Dark Night in the Woods

Sometime during the course of late night conversations sophomore year of college (which no doubt took place over greasy Dominoes pizza or handfuls of microwave popcorn), my girlfriends discovered that I had never been camping before.

That’s not entirely true. I had been sort of camping once before. My non-outdoorsy parents agreed to embark on a camping trip with family friends one summer but we bailed when the tents started buckling during a torrential downpour and we landed at a hotel.

IMG_9339So back to college: My gals decided that we should go on a fall camping trip to give me a proper first camping experience. The idea of camping didn’t seem awesome but the idea of missing out on time with my friends seemed less awesome, so I conceded. A few of the camping experts set to planning out supplies, meals, route, and campground while I took to planning my most outdoorsy-looking outfits (nailed it, right?).

Camping 2012One Friday after class, when the trip was planned out, we loaded up our old college cars and shipped off to The Gorge. I don’t remember what caused the delay; maybe someone couldn’t skip her last Friday class or we took too long packing (or posing for pictures of packing) or there was a traffic delay, but somehow we got to our parking site later than our resident camping experts had hoped and we were almost out of daylight. We loaded up our backs with big supply packs and set out on the long hike down into the gorge to our campground.

IMG_9338We had fewer headlamps than campers so the expert campwomen geared up, and us rookies lined up every other headlamp and kept close. Very shortly into our descent, we were in total darkness except for the light of the few headlamps. I was told to keep close, to not veer too far to the right or left (because of a drop off), and to trust my friends.

Two of the girls had grown up exploring and camping in the very woods we were slogging. They knew the path even in the dark. They wouldn’t let me and our other pals get hurt.

I trusted but I was uncomfortable. I wasn’t in control; I had no idea where I was, what was around me, and what was ahead of me. I didn’t even have charge over what I could see.

I trusted but I was fearful. No doubt my anxiety (i.e the ability to conjure up the grimmest of all possible scenarios) played out ugly scenes in my mind as we hiked in lightless silence.

I was reminded of this trip as I was reading treasured words of Amy Carmichael this week: “There can be no difficulty of travel that he does not understand. We are never alone as we penetrate the unknown. We cannot be lost there… He knoweth the way that I take… There is no darkness where He cannot find us.”

I’m feeling a lot these days like I did that dark night in the woods. I trust God, but I am uncomfortable with how little control I have. I trust God, but I am still fearful. My steps feel unsteady and I have little idea what is beside me or in front of me. I would really, really like to know what the woods look like. Walking in the dark is exhausting.

But I take solace in the knowledge that there is no darkness where He cannot find us and even more solace in the knowledge that He can see even when I cannot.

“Even the darkness will not be dark to You;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to You.” (Psalm 139:12)

IMG_9340We made it safely into the gorge that night and had a delicious dinner of steak and nearly raw potatoes. (Fire-roasted dinner takes time and hunger doesn’t breed patience). We set up our tents, roasted something sweet over the fire, learned how to pee in the woods, told ourselves that no bears or scary mountain people would attack us until we finally fell asleep.

When I woke up in the morning and emerged from my tent to the smell of pancakes over the fire, I couldn’t believe the view. We were deep in the heart of a beautiful valley, with autumn-toned trees decorating the canopy above. I looked up at the narrow, steep path we had trudged in the dark and thought that perhaps it was better that I hadn’t been able to see where I was walking. I thought perhaps the scary walk in the dark made the morning all the more beautiful.

Maybe one day, when this dark cancer trip ends, I will feel the same way.


red-river-gorge-camping

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9 thoughts on “Dark Night in the Woods

  1. I rejoice in your faithfulness to the Lord, friend! These are eloquent words but my favorite part of your writings in the midst of this cancer journey is how they reveal God’s tender love for his children and your childlike trust in Him. It spurs ME on in the midst of my mundane. Love you!

  2. We continue praying for you and Adam on your journey.
    Love, Ed & Marty Harris (Brad’s parents).

    1. Thank you so much for your prayers with us in this journey! It’s a joy to be prayed for by our friend’s family (and by those who really understand what this journey is like). Thank you!

  3. “I looked up at the narrow, steep path we had trudged in the dark and thought that perhaps it was better that I hadn’t been able to see where I was walking.”

    This is a powerful metaphor. Thanks for taking the time to write it for us.

    Take courage.

    1. I’m re-reading the Chronicles of Narnia very slowly – love that line – Take Courage Dear Heart. Also, thank you for the LOVELY letter. It’s in the cherished box and I re-read it. So sweet and helpful and powerful!

  4. . The Lord brought you to mind this morning and I thought I would see if I could find you online…..see if you had a blog or anything. And you did! I was so excited to see that you had a blog and I could stop by and say hi but then I was sad to read of the hardships you have faced. May the Lord strengthen you and uphold you and your husband. Take care.
    With prayers,
    Katie
    (you may not remember me from MASH…..My maiden name was bartels)

    1. Katie! So wonderful to hear from you (of COURSE I remember you)! I have actually looked for you on social media through the years, wanting to reconnect and I couldn’t find you. I am so thankful that you found me! I hope all is well with you. Thank you so much for finding me and for your kind words and prayers. With love, Allison.

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