Used with permission from flickr.com/photos/2kun. Photographs on this site are copyrighted and are available for purchase. Do contact the original owner for details.
What a dark sounding title for a post, eh? I promise it’s not all gloom and doom, but it comes from joy birthed through pain. At first glance, the photo above struck me as painful…despairing…alone. But the more I stared at it, the more I could see it as a metaphor for life, specifically, my recent life.
Let’s start with the bleeding obvious, the barbed wire: sharp, restrictive, and exclusionary. It says “You are not allowed in here, or out of here. Any attempts to gain entrance or escape will be met with sure pain…and lots of cursing and blood.”
Now, turn your attention to the fog. Fog clouds, shrouds, and obscures our field of vision. Think about driving down the road when you encounter a smoky blanket of cloud, kissing the pavement and making you nervous about what lies ahead. Where is the road? What if the guy in front of me doesn’t have on his/her lights? I might smack into him! I can’t see! Never mind you’ve traveled that road a gazillion times before and know every pothole and bump. You doubt your own history, prior knowledge, and assume the worst. You know the road is there somewhere, but you’re just not certain where anymore.
Finally, the water: gray, still, perhaps stagnant. It’s deserted; there is no sign of activity, devoid of all visible life.
If I were to describe my life for about a three-year period, I would use these descriptors as the colors to paint what seemed a grim picture. I felt trapped and the only way out would be painful. I couldn’t imagine that there was anything out there that wasn’t as bleak as what I felt at the time. Just nothing. In my mind, there was absolutely nothing out there to find that didn’t have the potential to be more painful than what I already knew. So for the longest time, I stayed with the pain I knew, rather than risk a pain that was new and unknown.
But slowly, I came to understand that reality is what you make it at times. Through an enormous amount of hard work and a dose of prayer, I began to rewrite my reality. I could now look at the picture above in a different light. The barbed wire came to represent the challenges to my life that I could get through; all I had to do was find the right tool to cut it. That tool exists; it’s not mythical. It’s Faith. My faith allows me to break through any obstacle to reach what I need to live.
In the concrete sense, I need water…the still quiet of the water. I find that I am calmed by water. A mountain stream, the gently lapping tides in the morning on the beaches at the Outer Banks, but especially the Chesapeake Bay…these all ground me and have the ability to instantly make me appreciate that there is a Creator who made these marvels for me to experience and protect. In the abstract, water is to me a metaphor for love. Love, like the waters of the Earth, can be calm and still, or turbulent and stormy; it’s never the same from moment to moment, sometimes it is present in abundance. Other times it seems scarce or fouled. I look through the pain of my past, break through with the aid of my faith, to find love, still, quiet, and ready for me to wade in as deep as I am willing to go. I will float along in it, and allow it to carry me where it will, unconfined.
Which brings me to the fog. No longer does fog represent fear and darkness, but rather a soft unknowing. I think of this as trying to understand or explain God’s purpose for me. I think I have an idea of what lies ahead, but in fact, I don’t know for certain. I can decide what I think lies ahead, but when I open my eyes and my heart, I may find something very different…that God’s purpose for me may be unknown or unclear at the moment, but the uncertainty isn’t permanent. In time, when the conditions are right, the fog will lift and all will be made clear.
At church this weekend, the pastor spoke of unanswered prayers, or more correctly, that God answers all prayers, just that sometimes, the answer is “No”. And like children, sometimes we don’t like to be told “no”, but it’s for our own good. I really struggled with this for the longest time in my past, and I even used this as a rationale to turn from my faith for many, many years. If I prayed, and the prayer was answered the way I wanted, then I could “see” that there was God. But if the prayer went, in my mind, unanswered, then this must be proof that there was no God, as a merciful God would surely grant me what I wanted. But it doesn’t work like that, no more than a child asking for cake for breakfast is going to get told he can have it (well, ok, once in a blue moon we get something extraordinary like that, but you get my point). We are children who need to be told “no” once in a while, for our own good.
So when I look again at this picture, and I think of my prayers for the pain to be lifted, for the path to be cleared to love again, and I reflect on who is in my life right now, I can’t help but believe that this is a special time in my life of prayers being answered and people being placed in my life in response to those prayers. The question that now remains to be answered…that will be answered in time, is this: has God placed this person in my life, so seemingly out of the blue, for the remainder of my life, or only as a lesson that His plan is for me to have this love for a moment? I don’t know, but I do know this; I will do everything I know to be a good steward of the love He has laid at my feet and not take a single drop for granted.