English weather is known for gray, overcast skies and cold drizzles that settle in for days at a time. People talk about how the cold and the wet gets deep into you bones and you can only shake it when you leave the British Isles. While people like to exaggerate about the weather, there is SOME merit to this. However, our days in England are not all bleak and dreary.
On a recent morning I stepped out of the house expecting another gray and rainy sky. Why not? It had been that way the previous three mornings. But this particular morning was different. I was taken aback at the beautiful dawn breaking across the sky. The sky was blue–an unusually bright blue for any climate. There were a few high, wispy clouds. The rising sun painted them orange and provided a striking contrast to the blue. Overhead I heard a flock of seagulls greeting the day with their distinct call. (I always love hearing the gulls because then I know I am near the sea.) I looked up to see them pass. Their undersides of their wings flashed the same orange in the clouds on each downstroke. I was frozen in my tracks at the scene that played out before me. The dreary days had passed and a new bright and beautiful dawn had taken me by surprise.
As I recall that morning, I remember darker times in my life. I have walked through dark shadows and thought I would not see bright skies again. The dawn took me surprise.
My father died when I was twenty years old. Having lost my mother when I was but seven years old, this hit me particularly hard. As I flew back home from college for his funeral I was surprised at how life just went on as normal for all those other people. Didn’t they know what was going on with me? How could they act as though nothing happened? This went on for days–before, during, and after his service. The brightness of another’s day seemed strangely out of place in my darkness. How could someone else go on when my world was crashing around me?
This can happen when we find out that our job is being downsized, when we get that call from the doctor we were dreading, when someone breaks a promise, our children go astray, or a spouse betrays the wedding vows. All may seem dark and dreary. The cold inside seems to settle in the deepest parts of us. We look at others and wonder how can they act so normal when everything in our world is so bad.
I think the bright day of another person is gift to us. They remind us that we don’t remain in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. The Psalmist tells us that we go THROUGH it. That means were were never meant to stay there–though we may feel like we want to or feel as though we must.
As you read this, you may be in that shadowy valley. Keep moving through it. You may be looking for a brighter day ahead. Keep looking up. Be certain that those days do come. They come at the end of the dark night and the beauty of the dawn takes us by surprise.
The Divine Shepherd
A Psalm of David.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.