With each minute, rays of sunlight faded. Only hours before, daytime illuminated groves, mountain slopes, and the lake, in vibrant hues of summer. My cousins and I had basked in its warmth. We'd run up and down the road next to the family campsite, kicking up dust with our Keds in a game of tag. The cottonwoods towering overhead provided respite from the heat at midday. Smaller trees formed leaf shrouded alcoves that served as hiding places. The water, shimmering with promise, afforded abundant opportunities for swimming and splashing, and adventures rowing in my grandfather's small fishing boat.
But dusk stole the light and repaid the landscape with shades of ever darkening gray.
Blackness crept in around us. We retreated to camp. Rimmed by large rocks, a fire cracked and popped around lengths of wood split by my Grandpa Frank. We fed sticks and small branches to the flames and watched them grow. Sitting fireside was a comfort. Grandma's dinner warmed our
stomachs. Shared tales of the day warmed our hearts. All too soon, conversation dimmed. For the adults, warm beds beckoned from inside camp trailers. Much earlier my cousins and I set up our tents a distance away from the adults–– and the campfire. We boasted to each other about braving the wilds.
It was then fear had started to gnaw at my stomach.
I was afraid of the dark.
All day long, I told myself I'd somehow figure out how to conquer my apprehension by nightfall. Our one-man tents were set in a circle, flaps facing inward. Common sense told me that if I needed them my cousins would be only an arm length away. But with darkness, panic settled into me bone deep. I tried to reason out, as much as my young mind would allow, why darkness filled me with dread. Aloneness. Uncertainty. The unknown. Stuff not always easily understood when you're a kid; and not easily explained to other kids. In desperation my mind grasped what seemed to be a reasonable, common concern that I hoped wouldn't garner ridicule.
And I proclaimed it aloud.
"We need to check the tents and make sure there are no bugs." I grabbed up a half-burnt stick from the fire. The flame at its end served as torch as we searched. My ruse worked. My cousins engaged with me to hunt for the peril of creeping, crawling insects––which bought me more time.
My thoughts raced. We could search my tent last. If I were to prop the burning stick right outside the tent, I'd have the comfort of a nightlight. However, a gentle breeze was blowing. Embers falling from the torch and onto the sleeping bag loaned me by my father––leaving singed holes I'd somehow have to explain in the morning––quickly dispelled the notion. And, unfortunately, only a few beetles had taken up residence on the tent walls. My cousin Scott quickly flicked them out.
Yawning, everyone turned to enter their own tents. In a last-ditch effort to save face and not have to admit my fear, I began to cough. Smoke from the torch and those burning embers that scorched Dad's sleeping bag stung my eyes and throat, I complained. By then my cousins were too tired to care what I did.
I spent the night with Grandpa and Grandma in their trailer.
It wouldn't be until years later that I discovered I'd had available to me the comfort of light all along. A light that can help force back the darkness of remote campsites, as well as the aching darkness of aloneness, uncertainly, doubt, and despair, along with the many other varieties of darkness in the world.
We are all blessed with the Light of Christ.
It persuades us to seek and do good as it assists us in navigating darkness. When we gain a testimony of Christ and his love for us––and when we apply faith as an action verb––that light shines brighter than anything we must face. When we don't allow it to be diminished by fear, uncertainly and disillusionment, or the bitter winds of sin, we are guaranteed essential light to dispel darkness. In the difficult landscapes we must often traverse in our journey through life, guidance and comfort can ever be ours.