This is a story and my theory of everything – we all have one.
This past weekend I went to Ohio for a wedding. After the singing, vowing, eating, and dancing were over, we went to The Book Loft in downtown Columbus. It had several floors and dozens of rooms with books on every subject imaginable. You could get lost in there (I did). There was so much to look at that it felt like you could never stare long enough to take it all in. But as we walked down a narrow hallway away from the history of the American military, I noticed a certain painting hanging on the wall. I knew within five seconds of seeing it that I had to have it. It made perfect sense. It was as if Leonid Afremov had listened to me explain the way I see the world and then put it on canvas. He calls it Bewitched Park.
We traveled back home after a wonderful weekend, and I brought the painting into my room. Instead of dropping $25 on a frame, I decided to just try and make one. As per usual, Grandpa left his shop unlocked and said I could use whatever I could find. So Aleisha and I cut and planed and glued and guessed for about two hours and emerged with a wooden frame.
While we were hanging it in my room, she asked why I liked the painting, why I had to have it. I didn’t have a very good answer immediately. But this is why.
I spent a lot of my life believing that when I was a good boy, things went well for me – and that when I was bad, things went poorly.
That when I make good choices, God lets me feel good inside – and when I make bad choices, God makes me feel bad inside.
That if I could be faithful, I could feel close to God – and if I strayed away, I wouldn’t feel his presence anymore.
I kind of believed that the good way was a straight (narrow) path illuminated by the light. As long as you stay on the path God has laid out, the light will shine on you, you’ll have peace, and you’ll feel close to God. The last two years have been a long series of un-learning this way of thinking. I have come to believe that I am the man with a black umbrella plodding through Bewitched Park.
I had to have this painting because the path cutting through Bewitched Park looks more like the one I’m on than the one I used to believe in, the one where if we walk straight we get shined on all the time. I had to have this painting because the man in the painting has to use an umbrella to keep from getting soaked in the rain.
Two years ago, my explanation for the darkness I felt was something like I must have strayed from the path. Now, I’m coming to believe that I don’t get too much a say in how bright things are along the way – I must choose only to keep walking and pray for the light. When the way goes through open fields, I run. When I feel peace inside, I thank God. When the light shines on me, I feel alive inside and smile.
And when the way goes into the dark woods, I can only say, It’s dark as hell out here. But I see no way through these woods except this road. I do not control the sun, and I didn’t plant these giant trees blocking out all the light. I am anxious, afraid, paralyzed, and lonely. But I will wait for the light and walk on, ducking down under my black umbrella.
My theory of everything is that we ought to dance in the light and walk through the dark with the knowledge that we cannot reach the light-switch. If you are warmed by the light, you ought to give someone a hug. If you are cold in the dark, you should reach out your arms. In Bewitched Park, you’re never too far from the bright lights shining to the left or the dark woods looming to the right. And the path through one usually leads to the other.
I have decided that in the dark woods or in the bright light, faith is what’s required of me. Faith and walking on. I’ve lived in fear for too long.
We are crooked souls trying to stay up straight,
Dry eyes in the pouring rain, yeah well,
The shadow proves the sunshine, the shadow proves the sunshine,