I recall one summer evening, when I was a young child growing up in Washington, I worked with my dad hauling hay for a farmer down the road from where we lived.
I had helped him other nights, driving tractor or dragging bales of hay. I enjoyed working with my dad, even just being with him. One night, we had worked until dark and as we were finishing up, I anticipated the walk home in the dark with my dad. I was certainly glad he would be with me. I wasn’t so sure about what creepy things come out in the night, but I didn’t want to find out. Boy, was I glad dad would be with me to protect me from all the scary creatures hiding in the bushes.
Then my dad told me, “I need to stay and talk to the boss, so it will be awhile before I am ready to go home. It’s already past your bedtime so why don’t you go ahead and start walking home? It’s not that far and you will be fine. I will be along shortly.”
I didn’t want dad to know how scared I was, but I was petrified. I stammered out, “OK.”
He responded, “Don’t worry. You will be fine.”
I started walking along the paved road toward home. It was dark and moon shadows were playing all sorts of tricks on my mind and imagination. Trees looked like monsters with long arms reaching for me. A scurrying bug or mouse in the bushes startled me thinking something was going to jump out and grab me. I listened for footsteps of someone sneaking up behind to grab me. I kept a wary eye on every shadow, every bush, every movement. My ears were attuned to every sound in front of me, beside me and behind. I knew the walk wasn’t that far, maybe a quarter of a mile, but it seemed like many, many miles. My heart was pounding every step of the way and I was sweating, even though it was a cool night.
I tried to think about Psalm 23 that I had actually memorized from Church. “The lord is my shepherd, I shall not want… Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me.” It certainly felt like a shadow of death, in fact, lots of shadows that could mean death at any moment.
“I will fear no evil for thou art with me.”
I took a deep breath.
“God is with me. I am not alone.”
I felt my fears subside. I slowed my pace and took another deep breath. If god is truly with me, I don’t need to fear because nothing is hidden from god. He knows what is in the shadows and he is with me to get me through this.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the lord forever.”
Suddenly, I heard a noise behind me — footsteps for sure. They were getting closer and louder. I suddenly stopped and turned around, so relieved to see my dad trying to catch up with me. I felt the hugest relief flood throughout my body. All the tension melted. All the creepy things in the bushes disappeared. The darkness no longer terrifying. Dad was with me and I had nothing to fear.
The rest of the walk home was a joyful one because Dad was with me.
I have thought of that night from time to time throughout my life. Sometimes the journey through life is scary. It is lonely and dark. Little fears become terrifying monsters. The biggest monsters are the ones I create in my imagination. Monsters like, “What if…?” and the mysteries of the unknown future. They can be a bit overwhelming at times. But even the ones that are real; even our worst fears come true, we are not alone. I remember that the lord is my shepherd and he is with me. He leads me and restores me. He walks with me and gives me reassurance. Everything is all right when I remember that He is with me.
He promises, “I am with you. I will never leave you nor forsake you.” That is what gets me through the dark valleys; through the challenging times of my life. I am not alone. Jesus is with me. He desires that for you too. Call on Jesus. He is there with arms wide open.
• Dan Wiese is a the pastor of Church of the Nazarene. “Living Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.