Marshmallows, Firewood, and Hearing God in the Dark
The marshmallows were bought, the camp chairs were set up, we had eaten an early dinner, babies had taken good naps, and all was ready for the perfect backyard fire night.
We had worked hard to build our own stone fire pit and the boys had found their ideal roasting sticks.
The first hour was pure bliss of burnt marshmallows and sticky fingers. But we soon ran out of our small stockpile of wood. Since everyone unanimously voted to continue the fun, our only option was to head to the woods for more wood.
Our woods lie at the back of a five acre field; it's wide, open, and on clear nights you can see almost every star in the sky but can hardly see your hand in front of your face. Armed with our cart and a flashlight we set off across the dark expanse towards the shadow of the woods on the horizon. It didn't take long for the lights from our house and fire to disappear into the night behind us and for the boys and I to be swallowed by the dark. The flashlight beam hardly penetrated it and the boys kept anxiously directing its light anywhere they thought they heard a noise.
Funny how a place completely transforms in the dark. The boys would have thought nothing about taking off running barefoot through that field just two hours earlier, but now they took timid steps around invisible barriers and cautiously peered around in all directions. They got slower and slower the closer we got the woods.
Because if the wide field wasn't dark enough, the thick trees ahead were a whole new definition of dark.
And then the Holy Spirit met me in my parenting and created the perfect discipleship opportunity in the middle of the pitch dark field. Coming to a stop I said, "boys, shine the flashlight right here, right in front of us." The ground directly in front of us lit up under the beam and the darkness scattered giving way to green stalk of grass and hay. Directing them to concentrate on that lightened space their tenseness drifted away at the familiar sight of bright green earth. We stepped over into that lit spot and then into the next and the next. We slowly but more securely made it to the woods.
Along those illuminated steps where the boys kept the light right in front of us we talked about Psalm 119:105. "An oil lamp like David was talking about isn't a spotlight or an overhead fixture, it's similar to your small flashlight. It doesn't light up every single thing from here to the end; it gives just enough light to take the next step, and then the next and the next. And that's exactly how God's word can guide your heart through this life. You won't and can't see through to the end. I can't either. But if I study and pray and seek wisdom I have what I need to clearly take the next step. And so do you."
The night didn't become less dark, the woods didn't appear less looming, but we were far less apprehensive as we gathered wood for our waiting fire. The walk back was filled with revelations as the boys tried to apply the object lesson to their own questions about what God may want them to do when they grow up. It gave them peace to know they didn't have to worry about what was up ahead that they couldn't see yet. Their next step would be illuminated under seeking God, studying His word, and praying for wisdom. They kept the light aimed in front of our feet instead of aimlessly in all directions. We walked surefooted, made better time on the return trip, and spent the next few hours laughing, singing, and eating way too many burnt marshmallows.