He drew me up from the desolate pit,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
~Psalm 40: 2
This time of year, in the Pacific Northwest the sun sets by 6:00 p.m. and it gets very dark very fast. This is in stark contrast to the late sunset and long lingering twilight of summer, when I can frequently see well enough to work in my garden past 9:00 p.m.
I was reminded of this as I drove from my home in Washington State to visit my dad on the Oregon coast. I was on the road by mid-afternoon, but typical terrible traffic meant it took 2 ½ hours to go the first 50 miles of my 200 mile trip. So instead of having daylight on my side for most of the drive, I ended up doing the darkest and most rural sections of the road in rainy, winter darkness.
The up side of being out on the road later on weekday meant there wasn’t much traffic on the roads, however that also made me feel incredibly isolated. At times, it seemed as if my headlights were not just illuminating the road in front of me, but bring it into being before my eyes. This was especially true on the twisty and hilly sections of the road as I got closer to the end of my journey. As I approached a hill the road reflectors would glow from a long way off, but as I crested the hill or approached a sharp turn the road would seem to disappear, giving the impression that it would drop out from under me if I kept going.
Needless to say the lack of road was an illusion that was revealed as I started down the hill or around the curve and my lights caught the next set of reflectors. However, for the brief moment it lasted, it was disturbing.
I had faith that the road would be there. (Though I did sensibly slacken speed on some hills and curves– there is faith and then there is being reckless).
As I was driving I thought, how in my faith, the trinity of Jesus/God/Holy Spirit is the road at night. I can’t see beyond my headlights, but the road is still there. The road can’t keep me from having an accident or doing something ill-advised, but it will not vanish from underneath me just because my headlights are no longer on it. The road exists independently of me, but I depend on it to keep me out of the ditch. I follow the fog line faithfully, even when I am blinded by the high-beams of on-coming cars.
And sometimes, even on an infrequently traveled rural road, I gain a companion in the darkness. For some time I am followed, or I follow another car. I can see their glowing lights in front of me and together we light up more of the darkness than we could alone. Or I am the leader and, as with tonight’s drive, I spot a hazard in time to stop and warn the driver behind me with my brake lights*.
Time passes and my fellow travelers peel off to their own destinations and I am left alone again in my pool of light with the road firm beneath me. Without the road, I would be lost. With the road I am guided safely to my destination.
*A deer or elk was crossing the road in the dark and I spotted it in time to stop safely.
All bible quotes are from the NRSV text at Bible Gateway unless otherwise noted.
Kristin Fontaine is an itinerant Episcopalian, crafter, hobbyist, and unstoppable organizer of everything. Advent is her favorite season, but she thinks about the meaning of life and her relationship to God year-round. It all spills out in the essays she writes. She and her husband own Dailey Data Group, a statistical consulting company.