Keeping the Light On

I learned about the perils of darkness years ago, right after prayer meeting.

Following the midweek service that evening, I chauffeured my family through the dark night toward the lights of home. A mile beyond the church, the road turned and ran straight across a wide valley before curving up into the hills. As we started across the valley I looked ahead, saw no headlights approaching, and was overwhelmed by an inexplicable urge. "Let's see what it feels like to drive in the dark," I brashly exclaimed, and immediately flicked off the headlights. Engulfed in pitch blackness we hurtled forward under my irresponsibly idiotic captaincy at 80 feet per second. After two seconds of terror, during which I imagined nameless forms looming up before us in the dark, I hurriedly switched the lights back on.

And there, centered dead ahead in the headlights, was a box—a large box. At 60 miles per hour, there was no time to swerve. No time to "think outside the box." Just…WHUMP!

In retrospect, this was such an ironically timed surprise that you will need to forgive my unsanctified imagination. I can almost picture a cluster of angels peering eagerly over the banister of heaven as my guardian angel, frustrated by my ridiculous course of action, positions the box for greatest effect, then looks up toward the angelic cohorts with a smile and says, "Watch this!"

The box was empty. Other than a long, cleansing pause in heart palpitation and an indeterminate number of years shaved off my life expectancy, no lasting harm was done. I've never again been tempted to turn off the lights. If, indeed, my divine guardian was complicit, the maneuver worked. I learned my lesson.

But I'm sensing lately that gauging the future is increasingly like driving without lights. There are so many obvious choices in the "worry category." What effect will global warming, or terrorism, or gas prices, or home foreclosures, or job layoffs, stock market fluctuations, or natural disasters have on you and me? In the midst of economic, political, global and even climatic change, what can we personally hold onto that is firm enough to trust?

Then I recall the wonderful old painting Freedom from Fear by Norman Rockwell. There, a tired father looks on as a careworn mother tenderly pulls up the covers at their sleeping children's bedside. Folded in the father's hand, beyond comprehension of the peaceful little tykes, is the evening newspaper with headlines in bold: "Bombings!" "Horror!"

With that image I remember another Father who holds back the daily terrors with His hand, and who through His Word promises to be a lamp to our feet, and a light unto our path. And I resolve, as I turn toward an uncertain future, to always keep that Light on.

"We hurtled forward under my irresponsibly idiotic captaincy at 80 feet per second."

August 01, 2008 / Let's Talk