I run a lot at night.
I do this because I like the solitude, not because I see well in the dark. Actually, my night vision is very poor and I frequently mistake the shapes and contours of tree trunks for people. I mistake a lone leaf on the sidewalk for a grasshopper, a curved stick for a snake, and a small rock for a toad. Why do I distort reality so much at night? I think it’s because my eyes are only picking up fragmentary information—just bits and pieces of reality—and my mind is trying to make sense of it. It’s like trying to visualize the picture of a jigsaw puzzle with only a few of the pieces on hand. At night my mind tries to find meaning from the few pieces of an incomplete picture.
I thought about this the other day when I overheard a conversation between my Senior Chaplain Assistant, SSG Desmond West and our chapel secretary, Mrs. Nobuko Motegi. I thought I heard SSG West say to her, “Nobu, the next time you go shopping, please pick me up a car(pet) …for …my office.” I was immediately incensed. “Why does SSG West need a carpet? Is he so much better than the rest of us who settle for having the bare essentials to do the job?” But as I headed for his office to question him, I picked up more of the conversation. Then I saw Nobu-san and SSG West looking at the printer in his office and it dawned on me. He didn’t ask for a carpet for his office. He asked for an ink cartridge for the printer in his office. I only picked up bits and pieces of the message—and my mind was trying to piece together the fragments of what my ears heard.
So what’s the point? That I should have a hearing exam as well as an eye exam? Maybe. But it struck me that, what my mind tries to do with the fragments of information that my eyes and ears pick up, we all tend to do with the painful events of our lives. In the Scripture the Apostle Paul admitted that in this life “we only see as through a dim window and only have a partial understanding” (1 Cor. 13:12). In other words, we are not getting the whole picture.
When tragedy or disappointment darkens our path, our limited view can only detect a few pieces of what is really happening. As a result our troubled minds try to give meaning to the few fragments of discernable reality. It’s like when I run in the dark—we are getting meaning all wrong. We draw the wrong conclusions. Tragedy comes and we conclude that God has failed us, abandoned us, and has been cruel to us and our loved ones. We’re trying to see and understand in the dark.
In such times we must cling to the only sure light that we have—the testimony of Holy Scripture. When life is cruel, the Scripture assures us that God is for us, not against us. The Bible promises that nothing can separate us from God’s love, which turns our curses into blessings and causes all things to work together for our ultimate good and for His glory (Rom. 8:28–39).
Dear Father in heaven, in this life, when I only know in part and see in part, help me to cling to the light of Your word and to find insight and strength from its promises. Amen.
In article photo: San Fran native/Sailor looks into a patient's eye during Continuing Promise 2011 by the U.S. Navy licensed under U.S. Govt. Work