One night after studying all day in my college years, I hit downtown Charleston at night with a friend in search of a cup of coffee only to find all our favorite coffee shops were closed. We made the trek to Starbucks and were walking through the alleys of cobblestone and historic houses paving the way to our destination. We passed by the sweetest little spot with metal garden chairs and twinkly lights in an alley where a high end bistro served a handful of couples. We came back from grabbing our signature lattes and rested down the way from the bistro. That night was filled with laughter after reading each closed sign and the journey allowed a space for deep conversation and a deepening friendship that I still treasure today.
This season of social distancing seems like a journey most days. While I could not be more grateful for all our girls, this season has been difficult to navigate in various ways. I never thought in my wildest dreams I wouldn’t be in a packed sanctuary on Easter or that I would be teaching week after week over the computer while juggling toddlers during a work schedule while also not trying to annoy our bonus daughter in Germany with her whereabouts. Each day has been filled with emotions. Emotions about missing people, explaining daily (or by hour, depending on the day) to a very social four year old why we cannot leave our home, missing our beloved Aunt Beth, missing our local spots, and the breeze in the night after leaving a fun MOPS meeting or a deep Bible Study conversation.
There has been joy and peace for me even in the unknown. There has been an eerie calm feeling in this season and I know that comes from the Father.
I flashback to that night in Charleston when I look at Van Gogh’s, Cafe Terrace At Night. There was stillness in that night for me (which if you know me is very rare) and God used that memory to teach me something so sweet even in this season. So let’s learn, together.
Van Gogh painted this piece in the late 1800’s and the dreamy light that is illustrated is truly stunning. He painted the cafe yellow to symbolize the light of God. A similar shade of yellow reflected in the stars against the deep blue sky, illustrating hope and light that God provides amidst the darkness. Underneath the covering of the cafe, there is a group of 12 diners. Some scholars note that this is to represent the 12 disciples and be a reminder of The Last Supper where they dined together before they traveled to the Garden of Gethsemane. If this was purposeful as scholars say this would illustrate the moment right before darkness came to light for us as Christians.
Cafe Terrace At Night, is full of texture and hidden crosses. Seriously, go look for them. This featured painting was a part of a star series long before Van Gogh painted his beloved, Starry Night. Van Gogh would purposefully go out in the night to paint these scenes. He would look for the light in the darkness for we know historically, he battled mental illness. Even in his battle of darkness, he made it a priority to go search for light and used his gifting to tell a story to us today. When I scan this painting, I view it as a symbol of exercising his giftings in hope of reaching mental wellness.
I personally love how Van Gogh paints the Cafe as yellow and underneath the covering, the yellow light is remarkable over the people dining in the cafe.To me, this speaks of God’s covering on my life and the opportunity of community we have within. We may be distancing out of necessity. But I’ve felt the sweetness of closeness with that devotional group nightly at 6:45, the genuine annunciation of “I LOVE YOU” from people I love deeply through a text message or the phone line. There’s been moments of forced closeness through this, much like Van Gogh was forcing himself to go out and find light at night.
I pray that you are seeking that light daily. That you are invested in community and focusing on His covering. Because when we are, there is a stillness and a peace that only He provides.
With the days approaching for social distancing to end, I don’t long to forget all these running hugs, the stillness as I watch the girls right now on the monitor during naptime, the joy I see when all the little ones see each other on our nightly ZOOM calls, the prayers and words shared together through text, Facetime, and ZOOM. In this season, I won’t ever return to who I was before because I’ve tasted more than ever for me what Van Gogh does in the painting—finding the covering of the light, and seeking mental wellness more now than ever. Ministry will be different, how I teach will be approached in a new way and how I even love others will not be as it was before. And I know it will be for the good, because of the newfound understanding of His covering and utilizing this season of growth.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you. I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. Isaiah 43:1-4