Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Orange (the color) (11/19/09)
TITLE: Waiting ... from Hope to Hope
By Beth Muehlhausen
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Hours of chronic pain dragged through each day and night: sluggish reptilian feet marching across a clock face that simultaneously stalked Charlene McKinney’s body and tormented her soul. She received little encouragement from a confounded medical community, and although family members cared deeply for her welfare, they accepted Charlene’s angst as the norm and endorsed her doctor’s advice: “Learn to live with it.”
Over time, Charlene’s private vigil encouraged her to look beyond the obvious and receive God-given faith, patience, and most critically, hope. On most days she waited at an east window for the first orange glow of dawn long before it was time for the sun to rise. There she found comfort in the knit-and-purl bobbles of her mother’s frayed afghan as it swaddled her in a creaky rocking chair that understood, and even verbalized, her pain. As stars twinkled in the inky sky - precursors of a new day and fresh hope - she clung to assurance that the peachy glow would surely come.
Dawn faithfully appeared at the appointed time each day, first with a faint grayness that spread across the eastern horizon to chase the stars, and then with strokes of blushing amber that grew in intensity until every vestige of night was burned away by blazing orange: a fiery icon of hope. Charlene’s despair responded similarly, and receded to some inner place where it lived quietly: a businesslike teacher offering a curriculum that emphasized humility, patience, and love for people wracked with unmanageable suffering.
In some mysterious way the sunrise lingered during the daylight hours to glow within her as nourishing warmth: spiritual food. Daytime seemed less terrifying than night since the sunlight offered perspective, giving her pain a backdrop and making it part of a bigger scene. She welcomed distractions when panic-attacks tromped dinosaur-like tracks through the muddy terrain of her heart. But more importantly, the orange glow radiated from the inside out, chasing away the ever-threatening terror of hopelessness.
As she received the graces bestowed by this inner radiance, she often wrote fictional stories having to do with suffering and redemption. “I HAVE to write,” Charlene told anyone who would listen. “Stories are already within me; they must find ways to come out!” The sunrise-glow of inspired hope insisted on emerging even though she didn’t know whom her audience might be, or if she even had an audience.
Although Charlene longed to be physically healed, relief came in the form of deep heart-level mutations and revelations rather than abated bodily discomfort. As the red-hot anvil of pain conformed her more and more into the image of Christ, she discovered new depths of wisdom and understanding. She noticed details others ignored, and reaped generous spiritual gifts from a Father whose mercy was fresh and abundant every morning. During each blazing sunrise the Lord fed her soul with manna: adoptive and sanctifying grace. Then in the after-glow, she brought it to life in the form of fictional stories.
Toward the end of each day as the sunlight waned, Charlene’s inner glow and creativity also seemed to fade. The oncoming night, with its sleepless hours, could seem ominous and threatening. At these times she waited at a west window for the sun to paint the sky with bold sunset colors, and re-ignite her inner fire with continuing, persistent hope – this time hope for rest and renewal during the night. Darkness meant retreat from external expectations, even if interrupted by pain. The orange sunset reassured her heart with convictions that the oncoming absence of light existed purposefully; that it would not be wasted; that the Lord would be by her side until the next sunrise.
The cycle recurred as daily orange sunrises and sunsets framed days and nights with hope, and she learned to trust God for the hours in-between. One day a friend looked her in the eye and asked, “How do you do it? How do you manage the pain?”
“I wait,” she said without hesitation. “I wait for the next sunrise; the next sunset.”
There was nothing else that could be said or should have been said. In fact, this simple confession summarized the thesis of her life. Charlene knew waiting on the Father to be the greatest expression of faith – and waiting from hope to hope, from orange sunrise to orange sunset, the most powerful antidote to fear and despair.
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