Did you see the sunrise this morning? I admit I’ve been in a rather existential demeanor. While picking up my youngest from her first semester in college, I visited with my aged father at a rehab center. He will be 91 on Sunday. He’s been in various stages of rehab after breaking his leg a few months ago. He was feeling defeated. He looked old and frail. He barely spoke, his energy consumed by his coughing in response to bronchitis. I just sat with him and rambled on about football, the kids, nonsense. I sat and stared at him and quietly left after about an hour. He was asleep and resting comfortably I think. I chose not to visit my mom on this day. One was enough.

I needed that sunrise today. Since the dawn of time children have watched as their parents age. It is part of the big circle of lifequeue the call on the African plains (so clich right?). My mother is just a shell of the woman she once was. Unable to hardly speak, she smiles, makes nonsensical musical mumblings, somewhere between humming and talking. She dances her legs in her wheelchair to music we cannot hear. She’s somewhere, happy it appears. Adavan certainly helps. Funny when she was a baby making the same sounds and movements, adults would have cooed over her with giddy delight. Not so now. There is something inherently degrading in our lack of ability to care for ourselves as older humans and yet this inability is celebrated in caring for infants.

Yep it sets up as a perfect storm of emotional turmoil. The days are dark early, it’s cold, and it’s the end of another year. I’m smack in the middle of middle age. Argh! Time marches ontick tick tick, relentlessly moving, uncaring of my desire to stop and get a bearing. What is the meaning of all this? Why does my restless mind and soul ask this question on a consistent basis? It is so tiring.

I needed that sunrise. The blasted dog that needed to go out before work. What poetic justice that in this frame of mind the dog had to ‘do his business’. Actually it was exactly thatpoetic justice; if it weren’t for that act I would have missed that sunrise. The sky was covered in what looked exactly like fleece. Nubby woolen puffs of clouds awash in color that as an artist I struggled to recreate on my mental palette. It literally stopped me in my tracks. The questions of purpose and existence, the daily production of physical and mental achievements, individual, collective, all faded away. I became so small that I fit into that celestial fleece blanket. Comforted, hugged, I felt like a little kid who had just been dusted off and patted on the back, reassured like the psalmist, the lamenters, and the exiled. Just as they posed those same existential questions thousands of years ago, I too felt that divine reassurance in the form of a sunrise. It is true that God’s hand is all around me. I just have to be open to seeing or feeling it. Sometimes it takes being enveloped by the whole sky to get it.

It seems this time of year is all about juxtaposition. The divine comes to us in the form of a baby. God’s holy love is made brilliant by our human sin. Our strength comes from our ability to surrender. The complexity of the season demands our return to simplicity. My dad who is mentally sound and now physically weak is in direct contrast to my mom who is physically sound and mentally shot. I’m an adult at 53 and yet I miss my mom like a little kid. I’ve come to accept the decline. It doesn’t mean I like it.

The sun was setting, heavy, dark really. But then I got that sunrise. That indescribable touch from the divine that gives you the sense of belonging in this thing called life. Yep out of my dog’s relief and subsequent clean up came my star in the east in the form of a sunrise and a return of equilibrium in my soul. The hope that exists in Christ is what the season is all about Charlie Brown. What a blockhead I can be at times.

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