Saturday, January 3, 2015

All who wander are not lost

Some long-time friends of ours joined us on New Year's Eve for a evening walk in the park, a new little twist on ringing in the new year.  It was cold.  It was dark.  And our grown kids, once again, questioned our sanity.  But we thought it was a great idea.... and we viewed a "hike in the dark" as an appropriate metaphor for our past year, navigating so much uncharted territory.

We dressed in layers and brought along our flashlights and headlamps to guide our way. The parking lot was completely desolate.  A nearby swingset stood motionless in the haze like a faded childhood memory.   Large shadows crisscrossed the forest floor.  We headed up the path like entering the unknown of a new year.

But soon our plan for a quick walk in the dark turned out to be something entirely different.  While only in the upper 20's, the air was chilly but not unbearable, not the suck-the-oxygen-out-of-your-lungs kind of cold that we former-Chicagoans know so well.  While dense woods surrounded us, our eyes adjusted almost immediately to a strong grey light around us.  Our flashlights remained in our pockets, unneeded and unused.  We walked in the outrageous presence of a silent midwinter's moon, unhindered and wild in its beauty.

And I was reminded of Psalm 139.12:  "Even the darkness is not dark to You."

I had hiked this trail before, but at night it looked a little bit different. We missed the turn-off that would have brought us back quickly to the car.  Instead, we meandered around a long ridge, surrounded by immense age-old trees, and we looked down at times on car lights like so many white and red ribbons winding on invisible roads through the hills.  The air was quiet and calm and devoid of fear.

For a time, we didn't know where we were, but the trail went on.  And then quite suddenly around a bend, I recognized an intersection where two paths came together, a place where I had been before in the daylight.  It was like walking in mystery and emerging into sudden understanding.

We intended to walk a couple of miles.  Instead, we traveled about five.  When we arrived at the car, it was like coming back to the same place a little bit different. 

Were we wandering after all?  Or exploring?  Or following what we could not yet see?  In his novel Jayber Crow, Wendell Berry described how I felt.

"...looking back at earlier times, it seemed I had been wandering in the dark woods of error.  But now it looks to me as though I was following a path that was laid out for me, unbroken, and maybe even as straight as possible, from one end to the other, and I have this feeling, which never leaves me anymore, that I have been led."

In 2014, my husband Bill and I traversed new territory, paths we had not taken before, and like our night hike, not knowing where we would come out.  Our roads were not paved, nor familiar.  An adventure, indeed.  And once again, God underlined the truth that what I don't know makes me rely even more on Him.  His leading is both deliberate and incomprehensible, "yet Your footprints were unseen." (Psalm 77.19)

And as God reassured me on our hike, last year was not traveling into the unknown after all, but just what I couldn't see yet.  Trust is where the adventure begins.

J. R. R. Tolkien once said, "All who wander are not lost."  To that I would add on this unfamiliar journey into another year, God is just taking us to a new dimension of knowing Him.

"You do not know what you are going to do;
the only thing you know is that
God knows what He is doing.
...God does not tell you
what He is going to do;
He reveals to you
Who He is."
              --Oswald Chambers
                 My Utmost For His Highest


No comments: