Imagine you are waking to find yourself in the middle of a dark forest. The night sky is blotted out by the palms of the great, incalculably tall trees that pack the area around you. As you gaze at the unfriendly surroundings your mind can’t help but run through the questions your mind is surrounded with. ‘Why am I here?’ ‘What is my purpose in this valley of darkness?’ Disoriented, lost, and scared you make your tentative first step out of the brush and into a threatening forest, but you have the striking feeling you are not alone. There is the realization that while the darkness holds your truest enemy you feel something in your soul stir regardless. The thorns and the beasts of the forests that lurk tear at your flesh, but their frantic desperate evil cannot reach to destroy you. There must be something that keeps them at bay… It is the calm, powerful, and peaceful being that you can’t as readily experience or feel as the dark entity you are so familiar with. The light is the invisible blanket in the night to cover you, the shield that protects you, and the lantern that lights your path.
Inevitably you stumble, fall, fight, scrape your way through this forests puzzle, and you struggle to find your way.
But, with all the paths that could be journeyed how does one know and recognize the correct path? How do I know I am not running head long into destruction? What do my efforts grant me? Am I attempting trying to finish this task for myself or am I giving praise to the one that sustains even in the darkest shades?
What can I expect at the very edge of this forest?
This story is a metaphor for life, but you, my intuitive reader, must already be familiar with my nuances as a writer. Now, this article was spurred by a conversation I had with a close friend of mine about the feeling that she was ‘lost (or dropped) in the middle of a forest’. I took her words and transcribed them, but in a more poetic language and in story form as you have read above.
The feeling of being disoriented or lost in the woods is the feeling that many of us feel whether they/we are people of faith or not. For my purposes I will choose to use my experience with my personal walk through this ‘dark forest’.
It is the idea that we are placed in this world of darkness where the branches of evil seem to cover us with death’s very own gray-scaled shade. The most frequent option is the easiest one: to keep my eyes to the ground fixed on the ink black forest around me, but I have experienced the light that comes with looking up to heaven. Even though those ancient ominous trees block the sky, even they cannot block out the light (that light is my metaphor for a higher power). While it may sometimes only be light in a figurative sense it is still light to the spirit. With light there is hope, and as long as I live I have to believe that is so.
Make no mistake my jesters and harlequin’s faith is not an easy road, and that is why I write this article. In this forest I have experienced many things, some of which have shaken me from my path, and have caused me to fall much like Jesus with his cross (John 19:17). The path I have tread up until this point has been one of brambles, pitfalls, joy, hurt, faith, and faithlessness. I have fallen down at times and have lost sight of the light, and those are the times when I felt furthest away from God, and that, my friends, is the other idea that plays into the metaphor of the dark forest. Some moments I have felt more separated from the light than I care to admit, but that is the reality we live in. Sometimes I have wished that God would have mercy on a poor soul and end my struggle, but I am far more fortunate than I previously gave thanks for. I have been constantly changing, adapting, and growing in my ability to walk with the light, but even still fear holds me back…
The question still burns inside me: is my faith misplaced? Is there a benevolent, masterful, forgiving architect waiting for us at the end of this forest? Is he waiting to wrap us in his love and glory when we arrive at his gates? For as much faith as I have in my body it is the question that lingers. Am I the no different than the age old story of the Apostle Thomas who doubted Jesus’ resurrection (John 20:19-31). Am I destined to be like Thomas or have my faith shaken like Peter (Matthew 14:22-23) and succumb to the shadows of fear and doubt in my own natural storm? I blame my own foolish fickle heart for my lack of unwavering faith.
More recently I was driving to my college, and when I parked I felt a strange sense of confusion and bewilderment. I couldn’t help but ask myself ‘what is the point of my being here? Is what I am doing here just a selfish advancement and glorification of myself?’ While the answers seem so simple the deeper questions run so much into our very beings and nature. It is in the core of us that as we walk through this forest, and that we strive to find purpose in this world, and as I mentioned previously: this forest never has a clear path for us. That is where my struggle gives way to my faith. If I did not have faith in this mystery of religion and of God… my soul would have been shattered long ago like the splinters of a tree struck in twain by lightning.
In the end it matters not whether you are a religious person or one that barely has enough faith to trust that there is a higher power. My faith was not built on sand (Matthew 7:24-27), nor will I let it wither on the vine. My journey in this forest is far from over, and I will still choose to follow the light. I have my faults as any man does, but I choose to act on faith, and refrain from choose to ignore its power to sustain the weary. I still have my doubts of that I have qualms with, but in this forest the light is the answer to the darkness that cripples me with fear.
Friends, if you are alone in your own forest of darkness. Look to the light, and you will gain your heading. No longer will you be lost if you have a purpose and belief.
I will leave you with one final thought…
I had a dream last night that there was a great flood, and that the rain and water ebbed and flowed like the water we were so accustomed to by the sea. Monstrous flood waters seeped through every pour of the house I was in, and when all was lost and I thought I would perish… I saw letters there on the floor under the crushing water, but as true as the day… I saw those letters. The letters said “You can come home” or the letters to that effect, and the letters were wiped away to reveal “came home”.