Although I had read some of well-known Christian author C.S. Lewis’s books, I didn’t realize until I watched the movie Shadowlands that Lewis wasn’t always a believer. The movie captures part of his struggle with faith in a simple, but striking quote: “I have no answers anymore: only the life I have lived.” The contributors to Ruminate come from a variety of Christian denominations, but their messages in the Winter 2011–12 issue all seem to resonate with this quote from Shadowlands. Whether they choose to address the magazine’s theme “Up in the Air” literally or figuratively, they rely on the authenticity of their experience rather than the authority of scripture to explain their devotion. Instead of offering answers, they offer us glimpses into every day, uncertain, and often uneasy lives.
One of the most literal approaches to exploring lives that are “Up in the Air” is represented throughout the magazine in the paintings of Micah Bloom. On the cover, two angels reach out to grab a small child who is not only in the air, but also upside down as he falls down a staircase. As Bloom explains in the artist’s note, his work focuses on “the interaction between the corporeal and spiritual, the natural and the supernatural.” While most angels are typically depicted among clouds, Bloom’s angels rush to avert crisis in a suburban living room, a farmer’s field, and other ordinary locations. None of the people in the paintings react to the angels’ presence, nor do we see proof that everything turns out well in the end. However, Bloom’s work seems to reflect the idea that our lives, particularly our disasters, may be far closer to divinity than we think.
Other depictions of divinity in an uncertain world come from the variety of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction in Ruminate’s pages. Amanda Leigh Rogers describes her “Up in the Air” moment in the poem “April Snow”: “Looking up into the sifting / I lost my feel for gravity / and almost drifted up.” Her simple lines capture her struggle to deal with the unexpected, particularly when the unexpected replaces something else that she had been hoping for: spring after a long winter.
This theme of broken expectations is echoed in the nonfiction essay “Virgin” by Deja Earley. When getting married and having children takes longer than expected, Earley finds it harder and harder to justify her decision to remain a virgin. Sprinkling in equal parts of humor and heartbreak, Earley takes us past the issue of morality and makes it clear that being a virgin is a simple decision with very complicated results. Like C.S. Lewis, this author cannot give us any easy answers, only the life she has lived.
Ruminate’s subtitle—“chewing on life, faith, and art”—sums up the reason why it can appeal to a wide audience. Readers who chew through its pages will find that this magazine includes, as the editor puts it, just as many “grappling pleas” as “quiet assurances of hope.” The universality of our struggle to survive lives that are “Up in the Air” ensures readers will enjoy this issue, regardless of whether their regular diets are kosher, halal or simply depend on the menu of the local diner.