The last of the light abandons me beyond the far horizon. This isn’t just sunset. The atmosphere thickens with a dark, stifling cloud, concealing every rock formation I’ve been using as landmarks in this desert. Even the path I’m standing on is shrouded so deeply I can barely see a step ahead. The quote comes to me: “if you’re going through hell, keep going.” I understand the thinking. It seems logical to keep moving forward, fighting to stay ahead of everything trying to overwhelm me. But it doesn’t always work. As I stare into the nothingness, I realize how weak I really am. I have no strength, or even desire, to take another step. I crumple to the ground, and lay on my back. I wish for stars, before whatever’s been stalking me finally attacks.
No light appears in the sky, but as I stare into the tenebrous air, there is a faint sound. No . . . a song. I dismiss it. It’s ridiculous to hear music in this place. In my self-pity, I rationalize it as the delusions of an exhausted and broken mind. But it perseveres. It steadily grows louder, until it overpowers the threats that frustration, despair, and fear are hissing in my head.
I’m not certain where or when, but I’ve heard this before. I can’t even make out the words, but somehow this song is giving me strength. And hope. Though I still can’t see well, I can guess roughly where the sound is coming from. I rise, and step carefully toward the source, mindful of obstacles and holes.
Uncertain of time here, I trek for what feels both like minutes and hours. What I do know is the closer I get to the voice, the more the darkness disbands. I can still hear the faint, scraping gait of my stalker somewhere behind me, but with every step, I’m becoming more conscious of going toward something that seems good, rather than escaping something evil. I quicken my pace as much as I dare, across rocky ground and in and out of steep depressions. A long, constraining slot canyon between massive rock pillars almost breaks my resolve. But the song is loud and powerful now, and every echo off the walls compels me to keep moving forward. The air is becoming cooler, lighter, and fresher, and I no longer hear anyone, or anything, behind me.
I break through at the bottom of a low hill, and stop. The source of light and music seems to be just over this rise. I lift my foot to walk, but I’m suddenly aware I don’t really know if I’m welcome. My heart races away from anticipation to near panic. As if stepping off a cliff, my heart plummets into a familiar abyss of the fears of failure, rejection, and loss.
But the song. I close my eyes, and listen. I breathe again. I’m back on solid ground. The words are clear now, and I know it’s the song God has been singing over me my whole life, a Father’s song of love to his child. It’s a ballad of healing and transformation, of rest and purpose, of uncompromising hope and unrelenting battle, all at the same time. It’s my song, the one he’s been writing with me.
I run to the top of the hillock. There is Jesus, sitting on the ground at a low table. His smile cannot be adequately described, other than to say it gives life. He beckons me to sit as he continues to sing. I recognize many of my favorite foods, and as I listen to him, a greater peace and joy flood through me than I’ve ever known. Here at this table in the wilderness, with darkness and danger nearby, I am home.
“The Lord has taken away every judgment against you. He has turned back all your enemies. The King, the Lord himself, is with you, so you don’t have to fear evil any more. He will celebrate you with joy, calm your mind with his love, and rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:15-17).