There was neither a hint of radiance nor even the faintest glint of light in the chambers of shadow. The shade engulfed my surroundings. Nothing could be seen. Nothing could be felt. My mind raced for a solution immediately. "My flashlight!" I laughed aloud. Quickly my hands raced to my large, backpack and delved for the high-powered light source. With a shout of joy my fingers left the pack, wielding the light high above my head.
As the button was pressed, I aimed its beam towards my feet, hoping to receive a sense of direction. However, to my astonishment, the light never reached close to the ground. After multiple waves and hits to make sure it was not malfunctioning, my foot stomped in disgust. Suddenly I realized my predicament. This was never shadow at all!
I was lost in darkness. Only black roads surrounded me.
I could feel the powder of dust upon my feet as they pumped hard, running forward into nothing. My eyes swayed here and there, searching for a sign to conduct me. After every few steps I turned to my side and continued on, hoping to find some exit or entrance. Voices, faint as whispers, echoed along the corners of my mind at once.
Some squealed, "Turn right!" Others,"Turn left! No, stick to the right!" As I changed directions, their hooting laughter flowed through my thoughts.
"What is the correct path?" I heard myself shouting over and over, my head switching from side to side. Suddenly a post appeared before my very eyes. Before my mind could send a message to cease running, my face had already smacked into the massive pole. With a loud grunt of pain, I fell back clutching my head.
A small flyer, pasted on the post, slowly detached from its sitting spot and drifted to my lap peacefully. I shook my head twice to regain my senses only to find the paper's notice glowing brilliantly. Where my flashlight had failed, the paper had succeeded!The words along its plain lines glowed intently, desiring to be read over and over again. That is exactly what I did.
It said, "The world can be a dark place. No one should wander alone in parts like these. Do you need a guide that knows the way? Do you want a guide to direct you? If so, call upon this name!" I looked down at the arrow pointing to The name, written in red. "Jesus Christ, expert Guide and Savior of all people!" After studying the name multiple times, my mouth opened to speak the words. As they poured off my tongue, I felt a strong hunger to say them multiple times.
Before I repeated The name a second time, a finger tapped my shoulder. My heart leapt in my chest as I realized I was no longer alone. The guide's face was humbling. His lips held the biggest smile, seeming to be welcoming me to place my trust in him. His robes were bright white and flowed neatly, as though the winds had picked up on a sunny day near the beach. His hand reached down to me and touched my fingers. "Do you wish me to help you?" he asked grinning eagerly.
I felt I could tell him anything. "Yes I do need you to help me. Do you know the way? I don't have a clue where I am! These . . . voices keep telling me where to go and they always laugh when I follow them. I think they're playing with me or something!"
"Take this," he held out a helmet that appeared in his hand. It was gold, scripted with pictures of a cross all around. The outlines of each image glowed yellow around the darkness. It was no trouble to take the piece of armor and strap it over my head. It was an immediate fit.
"Do you hear them now?" he asked softly.
"No, I don't want to follow their directions now."
"Then come and follow me. Remember to always keep your eyes on me."
His hand reached closer to my fingers. I wasted no time in placing my hand in his. With great strength, he lifted me to my feet and made sure I was able to stand. With a wave of his other arm, the dark roads I had seen before appeared more clearly all around our location. Some rounded inward and disappeared beyond my sight. Others stopped suddenly as though still in construction. My Guide's finger pointed toward a single, bright road in the distance. It was straight and did not curve to the left or the right.
"That is where we need to go first," he spoke gently. "We will have to backtrack a ways to get there, but do not worry. I know perfectly where we are. Follow me." And so we started back from where I came, every now and then turning to find we were closer to the ivory road.
I asked him many questions concerning the many dark paths. Why are there so many? Why do we need to reach the lighted road? How do you know the way? After every inquiry he only responded with a smile, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
Eventually we came to an intersection I felt I recalled. I yelled excitedly, staring down one direction, "Wait a second! I think I know where we are too!"
My Guide stared me in the eye doubtfully. "I know the way," he assured. "Come, follow me." His arm swayed to a separate route.
"But I'm quite sure I turned here," I muttered. "Here, I'll show you." With that I started down my way. It was not long before I lost sight of the intersection behind me. Again I began turning in certain directions, some ending abruptly and others swirling around in a pattern. My conscious told me to turn around and seek the advice from the Guide, however I truly felt we could make our way to the white road from our current position. "I uh . . . I think we go this way now, right?" I said hesitantly.
"You have already taken that road before," he whispered. "It stops suddenly and you are forced to take a left from there." But face lit up as he gave a suggestion. "We can continue down the road we are on, and I can take us from there. Will you follow me now?"
"Yes!" I surrendered all command to him.
