My husband and I have been hiking for years. Years. Still, we don’t always get it right out on the trail.
We knew it we would be cutting it close. But, we hopped out at the picnic area, grabbed a late lunch, and prepared to hit the trail to Harney Peak, the highest point in the Black Hills.
My husband filled our hydration packs while I reached into our well-stocked supply of both nutritious and just-for-fun trail food. And then, at 3:00 in the afternoon, after an evening and part of a long day in the vehicle, we set out for Harney Peak. It was a six-mile loop, estimated to take four to five hours. Sunset was four and a half-hours away. We needed to hurry.
You might think we’d never stepped off of a sidewalk.
Our youngest was neither a hiker nor a hurrier. My husband and I were road-weary and stiff. Stops for snacks out on the trail were a big deal to all three kids. And from our stockpile of trail food what had I grabbed? Not trail mix. Not granola bars. Not fruit. No, I had chosen one fun-size candy bar per person. One.
We were in trouble from the moment we set foot on the trail.
In spite of our poor planning, it was a lovely trail that took us over a sun-dappled path and along breathtaking drop-offs. We climbed the stone fire tower and explored the peak before we remembered that we needed to hurry and forced ourselves back to the trail. When we arrived at the fork in the trail, we decided not to return the way we had come, but to take the other section of the loop.
Down the trail, we stood for too long to watch a mule deer pair graze in the drying grass amidst the trees. While we lingered, the sky took on the melancholy look it gets when it will soon give up the sun. Now we hurried.
At least, we hurried as much as tired, hungry, slightly dehydrated hikers with youngsters can hurry.
The sky darkened and our pace slowed. My steps became small and timid as my eyes searched the barely visible, unfamiliar trail before me. Roots and gravel, rocks and holes, enemies to my stability under the best circumstances, transformed a pleasant day hike into a perilous evening journey.
While the eerie light of the closing darkness concealed whatever lurked ahead, behind, or beside the trail, it revealed my place in the world and in its food chain. I began to envision us perched on a rock, shivering away the hours of the long night as we waited for dawn to light our way to the trailhead.
It was in this moment of desperation that my intrepid husband broke out a flashlight and two headlamps that he had stashed in his pack.
It wasn’t a lot of light, but it changed everything.
Where there had been darkness, now there was light—and right where I needed it—on the trail directly in front of my feet. Now, rather than taking one tiny, timid step after another, I hiked like I meant it. My pace matched our urgency to get out of those rocky hills where the mountain lion dwells. I strode with confidence, all because of a tiny pool of light on the path.
While I never relish distressing circumstances, I do appreciate the unmistakable intersection between the truth of scripture and the circumstances of my life. This night was one of those.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105 This is what I want those words to mean: That light will light up my path and the landscape on every side like a football field on a Friday night. One dark night on the trail is all it took to show me that this isn’t how it works. A lamp to my feet and a light to my path cuts through just enough darkness to make the journey possible, one step at a time.
It isn’t a lot of light, but it can change everything.
We’re navigating new terrain these days and the trail is often a little tough to see. It’s uncertain, and, sometimes, even dark. Part of me will probably always be looking for stadium lights to illuminate the night, but a smaller, smarter part of me knows that this way of sight will never strengthen my walk of faith. It’s the still, small voice we need to hear and the next step alone that we need to see.
There’s no getting around the fact that we are making our way through tough, unfamiliar terrain. God’s Word–the lamp and light we need–doesn’t make the way easy but it does make it possible, one step at a time.
And you? What’s helping you navigate terrain that’s new, uncertain, or maybe even a little dark?
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“All We Need is a Little Light” is an updated version of a post previously published on natalieogbourne.com.