“May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.”
-J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
Does the future seem enigmatic? Are you seeking illumination? You may have heard stories of inspired people who were suddenly absolutely certain of what to do and did it. But let’s face it: there are times we find ourselves stumbling around in the dark.
Not long ago, I journeyed to the wilds of Northern Arizona with a few close friends. Due to a series of unwise choices and unusual circumstances, one friend and I found ourselves alone in the desert at sunset with only one headlamp.
It wasn’t long before we realized we were lost.
The body’s natural reaction in this situation is fear. Yet at that moment I looked inside myself and felt nothing but peace.
We decided to pray aloud. It was a simple prayer. We asked our Higher Power to direct us where to go. After the prayer I remember looking back at a particular rock formation in the distance where we had been and feeling that we should go back there.
Then my friend spoke up, pointing and saying, “The sun sets in the west. We can still see the lighter sky over there. Our campsite is southwest of the rock formations, so it must be there.” What she said made sense. “Ok,” I replied, and we set to trekking.
Another half hour passed and we seemed more lost than before. We prayed again and received no discernible answer.
We continued to move in the same direction for another stretch of time with no results. Here the discouragement and fear first began to penetrate my soul. We stopped underneath a tree and prayed a third time, this time on our knees.
When the prayer was over, I stayed on my knees and listened. I felt a simple nudge of hope and a desire to continue walking. I told this to my friend, who said she needed to use nature as her restroom first. Later she told me that her thought had been that we needed to wait for our friend Justin to find us. She didn’t tell me this in the moment because of what happened next.
As we were about to continue our journey, we saw a bright light in the distance. It was coming from the Northeast, the opposite direction of the way we were going. Immediately I felt that we should walk toward the light. I pointed it out to my friend, who exclaimed, “That doesn’t make sense!”, referring to the fact that the light was coming from the Northeast, when our campsite was supposed to be in the Southwest. Nevertheless, we walked towards it.
As we traveled, I felt doubt and fear try to creep their way into my consciousness, but I chose not to mind them. I kept my eyes riveted on the light. The minutes inched by and the light continued to shine, like a lighthouse beacon to lost sailors. There were moments when, due to the lay of the land, we lost the ability to see the light. But we continued to look in that same direction, and it wasn’t long before it returned. And gradually, oh so gradually, it grew brighter, until I was almost certain it was…
“Justin,” I called out, “is that you?”
“It’s me,” he replied.
Our dear friend, Justin, had recognized that we had lost our way, and having a wilderness navigation app and an excellent sense of direction, he had set out to find us. We reunited in joy and relief, and he led us back to the campsite.
Each of the results of the three prayers in the story contains a principle:
Principle One: Trust the Divine more than man.
After the first prayer, I felt we should go back to a specific landmark. My friend said we should travel Southwest, which seemed logical. After it was all over, we realized that by the time we had decided this, we were too off course from our original landmark for that logic to help us.
Looking back, I wonder if my first thought after our first prayer to head to a particular rock formation was actually inspired. I wonder if I let another person’s opinion cause me to doubt. Occasionally, others are inspired on our behalf, but oftentimes they are just sharing their own thoughts. How often do we let the ideas of people override our connection to the divine?
Principle Two: Keep the Faith, even when there is not yet an answer.
The second time, my friend and I had no divine direction whatsoever. Sometimes this happens. Whether we lack the preparation needed to receive the inspiration or our Higher Power delays the answer for reasons unknown, we can know that eventually answers will come. In the meantime, Keep the Faith.
Principle Three: When the Light comes, follow it–whatever it may be.
When I saw the light in the distance, I wasn’t absolutely certain who or what it was or where it would lead. Yet I felt at a level deeper and clearer than my own thoughts and feelings that we needed to walk toward it. I did not let doubt or fear cloud my resolve. We followed the light and it led us where we needed to go.
May your ability to see and receive Light grow gradually brighter. And as you journey in the dark, may you trust in the Source of the Light, for He will always come.