“Watching the sunset always seemed to calm his troubled mind, but not this time. This evening his troubled thoughts raced uncontrolled through his mind. He hated the endless battle that seemed to always wage in his mind.”
Simple enough. The possible beginning of a new chapter or story in the making. This time it is neither, it’s a simple statement of feeling and thought. We spend our lives searching for meaning or direction. Some of us spend our nights and days deep in worry. We worry about “the bills and money” , “the kids grades in school”, “The big project at work”. All these things run around inside our heads and cause us to suffer as our peace and joy is stripped away by the anxiety that begins to build inside our hearts and minds. I can honestly tell you I don’t have all the answers, some days I don’t think I have any answers at all. I have these very same anxieties. I fight against these very things daily myself.
What I can tell you though is nothing new exists in this world that others have not also experienced. I remember sitting in church growing up and hearing the pastor tell the congregation things like, ” you need to have more faith” or “you are not right with God that’s why you suffer”. My all time favorite was “you need to give it all to God and trust completely in him and it will all be taken care of “. The service would end and we would all go and eat cake. Problem was everyone would get home and nothing would have changed. I grew up with questions and very little answers. No one could tell me “how to get more faith” or “Why when I do everything I was supposed to nothing changed”. Eventually I came to believe the problem was me. Something deep inside was broken beyond repair. I got tired of what I soon came to call “church sign wisdom”. Little sayings with no real answers, but everyone would quote them like mantra’s, as if the very speaking of them was casting some spiritual spell that was moving God into action.
I could continue and tell you all the details of my journey through various denomination’s and their doctrines and study the differences, but I wont. I know all I hear in my head is “blah, blah, blah” so I rather spare the reader the experience and move past that part to the present.
I’ll stick to what I know best or better put what comes naturally to me and that’s story telling. Do not expect this story to answer any questions instead expect it to create more.
” Another comes and another goes…each one wanting a different answer when will they ever learn the path is not the same…” The old man threw another log on the fire, causing the stirred smoke and ashes to spark and flare up into the night sky like a swarm of angry bees.
“What are you talking about ?” a voice whispered from the darkness as another man, much younger then the first entered the small clearing and sat down across from the old man.
“I’m talking about the dark woods” The old man answered as he pulled out a worn and tattered leather-bound journal.
“Yeah you been in there?” The other asked as he strained to peer at the old man’s journal.
The old man quickly closed the journal and set it down. He smiled and looked at the stranger. The dark woods was a place that all had to transverse at one point or another. There was not one person who could resist its call. If anyone thought they could avoid it and simply refuse it, they would suddenly find themselves deep within its dark bowels.
“Of course I have been there, we all venture into the dark woods we have no choice in the matter.” The old man stated in a matter of fact manner. He knew the young man was going to ask him for guidance, they all did at one point or another.
“What do you mean we all must enter the dark woods?” The young man asked perplexed. He had no intention of entering the woods.
“It’s simple the woods finds you. One day you will be sitting there like you are now minding your own business and it happens, suddenly you are in the dark woods” The old man grinned and continued writing in his journal. He saw the ghostly whiteness of fear fall upon the young man’s face as he looked fearfully at the woods off in the distance.
“You fear the woods?” The question was simple but he knew the answer was far from being simple.
“Yes” The young man answered. He looked down cast at the crackling fire, he couldn’t bear to look this strange old man in the eyes for admitting his fear. He felt ashamed and he couldn’t begin to explain why.
The old man took pity on the younger one and set his journal down. He looked thoughtfully off into the distance before he spoke.
“The path you take will be different than any one else, but remember this, the pitfalls and trials are the same. We all enter and leave this world in the same manner our journey is where the differences lie.” He paused as he sighed. He could see in the young man’s posture that he didn’t understand, at least not yet.
“What weighs on your mind young one?”
The young man took a deep breath and looked up at the old man.
“I’m worried that I will fail. That something will happen that will cause me to lose everything. I know I shouldn’t worry but I do.”
“Let me guess. You worry in particular about the worse case scenarios the most. The ones you know can’t happen, even your friends and family tell you it cannot and wont happen.” The old man smiled, he knew exactly what the young man was worrying about.
“You worry about what if it does happen, what if you do or do not do something that causes this unthinkable outcome to come to pass. Am I right?”
“Yes” The youth answered with his head held low in self-imposed shame once again.
The old man smiled, as usual they always ask him for guidance, and as always they never even realize that they have. He picked up the journal once again and wrote in it, glancing up at the youth from time to time. He finished and handed the journal to the young man.
“Take it… it will guide you through the dark woods.” his smile was warming and welcoming.
The young man’s eye’s lit up as he gingerly opened the journal. He read the words and his brows furled slightly as he flipped through the pages. He looked up at the old man questions hidden just behind his gaze.
“I don’t understand. It just says….”
The dark woods call is strong, if you let it sing to you , you will find nothing but sorrow. Your path is before you walk it and do not look back. The shadows around you are merely distractions, they have no substance, ignore them for they are just shadows.