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I’m up and out of the house earlier these days. Middle and High School drop-offs have us in the minivan by 7am. At 7am, morning is just sliding toward proper daylight as we rumble toward school. The mornings tend to be cool now, too, and there are fields filled with dense, white fog, waiting to awaken. When I see the sun shine on them they have a mysterious, heavenly glow. The fog-filled fields are the main reason I don’t mind my early morning jaunts across town. I see the beauty in obscurity.
I have spent a fair share of life’s days clashing with feelings of obscurity. Even though I strive after certainty, clarity, and the straight and easy paths, I sometimes end up in a dim, deep valley. Or, as I try to discern where I am going, or what’s the way out, I find myself ensconced in thick, heavy fog. This obscurity sometimes takes me by surprise with its weight and clinginess. These have to be seasons of deep trust because I generally like the idea of constancy, of always putting one foot in front of the other, following God. When the fog becomes so turbid that I cannot see my own hand before me, I must slow way, way down in order to determine the position of the good God who is beckoning.
Life is filled with these impenetrable valleys, and whole fields covered in soupy, morning fog. We can’t see well enough to know if everything has collapsed around us, or if the safe path is still there, clear, under our feet. It is scary and lonely, depleting, and filled with an exhausting amount of unknowns.
When I was in seminary, we stayed at a convent for our January-term retreat. It was quiet there, surrounded by hard-packed snow. The pond was frozen over. During one of our times of prayerful meditation, I found myself walking in the quick-darkening afternoon along the edges of that hard, cold pond. In my memory, we were meditating on the creation story, which seemed out of place because I don’t generally think of creation as having happened in the dead of winter, but in the very lushest, most verdant part of summer. I stood at the pond’s edge, longing for bursting color, heavy plant growth, singing birds, and jumping fish— for evidence of the creative God who designed the intricacies of heaven and earth.
At the desolate edge of the iced over basin, I longed to see evidence of the God I knew and loved, all vibrancy and splendor. Instead, the wind whistled. I pulled my cap down lower and my collar up higher. Still the wind found the gaps, chilling me with the very sight of its whirling, gusting fronds.
And, I breathed in deep, and then deeper still. There was God. God, the Spirit, hovering over the waters. Gusting. Gales. Whirling snow showed the very presence of God even in the darkening, deepening night. God is always there.
And, that is what I mean when I say that, in the viscous fields of obscurity— in the hardest times of life—it is about the depths of our trust.
When I was a child, my family had the greatest gift of staying in the crudest cottage, along the smallest lake, (think, “pond,”) in upstate New York. It was owned by my grandparents, and loved even-more-ragged by my family of five. The vast majority of my visits to the cottage took place before I was ten, but I knew even then, and always, that the best part of the day was climbing out of my lumpy bed, scuffling across porch, screen door slapping behind, and heading to the lichen-licked dock where I would absorb the living start of the day. Each new day produced a cap of fog above the lake, and sun just strong enough to warm it to life in a hundred lifting tendrils. I watched God breathe that place to life, morning by morning.
Now, when I drive back home from the school drop-offs, I sometimes see the same. Those deep, white-glowing blankets become thin until they rise in a misty, incense-like swirl, into the heavens.
God is in that obscurity. In the deepest and most dreadful valley: God is there. In the vast field of clinging, questioning uncertainty: God is there.
Stand steady. Let the sun of our creative, good God burn across the field’s obscure cover. Watch the Spirit’s breath blow the mist away breath, by breath, by everlasting breath. Until you can see again, that God is in every season and every place.
If you are stuck in obscurity right now, wait. Trust.
Oh, that when the sun burns the fog off, you will see that it is a place of beauty.