A young lady who loves painting recently finished a moving canvas, and her mother displayed it on her Facebook page. The picture is a brilliant meadow divided by a two-lane highway. The sky is a fantastic Carolina blue complete with large clouds. In the distance are a few mountains. There are no cars on the highway, and the road curves and rises through the painting. She painted a scene as if she had just pulled her car off the road and set up her easel. Immediately, it reminded me of a valley her father and I had previously driven through.
The historian thinks historically. Looking at the painting, I thought about the lines from Winston Churchill’s “Finest Hour” speech from June 1940, when he encouraged the British people in their fight against Germany at the onset of the Second World War. In his view, if they could accomplish the task, they would move from the war’s destruction into the “broad, sunlit uplands” of a victorious life. I also thought about how people marched during the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, moving up a road, facing danger, and often singing about “marching up to freedom land.”
In a larger way, the scripture in Psalms 121:1 came to mind. The psalmist writes about turning his eyes unto the hills because that is where his help comes from.
The road curves, but it also rises. The painting conveys the individual and collective journeys we all must take. Within those travels are ecstasy and beauty, but also some heartache. At some moments, we travel through shadows but soon get pushed out into brilliant light of immense joys. We are the substance of our choices. To look at the painting is to think about these things.
My family moved this month to a new house and a new town. We lived in our previous house for 21 years. The house sheltered us and kept us safe. My wife and I brought both our children home there after they were born. We played in the yard, had backyard fires, designed slip-and-slides, ate out on the deck, made a play room in the basement, and prayed many times at the kitchen table. When the driveway iced over, the kids got out their sleds and had a time. They took advantage of the slope and skidded down and across the cul de sac. The house gave all of us freedom to rise and protected us during bad weather.
We fixed the house when something was broken, but we also had to spend some time fixing ourselves, too. We replaced things — the lights on the front and back porches, the kitchen counter, the flooring, etc. And like those things, we made decisions paramount to our lives. We laughed a lot when things went well. We cried during times of immense grief. Like the painting’s road, we moments of shadow and light but have always been curving and rising.
It was not just a house but a home. It sheltered us so we could love and take care of one another.
All kinds of memories abounded there, as they will in the new place. Moving is a reminder that nothing lasts forever.