My older daughter and I are driving into town to see the movie Lost in Space at our local theater. We didn’t count on getting lost in smoke ourselves on the way there! But someone is tending—more like neglecting—a huge conflagration of dry leaves just off the shoulder of the winding rural road. This fire has generated an out-of-control smokescreen that has expanded and now smothers both lanes of the highway.
There is no turning around—it is too late. No alternate routes exist. There is nowhere to go but straight through the cloud, blind as bats. I grip the wheel and lean forward tensely, telling Sarah, “Pray we don’t hit anything! We’ve just got to plow through this!”
It seemed to take at least ten times longer than the minute-and-a-half or so it probably took us to reach the edge of the smoke screen and re-enter the crisp, clear, welcoming daylight. I untensed all in a sigh. Undaunted, thankful, and immersed again in the normal perils of Saturday traffic, we trekked on to face the big-screen saga of mad robots and maniacs, techno-thrills and sappy dialogue. Relief quickly faded into enjoyment as we were absorbed into the greater dilemma of a dysfunctional space family.
But this I know: I don’t like it when I can’t see where I’m going!
If a perfect summer’s day can turn into a tunnel of impenetrable haze in a split-second, surely nothing, not even walking out one’s front door, is safe. ...
The bad news for the soul is that we’re never totally “out of the woods” in this life. The good news is that this is what life is: the trekking on, the courage, the doubts, the stamina, the occasional blindness, the willingness to ask for help as we need it on the way.
“I will be with them in trouble,” Psalm 91 continues (v. 15). An appropriate petition to carry in our hearts for the journey has also been phrased by saints of the past as simply, “Lord, have mercy!” As a soul prayer, it is a one-size-fits-all-occasions refrain. Don’t leave home without it.
Soul moments aren’t always the warm, comfortable touches we would like to reassure us that all is, for the moment, well and right. Sometimes they come to us as sudden stabs of realization that the spare entity we call “faith” needs to be retrieved from our back pocket for just such an instance as this! It’s kind of a gulp, a stop-in-your-tracks-for-a-moment jolt.
I’ve always said I believe. Now, what I so blithely affirmed in the light has to be appropriated right here in the dark. Oops. I didn’t expect it to be this dark . . . or soon . . . or scary.
A short trip through a dark patch with no visible means of support—most of us have been there. We can hardly call it a “dark night of the soul.” But it is at least a lesser cousin. Perhaps if we had more faith, a backpack-load rather than a pocketful, we would experience an even greater test of our mettle. Some travelers have; others will yet, further down the pike.
The principle is the same: Hold on for all you’re worth and keep on keeping on! The soul is made of sturdy stuff, if all the stories are true.
Isabel Anders is the author of Soul Moments: Times When Heaven Touches Earth
of which the above essay is an excerpt.
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