“Have you ever been at sea in a dense fog, when it seemed as if tangible whiteness shut you in, and a great ship, tense and anxious groped her way toward the shore with plummet and sounding-line, and you waited with beating heart for something to happen? I was like that ship before my education began, only I was without compass or sounding line, and had no way of knowing how close the harbour was. “Light! Give me light! Was the wordless cry of my soul, and the light of love shone on me in that very hour.” Helen Keller
The dense fog that once surrounded you lifts, leaving a chalk-like smudge, a stain upon your eyes. Life looks different now. Your eyes are stained with the mark that pain leaves behind, scared with the memory of fear. This is the thorn in your flesh and like Paul it keeps you from boasting.
God saw the value of keeping you in the dark room without light. He knew that there the best lessons could be discovered. He knew that in the darkness of that cramped space His light would penetrate the room and you would learn new things.
Sometimes there is no view except that which comes from His illumination. The thing that you face is out of place like a huge boulder someone has deposited in your lounge room. It’s too heavy to move and there seems no way of covering it. The carpet gets worn all around that boulder as you try your best to live your life with it there.
It’s awkward when people come to visit. You try to explain it away but it is so huge and so ugly and all consuming that there’s no way you can ignore it. People feel sad. For your sake, or maybe for theirs, they act like they don’t notice it, they laugh with you but all your attempts at laughter are fake. Others come carrying trowels, they chip away at the boulder and their tears turn to mud as they kneel by your side.
Added to the awkwardness of the abnormal boulder you notice the music has gone. It is not only your sight that seems to be taken but also your ability to hear.
“Why has everything gone silent?” you ask when you get on your knees to pray. All He is prepared to say is that the rest is part of the music.
In response you decide to pay attention. Many an opportunity has been missed because you got distracted when you were supposed to be counting the beat. If you learn this lesson now you will be ready to come in with the others in the orchestra. This is what you want now. You no longer care to have your own voice heard above the others in the crowd. Mostly you want to be part of the symphony that plays in harmony with your Maker.
Instead of spending your days catching up with friends you rediscover your childhood love of books and all the ways they make you wiser. You find things that resonate with all the lessons you have learnt so far.
“My mother always says that fear and pain are immediate, and when they’re gone we’re left with the concept but not the true memory.” The words of Teá Oberht frighten you. You don’t want it to be just a concept now; you want the memory to move you. You know you must act because until you do more people will die.
You don’t want to walk away or live a life without meaning. More than anything you want to help people to be persuaded to donate stem cells so that more people can have a life like your eldest daughter now lives. Sometimes you can’t work out how this is possible.
During the week you teach your class about persuasive language, high modality words and writing. All the while you wish you could publish your own story so that people might be persuaded for your cause.
Not all of life makes sense but you are thankful for the effect that the dark room had on your family. You know that your youngest daughter is equipped to manage student life in Paris because of all the lessons you learned together and the bonds that were built as you hung on to everything that mattered.
One morning in the café they are playing Louis Armstrong’s rendition of La Vie en Rose.
“Is this to taunt me?” you ask the owner. “Do you know Emma is in Paris?”
As your coffee arrives you read her email. “We are at the new apartment,” she writes, “and it is so much better. We had to get the locks changed (what’s the change without a hiccup?) but we are here and it is so much better, so much more space!”
Eventually the boulder is removed, space opens up and the music plays again.
You converse with your daughter about light and shadow, and all your deep thoughts over email. She reminds you of a beautiful quote by Annie Dillard. This shared love of language feels so rich and as you search for the chapter she’s been referring to you discover this quote instead:
“Appealing workspaces are to be avoided. One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark.”
You think of your friend who had to work all day on a Saturday, in a room without a window and you smile. “She’s a wise woman,” you think to yourself as you dive under a wave.
Returning home after a coffee, after a swim, after all the things you enjoy, you look at the floor where that boulder once dominated your life. You consider all the ways your imagination met memory in the dark and how it pulled you through when you had no way of knowing how close the harbour was. You know it was His whisper that lead you through the silence and the tender nudge of His hand.
You marvel at how the sun (the sun you felt you never saw) has darkened the space all around where that boulder once sat. Yet in the space where the boulder has been removed the carpet is plush, and new. You know in the season that God hid you He also protected you, He taught you to see and to hear.
Now as He lifts His baton, He has your attention and you are positioned to play. You close your eyes because now you have discovered that the darkness has taught you to see.