For my last-ever editor’s note, I’d like to tell a story about why The Ichthus’s mission is important:
My sleep last night was not its usual dreamless gray, and instead I saw an angel in vivid Technicolor, so much more saturated and heart-achy than it ever could have been in eyes-open-real-life. She was just like Updike had told me she would be: “weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen spun on a definite loom.” She interrupted my dream-within-a-dream and coughed loudly until I stirred.
“****,” I muttered, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes. “You’re an angel.”
“And you’ve been sent by He who made all things?”
“Then tell me why He wakes me this night,” I said. “Am I to proclaim as prophet the fiery tongues of His word? Does the Living God bid me serve as king over all I see? Will my pen speak Christ-inspired words to his people?”
“Maybe, maybe not.” Her glow seemed dimmer now. “But know this: You are called.”
“Maybe? Is there nothing definite to be done? Are all God’s children free? Is Nineveh saved? Is there no Ark for me to build? If this is to be my burning bush, then let it be!”
Suddenly her hair turned to flames and lit my bedroom. Tongues of fire kissed the books on my shelf, singeing them. The blazing angel looked bored. She reached over to my bedstand and took my glass of water, pouring it over her head and putting out the fire. “Enough of that,” she said.
“Sorry,” I muttered.
“These,” she said. The angel gestured to the stacks of books on my desk: Barth, Calvin, Bonhoeffer, Augustine, Luther, Edwards, Aquinas, Schleiermacher, Tertullian. “Your calling. Speak to these dead men and see what kind of God-talk you can dredge up, both old and new. What you will make will fuel the rest of the human enterprise. It will make sense of yourselves in this grand, cosmic waltz. And it will send humanity forth with an awareness of its place and purpose in all history. Most importantly, you will be a steward of hope in a life that disciplines your kind into only seeing the world as it is and not re-imagining the world as it could be. Theologians — and artists and poets and inventors and musicians and dreamers of all stripes — are the greatest enemies of the status quo. They create the conditions of a new and coming world over and over again. This will be you.”
“No. Tell Him I can’t,” I pleaded. “I’m a sham. I’m a fool. I can’t write. I haven’t the mind for it.”
“God loves your mind,” she said. “Learn to use it.”