Your Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Psalm 119:105
The night air was damp and heavy. Although it was summer, there was a slight wet chill in the air that caused her to tug her flimsy sweater more snugly around her shoulders. Maybe the chill was caused by her nerves, but, whatever the cause, small shivers were splintering through her body.
She was alone.
She could vaguely remember how she found herself there in that place, even though the trip had just ended mere minutes before. It had seemed perfectly natural to board up on various vessels following in the footsteps of those that she had always trusted, or at least knew. She remembered leaving her home with her parents in a bright yellow taxi that had been summoned by her father just moments earlier. They had been driven to the train station where she had boarded, following after a gaggle of her giggly schoolgirl friends while the engine whistled, only to discover after several minutes of travel, that her parents were nowhere in sight. The train had stopped quickly enough at another station, and she found herself whisked away in a frantic sea of commotion, losing sight of her girlfriends, as she moved onto the deck of a large ocean liner. Panic set in for just a few moments, but her heart settled when she recognized faces from places she frequented often. There was the woman who smelled of peppermint that she sat by in church on Sundays. The man who carried her groceries to her car every Wednesday, shopping day. Standing near the stern of the ship was her doctor recognizably outfitted in ill-fitting scrubs, and beside him, a handful of lipsticked women that gossiped too much, but that provided an easy comfort in places that weren’t too keen on folks being seen alone. The ship had bobbed around on the waves for quite sometime, and just as the uncertainty of the strange venture was wearing off, a slick black helicopter had deposited itself on the massive deck of the liner. Children had poured out and ushered her into the helicopter with them. Familiar children. Children that tugged her heart strings. It was all so familiar. That is until now.
Now it all seemed a blur.
The helicopter had hurled itself through a black sky, filled with the chatter and squeals of excited children, only to land precariously in the middle of a dense overgrown jungle. An island maybe? She couldn’t be sure. The night sky had been illuminated only by the lights of the helicopter, and she wasn’t sure how they had been enough to allow the pilot a safe landing. The children and the attendants in the chopper had all but pushed her out of the door, only to hurriedly lift off and disappear into the inkiness of the night. Even now, she could barely make out the whirr of the blades in the far distance.
Her sweater was doing little to settle the shivers or the anxiousness sweeping her body. Her eyes tried to adjust in the blackness, only to come up unsuccessful. Her mind tried to retrace the journey, at the very least she found herself puzzled as to how, why, or what was happening.
Hands outstretched in front of her, she pivoted, trying to find something to catch her bearings. Nothing. Just more darkness and thick air. She could feel the sobs of uncertainty welling in her throat.
Who had brought her here? Thinking back now, she realized she had never seen the faces of those piloting the vessels. And she wasn’t certain, now, that any of the familiar faces that she had followed and traipsed after had even been real. What was this place? It was more than dark here. It was morbid and sinister. The fingers of fear were snaking in and finding a resting place. Confusion and despair and panic were setting in as she turned in circles searching every crevice of space for some signal of hope or rescue.
A light popped on.
It was dim. And it was faint. But it was light. She crept toward the dusky beacon, apprehensive of what loomed in the covering shadows between herself and it. As she neared the source, she saw that it was a lantern. It was old and rustic and smelled of kerosene. She quickly searched the tiny surrounding area that was now barely illuminated looking for the one that must have lit it and left it for her. She saw nor heard a trace of anyone. Although fear wracked through her body, she knew that her choices were to perch next to the lantern, wait for sunrise, and hope to survive the night. Or she could take the lantern and search out some kind of shelter to escape the putrid darkness that she could almost taste and smell.
Once her mind was made up, and her hand had taken the sturdy metal handle of the lantern, she noticed that just enough light was being cast out to reveal the beginnings of a stone pathway. She moved the lantern in several directions and noted that stretching out in every way was just the mossy carpet of jungle floor. Walls of trees and other plant life rose up barring all other ways, so she knew that the tiny patchwork of stone was her best bet.
She walked timidly, yet with awareness down the path. The lantern swung in her hand, lighting up just a few steps ahead of her. Enough to see where to place her next foot step, but offering up no indication of where or when the pathway would lead out. She occasionally looked behind her, only to quickly redirect her focus to her steps in front of her, for it seemed as though the darkness to her rear was becoming more and more overwhelming.
She walked what seemed to be a million nights. Her legs were tired, and her body ached. Her head pounded and screamed for rest, but the bleakness of the rushing blackness spurred her steps on. She examined the lantern on several occasions, fearful that the fluid keeping the small flame alive would run out before she reached any kind of safety. Unfamiliar noises and the oppressive nearness of strange surroundings kept her throbbing feet moving on the path.
A few times, shrieks and screams coming from deep in the jungle by some obscure creature threatened to take her consciousness. And more than once, panic filled her mind causing her the desire to sit down and wish for death.
Because she was busy contemplating her weariness and justifying all manners of self-pity, she almost missed the faint sliver of sunlight peeking through the thick barricades of tropical foliage. When her eyes finally dawned on the realization of the impending sunrise, she was near exhaustion and resignation.
It was with the ever-brightening light of the new day and what little light her lantern was still putting off that she first noticed her new surroundings.
Behind her rested the deep foreboding jungle that held very little light, even now with the day, and its slim orthodox stone pathway disappearing into the deepness. She, however, was now standing in the beauty of a wildflower infested meadow. Glory and warmth and light radiated from every stitch of the expanse. The sun shone hot on her face, and her feet felt light as she found herself twirling with arms-outstretched through the blanket of loveliness. Her heart, for the first time since the beginning of her journey, felt at ease, and she found that she could breathe without the feeling that every breath was going to suffocate her.
