A parent’s dreaded call in the night. One of my daughters, 700 miles away, needed my immediate help. The logistics began to swirl… Which obligations did I need to cancel? What would be the fastest way to reach her? How would I handle the situation when I arrived? Should I stay there or bring her home? My mind felt too tight for my thoughts.
And then - I was reminded of a long-forgotten lesson. During my training as a summer camp counselor, the final test was a night-time trust walk through the forest. Paired in groups of two, my partner held a flashlight. She lit the ground at my feet for an instant and then quickly turned it off. I had to wait for the next glimpse of light, unable to move until it reappeared. One flash, one step. Another flash, another step. And so it went until enough steps had been taken to finish the trail.
My decision was made. I would ask God to light the first step. Nothing more.
I booked a flight and was off with no further agenda.
There are times when the path is well-lit and one stepping stone leads neatly to the next. More often, however, the path we had envisioned grows dark. We can choose to continue forward, stumbling and falling without the light to guide us. Or – we can pause in the darkness until it is wise to continue.
The pause has value. It could be that God has not revealed the next step because there is work to be done; insight to be gained; something we need to unload so we don’t carry it any further. We might need the pause to clear our minds and schedules – to make space for a fresh course. Certain things can only be discovered when we’ve stopped moving.
So often, the very bravest thing we can do is simply stand still.
The journey with my daughter is ongoing. My instinct was to rush to resolution, but if I’d done that, I would have missed all the pause had to offer. It is here, in the waiting, that our relationship has been strengthened and that I have discovered the depth of the situation. I don’t know what will come after the pause - if the next light will lead down the same path or in an unexpected direction.
I am finding this practice of moving one step at a time to be simultaneously unsettling and comforting. Unsettling because I want to know the conclusion; comforting because I feel liberated from the responsibility of charting the path on my own. I only need to trust God to light the next right step.
I don’t know where life finds you today. Perhaps your journey is clear and well-marked. Maybe your path has left you in the darkness searching for that elusive glimpse of light. If so, it may be wise to pause. Perhaps God has something meaningful for you in this time of waiting that you will miss if you rush through. What you gain in the pause could better equip you to take the next step when the light does return.
We can make an entire journey with only enough light for one step at a time.