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"If you have not chosen the Kingdom of God, it will make in the end no difference what you have chosen instead" 
CS Lewis

Navigating The Darkness

Sliding and slipping, trying to keep up with the light, I hurried down the muddy bank of the river.  My dad was in front, making his way through the early evening darkness to the small boat below.

"Did you get the paddle and dip net".

"Yes sir, I've got the paddle, but I think the net is in the boat".

I was excited.  This was my first trip at night.  We were going to check our trot lines. 

Trot lines are a great way to fish.  We simply tied a long piece of our nylon string off to a branch or snag near the edge of the river, then we looked for another place to tie the other end out in the river.  There always seemed an abundance of logs and brush to serve these purposes.  After we secured the ends of our long line we would move back down it tying on short pieces with hooks about every two to three feet.  After five or six hooks, dad would alternate and tie a small weight on the line.  Sometimes, one trot line might have fifteen hooks.  My dad said this was "smart fishing".  The hooks would keep working for us while we were asleep.

Up till now I had only been a bait catcher but tonight I would learn to "run the lines".

A frog jumped and splashed as we neared the water.  My dad stepped into the boat and agilely made his way to the small motor in the back.

"Untie us", dad said, as he shined the light along the heavy rope that bound us securely to a cypress root.  Loosening the rope I walked toward the boat in my tee shirt , rolled up blue jeans, and old tennis shoes. 

"Now put one foot in the boat and give it a good shove with the other".

At first the mud held to the bottom like glue but then with another try the small aluminum boat broke free and glided like silk on to the face of the Neches river. 

My dad had fished this river all of his life.  As a child, he and a cousin had caught an eighty-five pound catfish not more than a half-mile from this spot.  The boy's were so small they tied a rope in the fishes mouth and a strong stick as a double yoke for them to the other end.  Even with this, the two used all their strength and were barely able to skid the large catfish up the steep river bank.  They weighed their catch on cotton scales nearby. 

My daddy was the best hunter, trapper, woodsman, and fisherman in the world and He knew this river like the back of his hand.

The small outboard motor pushed us easily upstream.  The Whippoorwills song had replaced the noisy evening Thrushes, competing only with an occasional solo from an owl.  Dad always said, "when the owls are hooting the fish will be biting".  There were a few stars and a quarter moon overhead. "We are going to catch some good ones tonight", I thought, as my eyes followed the bright beam coming from the head light my father wore.  Happy, excited, and anticipating our catch I had just gotten settled in for our short journey when, without warning, the light went out. 

Fear wrenched my stomach.   "Dear God!", I thought, "there is a problem with the light.  The bulb probably went out.  Maybe, the wires came loose from the battery.  Oh no.... I hope he didn't drop it overboard."

I began to make out some things In the moonlight.  As my eyes adjusted, I turned to see if my dad was OK.  He sat there calmly motoring upstream with no apparent concern.  He wasn't working on the light?  I turned back around, puzzled, "We are on the water, away from our camp, it's really dark, and there is no light, ....what's wrong with him".  Stunned and afraid I thought, "dad must know something, I don't know.  Just keep quiet."

Farther and farther we moved up river, by the dim moonlight and the feel of the boat I knew my dad was continually adjusting our course.  Finally, the sound of the motor changed and our pace began to slow.  Suddenly, the light came back on.  "Hallelujah.....Thank you God".  Dad seemed not to notice.

"Do you see that line up ahead".

As I followed the direction of this wonderful new beacon, I could see the end of one of our trot lines ahead.  Delighted, I moved to the very front of our boat and caught the line.  Dad turned the motor off and came forward helping me land two small catfish.  Quickly, we baited the empty hooks and quietly slipped away with our catch, leaving our lines to do our fishing through the night.  As we motored away, again the light went out.  Before long, the light came back on and there was another line ahead, waiting to be checked.  As we returned to camp, I marveled at my dad's ability.  I had seen him maneuver the river by day, many times, but I never realized his great skill until I saw him navigate the night.  Through the years, I experienced these circumstances over and over.  Dad had become intimately, familiar with the old river. Even in the dark, it's sandbars, high bluff banks, log jams, snags, curves and bends held no fear for him.  They were only parts of this familiar friends personality.  In time, my heart became secure in my dads ability, I trusted him.  Sometimes, I would even dose off to sleep when going.  He had great confidence because he knew the river and I could rest because I knew him.

Standing in the congregation, I was reminded of this story and I heard the voice of my heavenly Father say, "Son, I know how to navigate safely the dark periods of your life.  You may not be able to see but I do.  You may not be sure but I am.  Trust me."  I have not always been faithful to do this. 

Many times when darkness began to descend upon my life, fear and frustration would take over.  I would immediately try to put "Plan Me" into action.  I lived by the law, "If a problem won't move, I'll move it".  I would gather my counselors and try to get a consensus of opinion.  I would take the course of action based on the strongest position.  The saying, "Do something, lest you do nothing" , seemed in my mind, "The way of the Lord" .  Foolishly, I've found myself gripped and tormented by these decisions.  Thank God, He bailed me out of some of these.  Sadly, I've had to ride many of them out.

Isaiah 50:10-11 teaches us, that when we are walking through a period of darkness or trouble, "trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God".  This passage specifically warns against building our own fires, when we have no light from God.  Often, the light is purposely withheld by the Father, to fashion people who will live by faith and not by sight.  When we don't know what to do, we are to [1]"rest in the Lord". 

The production driven Christian never sees the benefit in this.  When he goes through a period of silence or darkness, he leaves the Lord, and moves by the flesh to address his needs or problems.  He births [2]Ishmaels in his attempt to perform, what God has promised to do.  He is cheated out of God's best and harassed by offspring of his own making. 

Unbelief causes us to be controlled by and indebted to this world.  We sit things in motion by the works of the flesh and then turn around and blame God for the outcome of our lives. 

We can only break this miserable "fail cycle" by learning to "Trust the Lord".  He is in charge of the light in our lives.  When we don't understand what's going on, we need to sit still and quiet our souls. The Father, knows some thing's, we don't know.   He knows this river of life.  He understands the bends and turns, the places of trouble and heartache, the places of blessing and prosperity.  There is no darkness to Him.  The momentum of time will carry us past all things and occasionally He will turn on the light of understanding and we will know in part.  One day we will know the ends and outs of everything.  Until then remember, He alone knows how to "navigate safely the dark periods of our lives".



[1] Heb 4:10-12

[2] Gen 16:11


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