It all started with a Mayan proverb: When you face the sun, the shadows fall behind you.
It’s on a mug I bought on Pottery Highway in North Carolina. The artist and I discussed how that truth is even more meaningful in light of the 23rd Psalm and turning to the ONE who said, “I am the light of the world.” John 8:12
It got me thinking about the difference in my attitude when I change my position.
If the shadows are looming before me, I am facing them – not the SON – the source of light.
When I change my position – turn my face – toward the LIGHT, the shadows fall behind me.
My commentary says in Palestine where the rain falls only at a certain time of year, the landscape is cut by many narrow valleys and stream-beds. Often water may be found below ground in such wadis during the dry months, unseen and untapped refreshment. There are perennial rivers that flow through wider valleys and plains and these rivers cut narrow gorges through the rock. These are the darkest valleys – between two high promontories.
Spiritual valleys, I’ve found also come between two mountaintops, are dark and frightening, and there is often little or no visible hope or sign of refreshment. The Hebrew origination of the shadow of death is more than a shadow – even more than a death-like shadow. It is deep darkness – a total eclipse or absence of light.
So I pictured myself walking through this dark valley – the sun blotted out, ironically, by my own self, turned from the light, my position totally blocking out any glimmers as I walk through the valley – away from the sun. The picture in the 23rd Psalm is not of someone walking through a shadowy alley – or valley – cringing at the shadows. It is beyond that darkness, and yet the next line is amazing.
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
God is there in the darkness. This sheep can feel the Shepherd’s presence. I am being crowded into the right position to get through the valley and into a place of safety. Crowded and guided with a rod that has previously been used to kill enemies – but I am not afraid of it. Micah 7:14 says He shepherds us with his rod or scepter, which represents royal authority. Just as I found comfort watching my Shepherd slay the enemy that would devour me, I now find comfort in this reminder of his authority, not fear. He also prods me with his staff – the stick he uses for support as he walks (with me, through the valley). I do not fear the staff either, it only makes me sense His support, and I lean against it in the darkness, comforted again at the signs of his nearness.
I’ve changed my position again – inclining myself into his support and authority, as he guides me through the deep darkness of the valley, and up onto the mountain peaks where, with hindsfeet, I can climb the next mountain top to view His glory in the valley below. The glory I could not see in the darkness.
Don’t panic if you are in that dark place. You are not alone. Your Shepherd is with you. Rest and incline yourself to him. Feel His rod and His staff guiding you, back into the light.
As Cory Ten Boom said, “When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.”