Once, we thought we were lost for real.
It had been a long day and night of travel. We disembarked our train too early for dawn, on a concrete platform barely long enough to hold half the carriages, in a place we had never heard of. But we were not lost. The appointed people met us and took us to a large room to sleep until daybreak.
We sprawled into longtail boats for the hours-long journey up-river. On a bend in the bank I saw a monitor lizard that I swear was as large as the Komodo dragons at the zoo. We arrived at last, late in the afternoon, unpacked the children and checked into our cabin in the Malaysian rainforest. We thought we would take a quick walk before dark.
The signs said that it should take us about half an hour to loop through the encroaching forest and back. They were not entirely accurate. After well over an hour, with the canopy darkening and the narrow path dimming into that grainy soft focus that comes with the dusk, we were afraid that we might, in fact, be lost in the jungle, reputed still to harbour the occasional tiger, and definitely full of scorpions, spiders, and large and small lizards, along with our baby, toddler, and child. It was too late to turn back; the darkness would be upon us within minutes.
We were not lost. The signs at the start of the trail were misleading; the loop was approximately three times longer than advertised, but it did lead us back to the opening and the paved path, our cabin and our friends next door.
I wrote to my parish for the beginning of March that we have been a year now in the wilderness of pandemic life. When first we closed our doors and retreated online last March, we had no idea how long this journey would be. We are not at the end of it yet, nor can we turn back, but we are not lost.
I wrote, “We can bear the wilderness a little longer, if staying here means that we are learning to love God and one another in new ways. We can bear it, knowing that God is with us, as God was with the people when they complained and cried out in the desert, and received manna to eat and water from the rock to drink. God is with us, even in the wilderness. Perhaps, especially in the wilderness.”
We can bear it, especially, if we know that we are not lost, if we
believe that [we] shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord! (Psalm 27:13-14)
Rosalind C Hughes is an Episcopal priest and the author of A Family Like Mine: Biblical Stories of Love, Loss, and Longing (Upper Room Books, 2020). Her second book, Whom Shall I Fear? Urgent Questions for Christians in an Age of Violence is due for publication July 1, 2021. She writes more at over the water/rosalindhughes.com.