I recently moved to a place in a more rural part of town. I love it. I love the peace and quiet and I love how close I am to hiking trails.
My dog Meg loves it, too. Monday morning we went on a run on one of those trails and it was early enough the stars were piercing tiny holes in the black sky. There wasn’t even a whisper of dawn on the horizon and I had to run by headlamp in order to stay on the trail.
It took Meg a little while to get used to this kind of running. Usually we’d run on the street or sidewalk, guided by the pools of light from the street lamps along the road. Here, however, unless the light was coming from my headlamp we had only the stars, which were blocked by the canopy of trees.
As I started down the beaten path, normally inviting during waking hours, it was very different in the dark. Animals I might catch a glimpse of during the day or at dusk were quadrupled in the cool of the 5:00 am hour. Even worse, I couldn’t identify what animal the eyes belonged to. All I could see were two glowing circles watching me intently from the dark.
I counted at least two dozen pairs of those eyes staring at me from behind the brush and trees. Meg struggled to stay with me and not get distracted by the animals watching us just feet away. Some were at ground level, others towered above my head.
Were they only deer? I’m sure there were raccoon's, maybe even coyotes, but what if there was a mountain lion behind one of those sets of glowering eyes? Every time the glint of Meg’s neon orange collar disappeared in the dark I had to fight a surge of panic - did something get her? Invariably she’d gotten distracted by a smell and was just lagging behind.
As I ran, I had to learn how to be aware of the creatures lurking in the dark, but remain focused on the small circle of light that guided me along my path. I literally had a lamp to my feet, and if I got too distracted by what was happening to my right or left I was doomed to trip on a rock, a rut or a dip in the path.
It was slow going the first time we did this. But by the third time we ran the path at 5:00 am, I wasn’t nearly as nervous about the dozens of glowing eyes watching me from the bushes, and Meg wasn’t half as distracted by them. Truthfully, they weren’t afraid of me as much as they were afraid of my light.
As long as I ran with my eyes forward, they didn’t move. It wasn’t until I tried to pinpoint them with the light that they bolted. How accurate is this when it comes to our spiritual walk?
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path,” the Psalmist wrote (119:105, ESV).
Jesus himself said, “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed,” and “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 3:29-20; 8:12).
When we walk in the light, there will be a lot of things hiding in the dark trying to distract you from the light.
“Look over here,” they seem to whisper. “What’s over there?” “Can you see? You have to be able to see!” When we walk in the light, there will be all sorts of frightening things in the dark encroaching on our heart and mind.
What will you do? Where will your focus be? Will you be focused on the dozens of eyes waiting for something terrible to come emerge from the brush, or on the light that is your shield from all things in the dark?
Proverbs 4:23-27 reads, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.”
Keep your eyes on the light before you. When things in the dark try to get your attention, whether with threatening glowing eyes or whispers that act like arrows in the heart, acknowledge it for what it is: a mere shadow. Shine the light on it and it will scurry farther back into the darkness.
When our eyes and hearts are focused on the path in front of us, guided by the Light of Life, the light itself becomes our shield and covering from anything evil that might try to harm us. Things hidden in the dark hate the light. They don’t become a threat until we step out of the light and into the darkness they occupy.
We’re never safer than when we’re in the light. Stay in the covering of the light and watch God make a way in the blackest of nights.