Because of my decisions, much more time was added to our backtracking. You would probably think I would have learned to follow my Guide from now on, wouldn't you? I am sad to say that I still wandered from time to time. Nevertheless, my Guide still stayed by my side and offered his help constantly. He always gave an answer to my dilemma and instructed me how to make my way out of the mess I had caused.
Finally, before my eyes, sparkled a tight path paved with a white brick I had never seen before. It radiated a bright glow, covering my entire frame with its light. "We found it! Thank you so much for your help!" I cheered happily.
The Guide looked down upon me in compassion and said, "But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Come and follow me."
I noticed the road held not the slightest hint of a curve or turn. Its length seemed to go for miles, with no sign of stopping
abruptly as the others had repeatedly done. As I followed my Guide along the perfect path, we conversed together. We shared laughs and tears, joy and peace. Though gloom lingered at our sides, it never reached to hold me.
Once as we merrily sprinted forward, I could hear more faint whispers, not from inside my head, but outside in darkness. It was the voice of a woman; her mystical voice caught my ears and caused my head to turn. Though I could not see her, her seducing tones lingered in my thoughts. Promises of pleasure fired upon my mind.
"Look to me," my Guide reminded quickly. My eyes immediately flashed to his smiling face. "Take this," he said, handing me a shield that lay on the ground. It also held the image of a cross, laced with designs of heavenly hosts, all appearing to sing. My arm slid into the holder easily; my fingers clutched the handle hard. As we walked on, I heard the voice again. Quickly I lifted my defensive arm high and felt a soft thud sound on the surface of my shield. As I examined the defensive piece, I was astonished to find an arrow, sizzling from a doused flame, stuck hard within its layers.
The Guide tossed me a great sword, sharper than any two-edge I had ever found. The tentacles of evil stopped in its trail and attempted to retreat, but with one quick swipe, they vanished into a bursting form of light. With every luring whisper, my shield blocked and my sword slashed.
Almost instantly after the battle, drunken laughter echoed around our position. Undesirably, curses and oaths tingled the tip of my tongue. Fears and worries flooded over me, threatening to push me back. As I screamed for the temptations to stop, my Guide wasted no time in assisting me. He strapped a thick breastplate along my chest and buckled a wide belt around my waist. As he finished the last strap, the flow of evil died down and leaked off the shimmering road, down into the darkness.
We continued onwards, every now and then encountering others who, like myself, were dressed as a soldier and happily walking in the same direction. Encouragement was tossed toward one another and new friends were made. Occasionally, our snow-white road ran temporarily with dark paths, yet they never stayed straight for long. However, people could commonly be seen wandering the dirty roads, all examining their surroundings, as if in search of something. At times, they would notice us and scoff at the direction we were going. "That's not the way!" some would shout. Others, "Are you certain that's a trustworthy pass?"
"Invite them to this road," the Guide prompted. "Tell them to follow me."
I agreed I would and looked around to find someone nearby. The desire to tell someone about my Leader overflowed my inmost being. I caught the attention of one man, slowly wandering closely. He had been talking with some friends I had made, also walking down the bright lane. "Would you like to come walk with us?" I asked, "We have the best guide ever to show you the way! You have to be tired of walking along those same, polluted roads don't you?"
We talked slightly more of what it meant to walk with the Guide close by you. At last, though a greater gap than anyone could jump separated us, the man accepted the help of my Guide and leapt from his original position of darkness, to light. I found others to share the Good News and was met with mixed responses. After my conversation with the first man, I noticed that golden-laced sandals covered my feet. My Guide must have slipped them on, I thought.
He merely looked to me and smiled, knowing my thoughts. I remember saying to Him, "Wow, Jesus! We've had some really close calls haven't we? I didn't obey your commands at first; I nearly wandered off into with sinful pleasures; my whole body was close to being washed away with tempting tides; some people tried to stir up doubt in my mind; and still some temptations still linger. It has been close."
His grin never left. Slowly he pulled me into an embrace that warmed every corner of my spirit. Then he lifted his hand before me as his sleeve fell away to reveal a hole in his wrist. "Look at this," he commanded lovingly. It seemed to me his lips dripped with compassion and joy. "When I first told you to follow me, you eagerly grasped my outstretched hand and clutched it tightly. Through all toils and snares, worries and fears, mourning and sadness, joy and light . . . your hand has never left mine. There were never any `close calls'. My Father, who has given them to me," he reached out his other hand to show everyone along the same road, "is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one."
I have not yet finished walking down the road with my Guide. He still leads me straight and drenches my soul with the fruits of the Spirit. He will never leave me nor forsake me. He has even promised all who trust in Him, a paradise in eternity! I will keep the faith and fight the good fight.
The world can be a dark place. No one should wander alone in parts like these. Do you need a guide that knows the way? Do you want a guide to direct you? If so, call upon this name! Jesus Christ!