After moments of elatedness and restful frolic, she paused and took note of the lantern that she was still clutching tightly in her hand. Dangling from the handle was a small leather pouch, cylindrical in shape. She hadn’t noticed it during the darkness, but here in the light, she examined it. Inside was a small piece of parchment, rolled as a scroll. As she opened it carefully, she noticed that a letter was written in pristine script on the page.
My Precious Child,
I know that your wonderings are great and that your wanderings have been long. You have many questions that cannot be answered yet, because you live in a time and place that doesn’t allow for their answers. But, perhaps, your soul will be satisfied for the time-being with the just the knowledge that this whole journey has been protected and delivered by Me.
You have spent much of your life just following after various fads, dreams, and people. You have set about to do what others were doing, or when you weren’t doing that, you were just trying to please them. You have searched through different means, thinking that someone or something would take you to your next destination, never really giving any real thought to Me or where I would have you to travel.
I gave you the lantern. It was all you needed.
I thought about giving you a torch. I thought about illuminating this whole place with floodlights. Headlamps and flashlights and 1000 watt lightbulbs crossed My mind. But, in the end, I decided on a lantern.
I know that you don’t understand, because it was so very dark. I know you thought that if you could have just seen even yards in front of you, that your situation would be drastically different and better. The faithful light of your lantern, though it seemed dim and faint, provided you little comfort during your journey, because you kept thinking of ways it could be better, easier, or less scary.
I’m so happy that you didn’t give up, My Child. I’m so thrilled to share this beautiful new world with you. This is where I have wanted to bring you all along. I have prepared a place for you here. I want nothing more than for you to stay here with Me and share in the beauty and the adventure of this new life.
This new life that I speak of won’t always be easy. It rains here, and darkness will creep back in. Rodents and insects have a tendency to swarm even here in this lovely meadow. But, you have Me. And you have your lantern. We are all you need to survive. You must trust that.
I love you more than you can ever imagine.
The Lantern Maker
She reread the letter several times and tried to make sense of it. She didn’t know who this Lantern Maker was, and she was still puzzled as to this journey that she had been brought on. It was then that the small stone pathway caught her eye again. Just what had she come through last night? Surely it was just the harmless inner workings of an alive jungle, nothing really to fear. Curiosity steeped, and she picked her way through the meadow grasses back toward the jungle and its simple path.
Darkness started again as she entered the canopy, but it was light enough with the sunshine that she could see. Even still, she kept the still-lit lantern in her hand. It didn’t take her long at all to realize that her small piece of gifted light the night before was a blessing in the most extraordinary way. For there, on either side of the pathway, setting only a few feet away from the stonework, were frameworks of fear-inducers for as far back up the path as she could see.
There was a section of swamp littered with the bodies of grotesque reptiles, perched halfway in the murky waters, looking as though they were long overdue for their next meal.
A pit of slithering snakes clothed in disgustingly brilliant colors were to her right.
She saw a mass of quicksand that seemed to be inching its way towards the stonework, greedily trying to devour it.
And then, small shacks lined up along one section with bony fingers and beady eyes poking out from the shadows of the windows. Shallow shrieks and screams seemed to creep out of the cracks in the walls.
Shivers ran the length of her spine, and her knuckles turned white as she gripped the handle of the lantern with all her might. She couldn’t walk any deeper into the jungle, she just couldn’t. She quickly spun and ran the rest of the way back out into the brightly lit meadow.
Once she was able to catch her breath and relax in the surroundings of the flowers and blue sky, realization donned on her. Had she made the journey through the jungle last night with more than her little lantern, she wouldn’t have made it. She was sure of it. She would have most certainly been devoured or died of fright. If floodlights had illuminated the horrific truths of the path, she would have succumbed to the fear. If she had had a headlamp that would have shone into the depths, she would have buried herself in panic.
Yes, this Lantern Maker had been right. The little lantern with its trusty flame had been just what she needed to get through. Just knowing where to put her next footstep was all she had needed to know at the time. It was enough. And it had saved her. And had brought her to the most unimaginably beautiful place.
It was then that she noticed a small cottage set in the corner of the meadow. Smoke curled itself in a spiral from a quaint chimney, and even though it was daytime, lights could be seen shining through the windows. With a newfound bravery and a skip in her step, she made her way to the inviting lodge.
As she neared, she noticed that a sign was tacked to the sturdy little door. It was made of the same parchment as her little lantern scroll and written in the same fine script were the words
She eased the door open, and her breath stuck in her throat as her eyes tried to take it all in. Every nook and cranny of the cozy cottage held a lantern. All sizes, shapes, and colors, but the same model of simple lantern that she was still clutching tightly. The one-roomed meadow shanty was awash in the glorious glow of all the tiny flames. Individually, they didn’t exert much light, but, here, together in this place, it was as if the blinding sun had made entrance. It was remarkable. She felt warm and invited and relaxed.
It was then that her eyes met those of a Man unlike any she had ever seen. They were gentle eyes, yet they held the secrets of the universe in their base. Kind, yet firm. She immediately recognized Him with a keen supernatural understanding. Awareness washed over her like a flood, and for the first time her hand dropped the meager lantern. She ran to Him and allowed Him to envelop her.
As He continued to hold her tight to His side, He stroked back her hair and gazed into her weary journey-laden eyes. He finally spoke. With all the authority of a craftsman that knows His handiwork better than any connoisseur or expert, He simply said:
My lanterns. They are always enough.