May 26, 2020 by Bob Whitaker
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” I will never forget the first time I experienced complete darkness. As young boy my family took us to Mammoth Cave National Park. We were guided through the cave by a seasoned ranger who at a particular spot announced to the group that the lights in the cave would be turned off. He said to us, “”You may not have experienced darkness quite like this before. When the lights go off, place your hand right up to your nose and try to see it. Don’t worry we will turn the lights back on shortly but in the meantime do not move for any reason because you might stumble without the light.” I don’t remember my age but I do remember my amazement. Even in the middle of the night in my bedroom there was still a glow that allowed me to see things. Yet the darkness deep inside Mammoth Cave created fear in my young heart – without light inside the cave we were all paralyzed. Only a fool would have ignored the ranger’s advice and confidently walked ahead.
I suppose the ancients were more aware of deep darkness than we are today. Bright street lamps, headlights and powerful flashlights were not part of their world. Yet even in our experience we know the uncertainty of darkness without the light. It would be silly and dangerous for any of us to make a trip without headlights. Few of us would refuse a light to shine on our pathway at night. The reason we appreciate the light is because we have understanding of the darkness. We know the importance of light because we realize the danger of darkness. We ask for a light because we recognize our inability to see clearly, and in this analogy we discover the spiritual truth of the Psalm.
It is only a person who realizes he is walking in darkness who asks for a light, and sometimes our enlightenment leads us to believe that we are not walking in darkness. We feel no need for the light when seeing clearly, nor can we see clearly unless we have light. The one who is convinced of his or her own wisdom is not likely to acknowledge a need for divine light. Our human capacity to see and understand so much has fooled us into believing that we can see clearly without the aid of divine light. The visible is compelling, the invisible is questionable. The physical is obvious, the spiritual is mysterious. Science seems infallible but spirituality is dubious. The only way to experience the light of divine wisdom is to admit that human wisdom is insufficient. If we’re ever able to trust God it is only because we have realized that we can’t trust ourselves. The pathway to divine wisdom passes through the cave of human darkness. Lord, help us to acknowledge the limits of our human understanding, the darkness of our own sin so that we may experience the light of God.