To most, the valley seems to be a dark and depressing place, devoid of hope and life; but, there’s something about looking back on where we’ve been that gives some insight into where we’re going and who we are now because of how those dark times have shaped us. Those valleys, those dark tunnels, those murky forests and rivers that call me back, make me thirst to live once more in the grace of some of the people that I met in those dark places, as they exude so much light in the midst of overwhelming darkness.
One morning during my usual shift as a janitor, I was startled by an unusual greeting from a man who would become my guide, traveling with me through those dark nights; a sharp wolf whistle from the darkest corner off the back room alerted me to the presence of one who was busy mopping sweat from his brow with a stack of tidily folded ragged brown paper towels. It was the sort of salute shared between friends and in it, my loneliness found comfort and amusement. He gestured me in and told me to sit and talk with him for a while. Barely a word escaped our lips. It was a fellowship which is only found between familiar souls.
Through mere presence, we formed a bond more akin to the kind shared by family than between co-workers. He fed me when I was hungry, demanding that, “We’re brothers now and brothers eat from the same bowl.” We shared tales of our past, though his were filled with a lot more action and suspense, making them much more interesting than mine. Most times, we sat under flickering lights eating food and laughing.
I was often left wondering how someone who has had so many things taken away from him could have so much to give. That is, until it fell on my head: This man had spent his entire life feeling the way I did for that one single summer. This wasn’t a mere an act of kindness, or “paying it forward”. This was an act of grace, modeled in the very manner of Christ. My guide knew well the taste of grace and wanted to share it with me.
My friend and guide navigates the darkness with fear and reverence, ever tending to his flock from the edges of the room. Because of this experience, where others see turmoil, I’ve come to appreciate the valley as a place of refining beauty where we find ourselves in Christ; where we are given new eyes to see what no one else can see; given ears to hear things that no one else can hear. As my guide was for me, and as Christ was before all others, I strive to be one of those whom I now know as “shadow walkers”, ever guiding the forgotten flock toward the light.
There is no need to tread through the black of night alone, as there are others around us to show us the way. We walk not by sight, but through faith and camaraderie, knowing that we each have found some beauty deep within the valley.
White rice, Mexican hot sauce, beans, and warm tortillas. For me, this is a meal to commemorate my times of poverty, when I had nothing else to eat, when that little bit of sustenance tasted so good. It’s funny, still to this day when I am hungry, I eat this meal. It reminds me of my friend.
Artist:Thrice. Track: Kings Upon the Main. Listen to this song while you’re alone and at minute 3:53 in the track blast the music. Reflect on your travels and focus on the goodness of Christ. Focus on how he brought or is still bringing you through that valley. Live in his light, grace, and peace.
Father, I ask that you give me the eyes and ears to see and hear things in the shadows so that others may be brought out into your light. Help me to walk with the troubled soul as you walk even still with mine. Jesus, help me to remember Psalm 23, Even though I walk through the valley of the Shadow of Death, I fear no evil, for you are with me. - Psalm 23.
Many times, as we walk through the valley, we try and pass through as quickly as possible. I urge you to pray for the peace to slow your gate so as to not pass by anyone still huddled in the darkness. Do you have those places where you can look to find them? Try and think of someone that needs conversation, a bit of food, and camaraderie.