In the fog, faith matters.
Turning 70 with good friends ain’t so bad! Last week we celebrated my birthday with a trip to Chicago, dinner with friends and family, and a visit to the Chicago Institute of Art. What a way to celebrate! I love the work of the Impressionists and one of the Monet paintings caught my attention. It is entitled “Waterloo Bridge, Gray Weather” and is a mystical, intriguing painting, mostly in grays and blues of the bridge across the Themes River. But it was the caption on the accompanying poster that caught my attention: “If not for the fog”, Claude Monet once said, “London wouldn’t be a beautiful city. It’s the fog that gives it its magnificent breadth.”
And as I gazed at the Monet I thought, “Sometimes it really is the fog that gives life its magnificent breadth.” Sometimes we learn things in the fog we would never learn in the brilliant sunshine. When everything is clear and bright and every decision appears to be black and white, life can seem so simple. There’s nothing quite like what Lance Morrow called “the blinding clarity of certainty” to blind us to the subtleties and complexities of life. And I understand how often we would prefer our faith to be like that too—full of clarity, devoid of complexity, with the simplicity of the old catch phrase I heard when I was a kid, “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.” Over the years, however, I have come to appreciate the fog. As much as I love the sunlight, I would say I have probably learned more in the gray areas of life. I have discovered that “faith matters” particularly in those places where things are not so clear, where decisions are difficult and where life can be confounding. I’ve discovered that doubt is not the opposite of faith, but rather it is the door way to faith and the companion of faith. So I have learned to live in the fog. St. Paul says “…for now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.” (I Cor. 13:12)
Don’t get me wrong—I love the sunlight and on these gray Michigan March days when the fog settles in on the Frankfort harbor and the sun barely breaks through on the other side of Platte Lake, I yearn for summer and days of clarity. But on the way, I would like to learn what I can in the fog, because sometimes I think Monet is right. Sometimes it is the fog that gives life its magnificent breadth.
After 70 years, I think I am learning that lesson.