Theotokos: A Reflection on Struggle and Grace

Updated: Sep 10

by Ashley Colley


Ashley Colley, a postulant for Holy Orders sponsored by Heavenly Rest, just completed her first year in seminary. She wrote this icon during a workshop in January. It was recently published in Soul by Southwest, the yearly art and literature journal of the Seminary of the Southwest.


It seems like an eternity ago that I was in the workshop creating this icon. This was the first time since I was a child that I painted. It was 4 long days of creativity, joy, peace, exhaustion, frustration, and amazement. These emotions cycled through many times as Theotokos came to life before me. I fretted over my imperfections and struggled with wanting the final product to be perfect. I had a vision of what I wanted her to be, but I was only capable of so much. My hands shook as I tried to paint straight lines. My back and eyes grew tired as I hunched closer with focus and determination. It wasn’t until I got to the very end that I realized the grace of it all. Even after all the struggles, frustrations, and imperfections she was beautiful. Theotokos, Mary, Mother of God had come to life despite my limitations. She teaches me how much life, especially now, is full of pain and frustration. We are in a time of grief and it feels as if we are hunched over from the pressure. We are straining to draw straight lines and praying for the end of this process so that we can move on to the fun parts of mixing colors and painting with easy broad strokes. We have a picture of what we want life to be now, and in the future but we are lost in the unknowns and uncertainty. As I reflect on the process of watching Theotokos appear before me, and remain open to what she continues to teach me, I have hope that one day we will step back and see that even this time has brought forth beauty. That beauty was here all along.”

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