Fog in the Valley


When walking through times of hardship, focus on what really matters.

It was foggy one morning this week and I realized that fog is a soothing, familiar blanket for me. Fog is rare in Denver, where I live now, but it was common in my childhood in Washington State.

As I drove to work in the fog, I noticed that the low-lying places had more fog than the hills. There was a sensation of descending into the fog. And I realized that I had grown up sensing this reality—that fog obscures the details of life— but the larger structures are still visible, even through a dim and altered vision.

The valley moments of life can feel like a fog has descended. The edges are blurred and there is a quiet that muffles. But even in these valley moments, some of the essential structures and landmarks of life are discernible. Even if we cannot see the details, the shape of home is evident. We see the outlines of trees, giving context and dimension to what we know to be true about ourselves and the world God created.

Living through the valley moments, when the fog has descended, focuses us on the essentials. Lots of small details don’t matter when we are in the fog of grief or fear. In those seasons, as we listen for a sound to direct us, our senses are focused and rather than being distracted by many things, we listen for the one thing.

In a curious way, as fog obscures our vision and softens the edges of landmarks in our life, there is greater vision and perspective that comes with knowing that we are focused only on what matters and that the rest of the concerns of life have been pushed aside. If our valley is walking through grief, then a million small details of life that mattered to us when we weren’t in the valley seem irrelevant.

I remember a season of grief when a 10-year-old friend died tragically. We were in the middle of remodeling our home and adding another bathroom. The contractor said I had to pick out tile that week to stay on schedule. I told him I didn’t care what tile we had in the bathroom;I couldn’t pick out tile when I was only vaguely aware of the contours of home and faith and God in the midst of the fog in my valley. The tile in the bathroom didn’t matter, but helping my son walk through the death of his friend mattered most. That was the only outline I could discern in the fog. I had been in the fog of grief before, but my son had not, and taking this walk through the fog together was essential.

Now, more than a decade later, there is plain white tile in the bathroom, because that was the easiest decision to make when it really didn’t matter to me at all. But now that the fog of that season has lifted, I can see that my son did walk intact through that valley. Ten years later, when another friend of his died unexpectedly and tragically, he had markers of faith and family and friendships to walk him through the fog.

Written by Carla Foote

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