Muted Color

We finally went to the ocean.

Two years ago, right before Marissa’s scheduled surgery, we had reserved and paid for a house right on the beach. She wanted to see the ocean again. But then a hurricane changed the plan, her surgery was canceled, and she moved on to radiation.

And then a change in all our plans. A change in direction, a change in perspective, a change in reality. A spiral ending in sorrow for us. Healing and joy for her.

Even now it is hard to think that my deepest heartache was her triumphant deliverance.

On the first morning at the beach house, my son and I met, unplanned and silent, in the hallway before dawn. We walked to the water’s edge in the moonlight and waited for the sun to rise. It was windy and warm, and we were witness to a quiet but stunning transformation of sky. The vibrant reds were astonishing, the beauty of the heavens spilling down around us, and we sat immobile–unable to catch it, hold it, grasp it. God’s glory seemed a tangible thing, and He was both very near and very far away.

The next morning we got everyone out of bed early to await the sunrise. We made coffee and set up cameras and waited expectantly on the shore. The sun rose, and it was lovely. But it was not what we were expecting. It was clouded and muted and subtle.

This was not the past, remembered beauty.

The Bible tells us it is good to go into the house of mourning. Deep things happen there–brokenness and the stirring of the soul. Wrestling and longing and a physical kind of hurting. Stretching, a dawning of understanding, and a painful healing. The kind of healing that changes who you are and who you long to be.

God’s glory settling down and seeping into all the dark places.

Once you have stepped in, it is hard to walk out. Sometimes I even wonder if we are meant to leave.

It is good to stay awhile. To let our eyes adjust to the dimmed light, the muting of all the colors. To see clearly gospel hope etched and illumined on every wall. To listen to all the murmuring sounds of the river of peace.

To be held gently by nail-scarred hands.

We look back on past, remembered bright colors, but they are muted–a watercolor version. We struggle with disappointment, but we trudge onward. We are in a darkened hallway, but we are waiting for and walking toward a stunning light, an unknown glory to come.

We are meant to enjoy this life’s beauty and all the good gifts our Father gives us here. But we are not despondent when the colors fade. We are beginning to love the watercolor rendition. We are learning to know the skill and the heart of the Painter.

The mourning house is refining us.

The mourning house is teaching us to long for more.

It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, because that is the end of every man, and the living takes it to heart. Ecclesiastes 7:2