Monday, February 13, 2012

Lamps and Lights

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)

I love the metaphor of a pilgrim to describe our spiritual journey. We are walking, hiking, wandering, skipping, and running through this life. The metaphor becomes all the more concrete when I find the time to go hiking. I climbed Flatiron in the Superstition Mountains back in early January with a group of young men. One week later, I did the same hike with a collection of college students. It's a strenuous journey up Flatiron; the hike to the summit gains nearly 3000 feet in elevation, and we experienced a bit of rain/snow mix on this particularly cold January day.

We started off the journey together, but began to split off into various groups based on our individual paces. I found myself with two others at the front, clipping along at a steady rate up the mountain. Upon the reaching the summit, we took in the beautiful view and wondered when the others had turned back. As we began to traverse back down the hill, we met up with the back half of the group as they neared their journey to the summit. We cheered them on, encouraging them to keep going and make it to the end. But now it was getting later in the day, and we needed to hurry off the mountain.

(Now, I could make all sorts of spiritual connections between our hike thus far and discipleship. Like, how each person make need to move through their spiritual journey at a different pace, but there is still movement. Or how we need the community of others on our journey to keep us going, to remind us to rest, to prevent us from going down the wrong path, etc. But that's for another post.)

This sounds obvious, but going downhill is much faster than going downhill. Our already-swift group made it to the bottom as the Arizona sun began to set. We chose to wait for our fellow hikers on a bench near the base of the mountain, watching the sunset for nearly 45 minutes as the sky lit up into a myriad pinks and purples. We sat in silence and took in the view, check the clock every few minutes and wondering where our friends had gone. The sunset was marvelous, but it also meant that it would be dark soon. We knew that no one had a flashlight on them. We called and texted them, nervously wondering if we'd make the nightly news as that one group who foolishly tried hiking in the dark and needed a rescue helicopter to save them. Anxious minutes passed. Finally, we got a response--they were nearing the bottom, and they were safe. Cell phones work well enough as flashlights to keep one from going over a cliff in the dark.

Flatiron is an enormous cliff that juts out from the Superstition Mountains. It is covered in rocks and cactus that require delicate traversing. If one happened to go over the cliff, it would take a few terrifying seconds to reach the bottom. I wouldn't be caught dead without a light source while on Flatiron at night. Or maybe that's exactly how I'd be caught (or found): dead.

Yet how often do I try to navigate my own life journey without relying on the light of God's Word. I find myself struggling and straining, tripping over unseen obstacles and frustrated about how hard my journey currently is going. Then I realize that I haven't truly been abiding in God's Word. Oh sure, I've read up on it for my next lesson that I have to teach. But I haven't let it penetrate my soul. I'm wandering in the dark while God has offered me a light.

Scripture is described as light. (So are we, by the way.) It illuminates, reveals, warms, and brightens. The verse above from Psalm 119 reveals two important truths:

It shows me where I am. Scripture is a lamp to my feet, showing me exactly where I am. My strengths, my flaws, my insecurities, my hopes, my sin, my value, my identity. All is revealed when my heart and mind and spirit are touched by the truth that Scripture reveals. Even the darkest corners of my soul are unveiled for what they really are. And yet there is no fear in this, for God's grace brings both humility and hope.

It shows me where I'm headed. Scripture is also a light for my path. It shows me the pitfalls, the vistas, and the destination for my current spiritual journey through life. If I am headed down the wrong direction, Scripture will graciously steer me. If I am tired and drained from my pilgrimage, the God of all comfort and rest reveals Himself through His Word.

Even when I have no idea where I am going, I am called to walk along this path towards Jesus. The immediate future is uncertain and unknown, yet I have a perfect Guide who is lighting my way. That is enough to keep me walking.

Where are you at in life? What direction are you headed? How is God's Word directly guiding you in that journey?

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