Living Through the Fog

I have the great privilege of meeting a lot of people through the DivorceCare class my husband, Warren, and I lead at The Crossing. In meeting these folks, I also am given the humble opportunity to hear their stories. The painful aspects of how their marriages have come undone, yes, but also the beautiful and hopeful stories of how God is working in the midst of temporal ruin to bring about eternal healing, and to draw them nearer to Him even as they live through an incredibly trying season of life.

One of the people I have been privileged to get to know is Beckie Hocks, a member of The Crossing.

Beckie’s marriage of 30 years ended in divorce in 2009. This past Spring, Beckie participated in DivorceCare at The Crossing for the second time, to help us with the class and to see what else she could get out of it now that her divorce was more of a historical event. One night, she shared with the class a photo she took that has come to have great significance to her, along with the story behind it. She has also given me permission to share it through Every Square Inch.

Beckie was on vacation in August, 2010, with two of her sons. They had traveled to Wisconsin and were staying at a friend’s cabin on a small lake. A high school teacher at Hickman, Beckie was enjoying the slower pace and tranquility of the cabin and surrounding scenery, yet she herself was not at peace. “This trip was the first I’d ever taken without my husband, and I just felt weird. Nothing felt comfortable or normal.”

At the time of this trip, Beckie had been divorced for just over a year, but she still felt ungrounded. “I still didn’t feel divorced. In the back of my mind, I was still thinking that ultimately, this whole separation was temporary and we would get back together.”

But reality was starting to hit. Beckie describes what it felt like for her as she realized what it meant for her to go through divorce. “I was beginning to understand that my entire future had evaporated. When you’re married for 30 years, you have family, goals and dreams together; you’ve built your whole life together. It felt like a hurricane had come through and blown everything away. I had no real direction (to my life), nothing solid to stand on.”

Such was the state of her heart when she woke up early one morning while on vacation, took her camera and a cup of coffee, and stepped out into the dawning day. She walked down to the small dock that jutted out into the lake and sat down. The air was cool, and the fog over the water was thick. “I was praying, you know, talking to God in that moment. I liked the fog, so I stopped to enjoy it and without really much in mind, I snapped a few pictures. I didn’t really think much about it at the time.”

One of the photos Beckie took that morning is this one, to the right.

The morning Beckie took this photo, she saw nothing more than a peaceful scene on a quiet lake. But upon seeing this photo once it had been developed, Beckie was struck by what it seemed to be saying to her. “This photo seemed to summarize a lot of things for me. It was almost cathartic.”

“I love this picture. It validates the feelings I was having, but it also reminds me that reality is not what I see (the fog). It’s what’s unseen.”

The “things” this photo summarized for Beckie had to do with trusting God’s plan for her life, even when she couldn’t see it. Just as she couldn’t see the far shore of the lake that morning, so shrouded in fog was the water in front of her, neither could she see God’s plan for her life in the wake of her divorce. But she felt the Spirit’s prompting, through the use of this photo, to trust the reality of His good plan for her life just as surely as she trusted the existence of that far shore. Beckie said, “I realized God has a plan for me that’s just as solid as that shore line (that I couldn’t see), and even if I have to live through the fog right now, I’ll get there. God will not abandon me.”

She said she suddenly realized she’s not alone. “Divorced people are not sitting out on a dock by themselves. We have people who are supporting and loving and encouraging us. Jesus Himself is sitting on the dock with us, and the Holy Spirit dwells in us. So no matter what my heart – or my eyes – are telling me, I am never alone.”

Beckie had begun to memorize verses as a means of deepening her faith and applying God’s Word to her life, and she recalled for me several things that struck her about this photo relative to one of those verses she’d memorized, Philippians 4:8-9.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is
just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if
there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about
these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in
me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Becky explained, “For me, this verse reminds me that we are all a part of the body of Christ that has lived for centuries. The photo reminds me that it’s important not to focus on the fact that you can’t always see clearly, but to meditate on what God’s Word says and to trust that those things exist – things like truth, honor, justice, purity, beauty, and excellence. Manifestations of those ideals exist in the here and now, and also on that far shore.”

Another aspect of this verse that struck Beckie as she looked at her photo was that the Apostle Paul is exhorting believers from prison to practice godly thinking and promising that the God of peace would be with them.

“I was feeling anything but peace when I took that picture. You’re anxious and scared when you feel like you can’t see your future. Quite honestly, I still have moments when I struggle to be at peace with a future that is still so uncertain. So, I framed this picture to remind myself that what I see is not important – it’s what God sees that is certain, because He sees it all. He can see through the fog. That shoreline exists for me, and it’s God’s plan for my life.

But while I was feeling anxious, I thought about how much of a fog Paul must have felt he was in, sitting there in prison! And yet he was able to see the shore through the fog, or at least trust that it still existed. There really is a peace from God that just defies all comprehension when you choose to trust God’s Word.”

I think one of the reasons I felt compelled to share Beckie’s photo and her thoughts regarding it is because she poignantly and accurately describes the experience of losing everything that goes along with what is supposed to be a lifelong commitment to another. But she has also captured – in words and with this foggy photo – the reality that no matter how dark and unseeable your future may seem, God’s plan for you has not disappeared.

Most people going through divorce feel incredibly alone. Divorce destroys nearly everything that defines your life, as surely as that hurricane Beckie referenced. You do feel surrounded by thick fog, and you may well wrestle with the uncertainty of what still exists and what can be trusted. You may wonder if you have been utterly abandoned.

And yet, a trial like this can prove to be the opportunity your loving Father uses to draw you to Himself. Our human tendency is to lean on and trust all the things that we can see that make up our lives, instead of the Unseen Creator who gave us life, as well as all of those blessings. We define ourselves by our relationships, our careers, our possessions and accomplishments, instead of defining ourselves as a child of God.

It’s powerful to hear from someone else who has lived through those kinds of experiences and found clarity of vision in the midst of the fog. It’s powerful to hear from someone who’s lived through it, that even when all other things seem to have been blown away, God is solidly there.

Beckie is slowly finding solid ground after her divorce. She’s finding it in the only Solid Ground there is.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

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