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
Robby was raised in rural South Carolina, and his family was pretty poor. They lived in a small town, and there weren’t many jobs to go around. But Robby’s dad was a hard worker, and he did what he needed to do to care for the family.
Over the years, Robby saw his Dad work a lot of different jobs... none of which paid a lot, or had a lot of worldly success attached to them. But his Dad was thankful to work nonetheless. For many years, he was the Night Watchman for the big textile mill at the top of the street, and for this, to this day... I am a proud grandson.
Because Robby is my Dad.
And his Dad is my Grandpa.
Back then, factories weren't filled with security lighting. There were no cameras and communication devices; no sensors or motion detectors. No three - minute response times.
In those days, the Night Watchman walked the long and pitch-black corridors... through the wide open rooms with giant monster-like machines. By himself. With a flashlight and a nightstick. This was my Grandpa's job.
Street lights outside played through windows onto the walls inside the building, making a million shadows. This building which inevitably moaned and creaked as the temperatures cooled after long work hours of the day. It was creepy at night.
And before his own bedtime, Robby would walk up the dark street each night with his Dad’s dinner and deliver it to him.
This was a big deal.
The mill rested (parts today still do) at the top of the street, with enormous tall and imposing brick walls, dark windows and large machine parts laying scattered like broken legs. As you walked uphill toward the mill, it felt like you were standing on a giant carpet that the mill had unrolled that day, just to lure you in. This is no exaggeration.
This big dark mill would look down on him as he approached. He would make his way toward the employee entrance at the back, where one bare bulb lit a rusty steel door.
He would walk right in.
And this young boy would go look for his father in the dark factory.
I remember the first time I heard my Dad tell this story. I was dumbfounded.
“Sorry Dad. I wouldn’ta done that. Bring your own Easy Mac or something.” I am sure that in that moment, he should have made a mental note to remove me from the will.
But it was his gentle tone and softened expression as he spoke that struck me:
“Oh but it wasn’t as scary as you would think,” he said. “I could see the light of my Dad’s flashlight in the windows, so I always knew where he was in the dark.”
There is a word for us in this.
In life, where fear runs rampant within our hearts, relationships, and even churches, it is hard to live courageously out of the love, grace, mercy and power that comes with the presence of God’s Spirit in us.
Because often, in spite of it all, we are still afraid.
Afraid of our failures.
Afraid of digging.
Afraid of loneliness.
Afraid of trust.
Afraid of failing.
And somewhere in the mixture of raging fears... whether we see or don’t see them... we get tossed about and have a hard time getting our bearings on what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, or how we’re even feeling.
Its hard to see in the mixture and the dark.
But maybe, like that young boy, we can take comfort that our Father’s light is so visible. It exposes the good places, the safe places. It reminds us of where our Father is, and shows us the way towards Him.
It reminds us.
He is there. And He does not change.
May I know this week; may you know this week... that we are not alone in the dark.