Two days before I left for ItaIy, I came across the phrase “Valley of Vision.” The poet in me connected with the imagery, and I jotted it down in my notebook. I then poured myself a cup of tea, and opened the Scriptures to read the next chapter of Isaiah. What should my eyes fall on but these words: “An oracle concerning the Valley of Vision…” (Isa. 22:1). Hmmmm….now my spiritual antenna went up.
A few verses down, I read “Turn away from me; let me weep bitterly. Do not try to console me over the destruction of my people.” (vs. 4) I stopped reading to ponder the emotion of a God and a prophet over the destruction of a people. I tried to imagine God, inconsolable over this destruction, refusing to be comforted; saying, in so many words, “Let me be to grieve alone.”
Four days later, I walked the grounds of Forterocca, at the foot of the mountains where the destruction of a people took place. And Isaiah’s words began to make sense, although...“the valley of the shadow of death” seemed more appropriate than “valley of vision.”
But we were truly in the Presence of God over our short time in Forterocca, being transformed as God shared his vision for this valley with us through others. We were confronted with a new thing: not a simple training program, no longer a generic invitation for all to come who would, but a radical call to artists (including ourselves) to lay down our lives for cross-bearing discipleship. Before I came to Italy, I was not enthusiastic about the time frame; after being a few days in the valley, the only question left was, “When do we start?”
The OM Italy team talked of the battles they have had, directly connected to that location: mysterious illnesses, team members not staying, or having to leave suddenly, or never arriving, due to a variety of obstacles. The darkness was great, but the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.
We were indeed in a Valley of Vision, and we are called to be overcomers.
Since I’ve been home, the phrase continues to come in a variety of unexpected ways, and I close this blog series with one of the most startling: a prayer found in a Puritan devotional:
The Valley of Vision
Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision, where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights; hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory. Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to possess all, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision. Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine; let me find Thy light in my darkness, Thy life in my death, Thy joy in my sorrow, Thy grace in my sin, Thy riches in my poverty, Thy glory in my valley.