Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Brown darkness

by John D Ramsey


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Dad came down Sunday afternoon. It was a short visit. He drove home Monday morning. He might have stayed longer, but later this week he has another little trip planned. I think Dad’s objective was not a prolonged visit, but rather simply a break in his routine as he becomes accustomed to living alone.

Sunday night Lisa and I slept in the guest bedroom so that Dad would not have to navigate stairs. I like the guest bedroom in our house, and sleeping there is not the slightest inconvenience. The guest room is almost a secret room. At least I forget that we have it. I seldom have an occasion to go upstairs in the house, and when I do, it is to change a light bulb in one of the girls’ rooms or something similar. The guest room is behind a closed door that I do not open: out of sight – out of mind.

Occasionally, Lisa swaps furniture from the guest room into other rooms in the house. I see the piece and I wonder, where has that been? Likewise, when I do enter the guest room and see a familiar piece of furniture, I think, when did this move here? Whenever I enter the guest room, it is always both new and familiar to me.

Last year, Lisa painted the guest room a rich chocolate brown with cream trim. At night with the lights out, it is very dark — not unlike the master bedroom. Last night, I commented to Lisa about how dark the room was. She asked if it was too dark and I said, “No, it’s just different. This is brown darkness.” Lisa laughed. I told her that our room had a blue darkness, but that the guest room had a brown darkness. She laughed again; then she asked if brown darkness was bad. I told her that I did not know, but that it was definitely different. She laughed once more.


She reminded me that when Daniel was a teenager he insisted that he slept best in a purple room. We said, “Purple darkness,” in unison and chuckled. I am certain that Lisa was laughing at me, too. For years, when we lived in Minnesota, I insisted that I slept best with my head pointing north.

I lay awake for a while looking at where the walls should have been but all I saw was a deep brown darkness. I silently wondered to myself how much of my perception was imagined and how much was real.

I slept just fine in the brown darkness of the guest room. In the morning, Lisa awakened me from a far away land where all the geography and architecture dwarfed the inhabitants. My dream was as a movie set built to a disproportionate scale and softly lit to obscure perception. It seemed simultaneously familiar and mysterious.

Since Mom passed, life is concurrently familiar and mysterious. Mom has been gone for a month, and life is disrupted in almost imperceptible ways – like the difference between a brown and blue darkness, or sleeping east to west rather than north to south, or familiar scenery apparently out of proportion. Many routines remain the same, yet I am feeling disoriented.

Perhaps I should cry just one more time, but I pause after the first tear wondering whether the time for appropriate crying has already passed.

Cara called tonight, and I walked outside to get better reception. While we talked, I stared at the sky without my glasses. I see what I think is the Pleiades, but I am not sure; the sky is hazy and my eyes are naked. Is that Betelgeuse? Maybe so, but where is Orion? Suddenly nothing in the sky looks familiar, I turn to the west, but even Vega seems misplaced. It cannot be Vega; it is another star – nameless to me. On another night, this sky would look familiar, but tonight my expectations are misaligned with the heavens.

I realize that I have been seeking to understand what God is not yet inclined to explain. My expectations are misaligned with my Father’s plan for me. Without my expectations, no mystery would bewilder me. I need to set aside my expectations, understanding that what bewilders me today, I will someday fully understand.

For now we see through a glass, darkly;
but then face to face:
now I know in part;
but then shall I know even as also I am known.

1 Corinthians 13:12 (KJV)

Why would I value my understanding over faithfulness?

He hath made every thing beautiful in his time:
also he hath set the world in their heart,
so that no man can find out the work
that God maketh from the beginning to the end
.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (KJV)

Only faith can bridge the distance between what I can barely see today and what I will someday see clearly. I pray for understanding but more so for faith, knowing that faith fosters hope and hope expresses itself in love.

And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three;
but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13

Trusting God to fulfill his word, what have I to question?

Tonight in the darkness, I am seeing a glimmer of light. I resolve to cling less to that which I understand so as to embrace that which is new and mysterious. Without harboring my expectations, I move closer to the purpose for which I am called.

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