The Light Shines in Darkness
"In him (Jesus Christ) was life,
and the life was the light of all people
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not overcome it."
A few years ago on an exquisite September day, my climbing buddy, Dave, and I attempted to climb the Tooth, a minor peak just north of Snoqualmie Pass in Washington State. I have a list of things I always take along on a climb, including ten essentials. But since this was a technical rock climb, we had to lug a lot of heavy gear--two ropes, a rack of rock pieces, helmets, slings, carabineers, and of course, extra clothes, food, and water. We had a three-hour approach hike even before we had to rope up, so I decided to eliminate as much gear as I could to go lighter.
One of the items I left behind was a flashlight, which is always one of the most important of the ten essentials. After all, I reasoned, we would be off the mountain and back at the car before nightfall. My friend, without telling me, made the same assumption. Famous last assumptions.
By the time we got off the mountain and back on the main trail it was 7:30 p.m. and only a little light was left. We both berated ourselves for beings so stupid to leave flashlights behind.
We had carried enough gear to scale the Matterhorn, yet left behind the one essential item to walk along a wide trail in the dark. Now with darkness settling in, we had a 45-minute hike to the car. For a short while, as the light slowly faded, we could make out the wisp of white that was the trail. But as the trail entered the forest, we weren't sure whether we were on the trail or off. We wandered off into a creek. We scrambled through underbrush, dodged trees, and flailed through thickets. On one occasion, we lit the few matches we had, got down on our knees, and crawled around, looking for the trail. Just as we thought we would have to stop and stay the night, we saw way, way out in the distance, a light. It was the light in the parking lot where we had parked our car. What a relief that was! Although we still couldn't see the trail, although we still stumbled over rocks and roots, although we still groped in darkness, we had a light to guide us to our destination, where our car was--and safety, and rest, and the way home.
We live in a dark world, no question about it. What I gather from Scripture is that God does not abandon us to grope in the darkness. Somewhere out there in the distance there is a light that leads us on. That light, according to the Gospel of John, is Jesus Christ, a light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never put it out.