I am a city girl. My heart is most comfortable in those enchanting, rich with potential places, surrounded by interesting people whose mystery magnifies the pronounced tension of abundance and want. It is in an urban landscape, drawn of straight lines and perpetual motion that I feel the most at home.
In stirring contrast to my love of all things cosmopolitan, is my abject discontent with the simple patterns and slow weaving motion of the fields and woods of the countryside. As odd as it may seem, though I certainly admire the radiant meadows and ankle deep wild flowers portrayed in storybooks of my childhood, there is something muddled and mischievous about those gutsy rural roads and backwaters. And if I am to be honest, what may be most loathsome about the countryside is the depth of quietude that provides little distraction to the gritty monologue at work in my heart and mind. Over time I have garnered the ability to appear fairly serene and confident, but the truth lies tenuously between chaos and uncertainty, amplified, in essence, by the strange acuity of emotion that exists in nature.
On a recent trip, dictated by responsibility, I found myself behind the wheel of my car enchanted by the view of the Atlanta skyline in my rearview mirror. I was, begrudgingly, headed away from the smoke and noise of the city toward the stoic still air of the countryside. As I maneuvered the car from the crowded interstate to the oddly rounded two lane road that would deliver me to my destination, I felt the rise of anxiety in my chest as I worked to find my footing in a strangely foreign landscape. And while the urban sprawl of morning in the city had earlier welcomed me with fair skies and daytime colors, I was suddenly transported into a milk-white overcast morning, quickly swallowed up in dense fog.
Visibility was instantaneously reduced to a fragment of what it had been and the potential obstacles and hazards seemed to loom insidiously. Feeling tense and anxious I clutched the steering wheel, paying close attention to the road and its risks as the unknown magnified the danger of my journey. The countryside, hidden by clouds of damp mist and thick vapor, was an uncertain, claustrophobic and potentially perilous place. I was quite simply lost in a bank of fog and the fairly simple task of getting from one place to another required a depth of focus and energy that left me feeling rather depleted upon my arrival.
At the completion of my meeting, an hour or so after my arrival, I stepped toward the door not quite certain what the weather conditions would be like on the other side. As I hesitantly pulled at the formidable wooden handle, I was shaken a bit by the intense red-orange in the sky and the sweet fragile fragrance of honeysuckle that hung thick in in the air. And though still no fan of the rural nature of things, my eyes drank in the timeless complexities of the living world around me.
As I sat behind the wheel of my car on the way back to the city, I was struck by the deep quiet of the countryside, my eyes and heart pulled toward the meadow, intrigued by the shifting landscapes and enchanted by the wildflowers that spotted the edge of the asphalt road. What had, encased in deep fog, seemed so ominous, now seemed almost magic, a place ordained quite simply as balm for the soul. The beauty of my surroundings had not changed, the lens through which I had been looking at the world had simply been smudged by the milk-white morning. My perspective had been distorted by the fog. Oh how often we experience the present under the cover of clouds. Only later, as the sun breaks through, do we see things for what they are.
Grief often feels quite like a dense bank of fog. It separates us from the world, forcing us to move with uncertainty, slowly and tentatively navigating the obstacles and barriers that seem to loom along the gutsy road of loss. Much like driving through fog, grief requires the acceptance of limitations and the grace to move unhurried. It begs the knowledge that no amount of rushing through or engaging against the fog will hasten the sun's arrival.
What I came to understand very clearly on that morning drive is that my perspective of God was skewed by the pain and brokenness of loss. Somehow, though all my life He has lavished grace and mercy upon me, I had begun to wonder about the goodness and fairness of the God I thought I knew.
Today, as the fog has lifted and the red-orange of the sun warms my face once again, I am wholly aware that the One who “commanded the morning” has been there all along. And though my visibility was limited by the blanket of fog that insulated me from everyday life, I have been lovingly cared for by the One who promises that everything is being carefully attended to for my ultimate good. Grief is a teacher of the soul, and buried in its cycles and transitions is resiliency, wisdom, understanding and transformation. It is faith, not feeling, that allows the heart to embrace the mess, the discomfort and the fog until the light returns and the pain we felt becomes a story that begs to be told of a soft and thoughtful God.