I sit in silence, encamped around the campfire in the wilderness of this journey in isolation and singleness. Nothing seems to penetrate this inky blackness that surrounded the feeble light coming in waves from the fire and the fuel upon which its consumption demands seems strangely absent…. As if it were fed by an eternal source rather than a secular one. There are no sounds in the darkness, no ravenous beasts lurking outside the boundary of light and no echoing cries of gathering among the creatures that dwell in the darkness waiting on the prey of lost souls and foolish mortals who dare to carry their torches into its jaws.
God is here. Whether in the darkness or the light, He is here. My eyes cannot discern His image in the flames nor in the lukewarm light that is cast from its swaying bulk. I cannot see beyond the boundaries of the circle of this light, flickering as it does. But I know He is here, even as my heart cries out into the silence for Him to come and my eyes strain once again as they scan the surrounding darkness and light. I know He is here, but where…. That I do not know.
I have been sitting here for much too long, so long that my dreams that have me walking into the darkness with sword and shield in hand to take on the beast of the enemy for the sake of the souls that are being consumed in the teeth of these things seems so real to me that it is like an electric shock when I wake from them and see myself still sitting by the fire and draped in the dust of immobility. The epic adventures of being a man of God, of being a husband, father and preacher all disappear like wisps of shadow that clear from my eyes upon waking. And my heart sorrows once more for the continuance of this place, this fire, this isolation.
But I know He is here…..I just don’t know what He wants from me.
Or do I?
Within this circle, crowded into this circle I should admit, of light is my tent, my cooking materials and my large backpack all stuffed with the things that I both needed for the journey and the things I have picked up along the way. All my fears, phobias, illnesses, and pains packed neatly within its bulk, so heavy that it makes its own imprint in the ground. The financial chains that have burdened me for so long still nicely wrapped around its body. The fear of humanity laced into the bindings and the agony of this world filling its insides for padding. My comforts, those things that I wouldn’t dare leave home without lie in my tent, it’s walls the assurance of keeping the weather at bay (mostly an illusion) and the comfort of the sleeping bag calling me to remain within its warmth and cushiony cocoon rather than coming out to sit by this fire again. Some days, I remain lost in its siren call….. but most days I escape with a sorrowful sigh from its embrace and come out to petition the God whom I cannot see. Have not seen for some time.
Companions come and go by this fire, most seem like fleeting shadows themselves…..I register their presence only after they are gone, their ability to sit in this place with me as temporary as my dreams. Whispers hang on the air until I sample them, unfamiliar images and words casting a vision that I cannot understand and therefore reject as real because of the unrealistic nature of their casting. Can I tell if they are of God, the companions that come and go, or the damaged parts of my heart that cry out in anger and woundedness for what they have never known but what they needed the most? No, I cannot tell where these words, these images, and visions come from. They sit there in the still, thick air until I touch them and then they are gone. The feelings of hope, trust and dreaming that they elicit fade just as quickly and I am left with the emptiness once more.
I sit in the filth of my immobility, caked in the dirt of my creation and the grit of my human sinfulness……. Even as the water that has washed me clean rains down from the heavens and cleanses me once more, wakening in me a desire to stand and go…..unburdened by the depravity of my humanity and unhindered by the chains of my consequences. A desire to grab the sword and shield and rush out into the darkness uttering from the depths of my being that battle cry that lies consuming my soul in the pit of my stomach. I want to be free of this place, doing glorious things for the God I know lies both in the light and the darkness and reaching to those who lie in the filth of isolation and despair like I have been, in the darker places without fire or provision. To be nothing ordinary but to be extraordinary in the purposes to which my hand has been matched and my heart written with.
To be a source of glory rather than a source of sorrow.
Yet, even as I stand and feel my heart beating harsh and strong within my chest as my hands grab the sword and shield at my feet and raise them high…… even as I look around this campfire and nod as if in silent goodbye…… even as I turn, feeling the war cry building in the depths of my being and bubbling up through my throat and tingling at the gateway of my mouth…… even then, the doubt lurks there and I wonder if this is yet another dream beginning to which I will wake in the morning sorrowful at its departure.
But even as the despair begins, I step out and into the vision cast before me.
Epic battles are fought in this twilight and glorious victories are surrendered before the King, my God whom I know is around me even as I cannot see Him. Souls are saved, mercies are given and hearts are transformed in the visions of my dreams, even as my humanity corrupts their continuance and beckons their end.
I awake once more cocooned in the warmth of my sleeping bag, the mist of the dawn which I cannot see dusting the walls of my tent. And I begin once again the battle to escape the embrace of the reality of a corrupt world and step out into the eternal truth of the God that waits outside the tent flaps for my obedient movement into the shadows where I cannot see.
One day I will step out into the new world that He has promised, complete and fulfilled by the promises that He has completed as He has assured me He would.
On that day…… on that day, I will be able to see His face.
Until then, I will continue to struggle to be that which I cannot understand and hope for the glories that are promised by my dreams.