I usually took a shortcut across an orchard and through a couple of barbed-wire fences. Dodging cow patties was no problem and well worth the effort when the fruit was ripe. "Ripe"was a relative term for me as a kid; by the time the Jonathan apples were about an inch in diameter, I was forever grabbing one off the tree to eat. I actually liked the Yellow Delicious apples better green than ripe. Worth the effort indeed! But, sometimes the shortcut wasn't available. That's when I had to take the long way; the country road next to our house.
My destination was almost always the same. My best friend Mike lived around the corner from us, less than a quarter mile away. Whether we walked across the orchard or on the road, we each burned up the trails between our houses. Day and night, every season of the year, we were almost constantly together. Even today, I can "see" almost every step of the way. I picture walking up the Smith's driveway and around the back patio into the back door. With adult eyes, I imagine looking down upon myself as a kid. I see a carefree boy walking, running, and skipping, picking up a rock to throw at a fence post, pulling the mature head from a blade of grass and chewing on it to taste the sweetness.
Those memories have faded with time, but one night I made a trip to Mike's that I won't ever forget. One of us called the other and we decided that I would go over to his house. I told my parents where I would be and walked out into the night air. As I stepped into the shadow created by our front porch light, I realized how dark it was. Moonless, the night sky was ablaze with stars, but they weren't enough to really light my path. At that time, none of the people in our country neighborhood had streetlights. Without the moon, it was hard to even see the road I was walking on. One or two neighbors, like us, had their porch lights on; otherwise it was pitch black. Only those few familiar points of light helped me know when I got to Mike's.
For you to get the full picture, you need to know that I was a little afraid of the dark. Not terrified, but just a bit fearful of what I couldn't see out there. With heightened senses, I noticed every tiny sound, concerned that the din of my own footsteps would awaken some pouncing horror. Step by tenuous step, I walked along that road. Then I saw Mike's driveway and felt the comforting glow of lights shining inside his house. I walked around the side, into the darkness of the back patio area...
...where Mike jumped screaming out of the shadows and scared the living daylights out of me!
I'll never forget that trip. I thought of it again recently as I pondered some profound verses about light and darkness:
"God is light and in Him is no darkness..." (1 John 1:5)
"People loved the darkness more than the light." (John 3:19)
Truth is, we all enjoy the darkness at times, especially when it hides our own inner darkness. In the end, though, something in us wants to find a familiar driveway and the warmth of friendly light up ahead. Light is one of the great promises at Christmas. We talked about it recently at Stone Ridge Church. Catch the podcast.