I painted my new room red - a fact with which I am not yet fully reconciled.
The window wall of my bedroom is coated with Kelly Moore's "Sweet Lychee, " a deep crimson color. The other three walls are a sensible, neutral "Navajo White." For the past 20 years I have awakened each morning to a light sky blue - peaceful, calming, mild. In our former house the living room was painted straw yellow - cheerful, easy-going, straightforward. These are adjectives which make me comfortable. I like peace. I like simplicity. I like innocence.
Red is anything but innocent. It is sensual, regal, aggressive, religious. Red is the color of blood.
Last Sunday I painted the front doors of our retreat house red and I remembered the Israelites smearing the blood of a lamb over the lintel and the doorposts of their homes. I prayed that all who entered our house would find safety in the blood of Jesus. I also thought a lot about the blood being shed in the Middle East - Christians, Muslims, Yazidi losing their lives at the hands of violent, deluded men. There is nothing peaceful, mild or easy-going about the lives of those brothers and sisters.
The red on my walls makes a gorgeous frame for the yellow wild flowers which bloom on our land. And the crimson provides a dramatic background for my icons, giving the room a formal, church-like feel. Regality and formality don't come naturally to me. I was born in the backwaters of West Texas, and in my heart I will always feel like a country bumpkin. Though I love the mystery and the beauty of religious art, it feels exotic and foreign. After 14 years as a Catholic, I still get a little nervous around gold embroidered vestments and red mitres. But this is a new season.
My private home is also a public house of prayer, and many will come here seeking the refuge which is found only in the cross. Fr. Rene emphasized this fact last night when he and several other pastors came to bless Christ the Reconciler. To our surprise Fr. Rene chose a liturgy for the blessing of a religious house, like one would use for a convent. I saved that liturgy and will cherish it for many years to come. There is nothing I desire more than living fully consecrated to God, in my own station of life. What an honor, what a joy to be charged with a ministry of hospitality and prayer, similar to other consecrated houses across the globe. And what a sober responsibility. Living our call well will require much sacrifice from this introvert.
In the four short weeks we have lived in this space, I have been unusually aware of the great debt I owe to Jesus, of God's mercy toward me, a sinner. Prayers of contrition and thankfulness flow freely. So do cries of mercy for my brothers and sisters suffering across the globe - in sickness and violence and loss. Global events have called us all to prayer. I know it is not the color of my walls which has stirred my heart, but the red before my eyes is a constant reminder of the blood which cries out for justice, and the blood which heals.
I miss the tranquility of my blue bedroom. I miss the cheerfulness of light yellow. But red is the right color for this season.