Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Path in the Night

It was night. It was dark. It was wet and it was raining. The wind blew through the trees and made the shadows quiver with dread at the storm. The storm that was coming. The night was not inviting, it did not call for lovers to stroll down its streets. It did not summon children to lie beneath its canopy and count its many stars. For the stars were veiled this night, behind the curtains of red, angry clouds, slithering across the rim of the valley.

And yet. Into this night I went. I put on my hat, my scarf, my mittens, two pairs of pants, and a jacket. I was resolved that I would not return to the safety and comfort of my warm well lit home till I had sought out an answer, and found it out in the wild world. So I walked into the dripping outside world, and closed the door behind me.

It was dark and wet and colder than expected, and I was thankful I had brought the scarf after all. And as I walked to the first junction of the road, it came, so very softly upon the midnight breeze. The unction, the pressing, the sudden need in my heart of hearts.

“Go higher. Go farther. Go deeper in.”

So I took the high trail. It followed the wet street like a giant black river, snaking its way down to some eternal dark sea. But I was not going the way towards that sea. No I was going higher, higher up the trail that walked beside the road. And presently as I followed this winding, roaming road, it came to a park, dark and derelict of human presence.

“Go higher. Go farther. Go deeper in.”

My feet obeyed the call as my mind was still processing it. The park was dark. There were no lights to light it. The park was abandoned, at least I hoped it was. What foul, fiendish creature would be about the loathsome park in weather such as this at the hour of night? And yet I pressed on, with fear coiling about my stomach and sending ice into my veins.

But as I rounded the corner of the park’s hedge row, I realized that in fact I was quite mistaken. The park was not unlit at all, but the sepia glow of streetlight and distant homes bled into it from around, creating an umbra of faint gold light that covered the park in soft gilded bronze. There was no human life, nothing stirred all around. There was silence as if even the birds had been plated in bronze and left songless forever.

The park had not changed, but my perspective had altered by rounding the corner. Had I turned back I would have missed the gilded park and its brazen silence. But even as I approached the inviting swing there in the park, merrily offering its service for my relaxation, it came once more.

“Go higher. Go farther. Go deeper in.”

I turned from the swing and looked across the way. The park went on and ended at the black river road. And across that river a trail sprang forth ascended the hill like Jacob’s ladder into the heavens. I turned from the bronze park and walked towards the river. And as I crossed to the other side, once more my gaze fell upon my path before me and I was afraid.

For the way ahead of me was hidden with shadow, and darkness hung over it with thick branches. Surely this could not be the way that I was intended to go. My way was suppose to be marked with light, shining with the same gilded bronze of my park across the river. But even there, as my feet were slowing down, ready to stop and listen to my mind’s reasoning, it came again.

“Go higher. Go farther. Go deeper in.”

And so my feet obeyed and my mind reluctantly yielded. And I ascended into the path that led straight up the mountain. The steep path overhanging with branches hidden in shade. And as I walked the shadows grew deeper and longer. And the fear from before once more took hold of my heart. What stranger could I meet on this way? What lay hidden in the shadows around my next turn? I could not see my path. Was there not suppose to be a promised light unto it? But now I could not see my way, and I knew it would only be a matter of time, before I either stumbled in the darkness, or left the path entirely and became lost.

But then I reached the top of the path, and looked to my left and my right. On my right the path sloped down, and joined the black river road again. It was lit with lanterns and glowed with the soft bronze light that the park had been blessed with. But on my left, the path continued as a straight arrow, a thin long line surrounded on all sides by the larger, darker, branches that hung lower on it. It went higher. It went farther. It went deeper. I did not even have to wait for the urge. I knew which path I would end up taking.

So I turned from the wide, wandering river, and made my way higher up, into the wilder woods. The trees were larger, loomed higher like giants of old, with bramble bushes entangling themselves around the thick trunks. The path, though precise like a blade’s edge, soon seemed to loose sight of the river and its promise of bronze-sepia lights.

But then it happened, when the fear had grown so large, looming over like the branches of the trees around me. When the darkness had grown so thick the path was nowhere to be seen. When all hope died within me and my throat was choked with the hands of fear and I thought I had taken the wrong way. I took the next step and rounded the next tree trunk, and there it was.

Stretching out before me was a side of the northern valley wall, of the valley my town was built in. And down below, the small part of the northern valley I could see, there was scattered among the darkness the lights of many houses all shining as beacons in the darkness. And then I heard the same voice as before, say this time something new.

“Look through the temporary fears that blind you. Look beyond your own small situation. There are more lights out there than just yours. Can you see beyond yourself in order to truly fulfill your purpose?”

“What do you mean? What purpose?” I asked

“Come higher. Come farther. Come deeper in.”

So I turned from the sight off the northern wall and began to follow the trail once more, as it went higher still, deeper in. The darkness was there, but now I could see, as I could not see before, that beyond the lace-veil of dark tree branches, the lights of the valley shone through it all. And then before me, even as I walked through the darkness, a light shone ahead of my way, and I was not afraid any more. And even when I turned and the light could not be seen, I knew that even though I could no more see it, it was still there, still shining and guiding my way.

So I did. I climbed higher. I climbed farther. I climbed deeper into the mountain. I reached the top, where a bridge ran across another black river or perhaps the same one, higher up and closer to its source, but this time I did not set foot in its murky waters. And on the other side I climbed farther and higher until I finally came to the place that the pressing had been pushing me to go. And as I looked out from my vantage point I fell to my knees in awe.

