strong against the buffeting gales of power. You show us secret passages to avoid corruption’s gates. I am the lost lamb you will shepherd to safety. And I am the lost king bearing the full force of your scorn.

Who do you say that I am?

You are. That’s all I can say. You have been present in me and with me for many years. You defy description. You confound explanation. You do not submit yourself for testing. You are the shadow I cannot help but tread on. You always are.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *