Friday, May 14, 2010

The Dark Mile

It was nearly midnight. The highway narrowed to two lanes miles back and now it rose over hill, and fell over dale. Deep forested pines coaxed the ribbon road to curl through their dark, eerie boughs. The only illumination, cast from the beam of my headlights, created creepy shadows on the shoulder.

Except for my three pound Pomeranian tucked safely in her petal pink carrier, I was traveling the pitch dark pavement alone. Seeing her curled up, I wished I was secure as she, a furry, blond ball of fuzz, fast asleep. Ruing circumstances that dictated the decision about my lonely road trip I picked up my cell, checking for service. There was none. In an effort to keep my mind from reeling over the edge of imagination I recalled a story about Dr. Richard H. Hutton. 

He did most of his traveling by foot. Something I would not do at this time of night in this type of country. I did not dress to be the guest of the three bears, nor did I care to be an appetizer before their porridge, hot, cold or nine days old. Even without cell service, I was thankful to be surrounded by heavy metal and door locks.

Long story short. Dr. Hutton and a friend desired to see the most beautiful lake in Scotland. To do this they hiked through a deep, dark and gloomy gorge known as the 'dark mile'. The path was fearful and frightening and normally no one traveled it by choice.

Treading slowly and apprehensively through the murky, mysterious  gorge they encouraged one another to keep going and gave each other support. Finally a faint light marked the miles end. It had been a frightening, dismal journey through a treacherous trench.  As they left the perilous passage behind them, both gasped at what lay before them. A beautiful lake surrounded by majestic mountains was a magnificent sight.

I am not going to paint you a scenic picture of a placid lake mountain top experience. I think if we're honest it doesn't always happen that way. Sometimes we come out on the other side of purgatory pass feeling relieved we made it through but thinking, "Big deal, it's just another lake".

Instead of breathless beauty we grunt at the gravity of another horrible hike. Run over by life's truck, burned and bitter, we inch along. We haven't traced a map choosing to walk where Hutton walked. We are hard pressed into the path by some secular semi. 

Dragging ourselves through a gory gorge we watch others. Perched like cute cottages along the lake, they are painted with prosperity, trimmed with good fortune, and decorated with honor. While we travel along, broken, forsaken, ignored, and hurt. The relentless winds of adversity continue to drive us further into the descent of despair, where the depth of pain is so great, it is inescapable.

The death of a child, that bores a sorrow so wretched that the heart is wrenched to squeeze out the misery like drops of blood drawn from a pricked finger. The unfaithful spouse, that slits a spirit and leaves bitter herbs that foul the taste for love. The abuse of an innocent child, that strangles trust. The disablement of a life, that swallows up hope. A debilitating disease that burns with the acid of discouragement. These are more than a dark mile. They are jeremiad journeys.

The trek through prolonged pain under a burdensome pack can make us feel like God is the one who took a hike. We feel like He has left us at a cold, dank rock bottom. Abandoned and alone, we cry out in misery and misunderstanding. But while we are shaking our fist toward heaven our feet are forced to something profound. We break through superficial crusts and find the God we never knew. We discover life and love at a deeper level.

While questioning God in agony, we begin to know and understand the God of the dark. The God that lays His hand upon you and carves you into his palm; who weaves his own story of suffering deep into the pattern of your life and enters into your pain. Supremely skilled, He forms you in the dark and lays down beside you in the bed he has made in the depths. You soon discover that earth holds nothing you desire, while the God of the universe holds his only desire, you.

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