For before me spread out the entire western valley, and it seemed in deed as if the stars had fallen from the heavens into our world. For the red clouds veiled the true stars in their celestial state, and the hundreds and hundreds of houses in the valley each glowed with its window lights. And the street light and car lights and all kinds of lights too, all added to the galaxy upon the valley floor. And in awe I could not move my eyes.

But the pressing, the unction, it bid me turn my gaze. And so I did. I looked to the north, and there now I saw not only a part but all the northern valley lights as well spread out, the roads lined with lights streaking across the dark expanses like serpents of fire. And I looked to the south and there saw the same, going farther still, an ocean of lights as far as the eye could see. And then, my mind began to comprehend.

That those lights were people. Living people. Laughing people. Crying people. Hurting people. People in their bright homes whose souls walked in dark paths. And my heart broke to see so much fear, and pain, and loneliness in the world. And I could not stop myself from weeping. How I wished that my hands were enough to extend to them all. How I wished to bind wounds and hearts and restore light into the dark places. How I longed that they may also know the joy there upon the mountain.

And even as I wept for the hurting, still looking south, the clouds pulled back and I saw the lights continue on, across the distant valley floor, up the valley walls, and over them. And they continued on and on, as more clouds rolled back, until the ocean of stars upon the black earth stretched into an infinite dull glow at the edges of the world. And I bowed my head in wonder, and knew it was too much. Too much for me. Too great for me.

But the pressing in my heart spoke then, directing me to turn as it spoke.

“South, let not the smallness of your lights be scorned, for your lights are many and together shine like the sun upon the sea. Shine and be not afraid of the words against you.”

And then turning to the West, “West, your lights that have grown dim in these days, shall once more shine brightly, each as the sun at midday. And your light will fill the darkness and make even it to be like the day.”

And then looking North, “North, you that have been hidden away by branches and clouds, you also contain a sea of lights, if only your clouds were pulled back. Let your clouds part, let your veil fall back, and let the light no more remain hidden.”

And then I looked to the East, and there before me was a great wall of dark trees, a wall that rose to the ceiling of heaven. And behind this wall a dull glow shone. And so I spoke to the wall as the pressing in my heart of hearts bid me to speak and said, “Wall, let your doors be opened. Let loose the light that has been held captive. No more will it dwell in darkness. Now let it shine forth.”

And it was as if thousands and thousands of curtains of sheer gossamer and silk were pulled back, layer upon layer, pulled back to reveal the glow behind them. For there above the wall in the wheeling cloud banks, there came for the mighty lamp of evening, the moon in all her fullness had come out to light the night from behind the wall. And the skies were transformed; the redness fled from the clouded heavens and were infused instead with the cool blue light of the moon’s halo. A single light changed the atmosphere of all the heavens.

And there in the stillness, in the quiet of evening time, with the chorus of a million raindrops upon a million window panes across the valley, in the quite trickle of millions of waterfalls created in every gutter on every street corner, in the answer of a million wind chimes all shivering under the smooth caress of the evening breeze, there in that place with all creation in awe at the glory of the Creator’s very breath, I brought myself low in the dust in fear.

But it was not fear as I had ever felt before. No fear for my self. No fear for my safety. It was the fear that if I dared look up, the veils of clouds would still pull back till no clouds remained to pull back, and then still they would pull back that which is seen, till it also was parted and That Which Is Not Seen would be revealed and come forth. It was the fear that at any moment, my eyes would see beyond what they were meant or made to see. That at any moment my ears would hear the Word, and that it would tear my soul from my body. The terrifying Power whose very footsteps broke my strength and returned me to the dust from which I was formed, the mud from which I was shaped.

And the only words which could escape my lips at the coming of the Melter of Mountains was this hoarse croak.


I recalled in my foolish youth, begging and pleading to see the Face of Eternity and to hear the Voice of Truth. Now, in irony, I found myself begging for mercy from these. For even though I longed for it, I now realized how awesome of a gift I had asked for. And my joints were undone and my heart poured out like wax. Who was I that Eternity would see me? And who was I that Truth would turn His face to me?

And so I lay there as one dead until the Presence passed, and the world grew still again and the wind was calm again, and I raised my head up once more. And I sat beneath one of the leafless trees, its branching limbs spreading like veins over me, a web of hundreds of crystal clear drops of rain caught in suspension. And they each reflected and captured and amplified the light of the moon above me, so that a canopy of diamonds was above me. And so I closed my eyes and waited for the Unction once more. For Its still voice I could stand and Its small presence I could endure.

And then It came once more,

“Look back upon your road and what do you see?”

“You led me higher, farther, deeper than I had been. You took me on a path I did not expect, and on a way I could not always see where I was stepping. You took me through my fear in the darkness, and brought me to the place where I could see beyond my questions and my current needs, to see from a different perspective. You turned me towards Your dwelling place, and even from afar it was too much for me.”

“Do you still have your question, now that I am here with you?”

“I think I already have an answer. Your answer. That not all of my path is meant to be seen before I walk down it. But that if I push through my fear I will find that what lies down my path is the Desire of my Heart.”

“And what is your heart’s desire?”

“To go higher. To go farther. To go deeper. To see more.”

“Then let us rise and go.”




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