My father grew up in a small town in rural South Carolina.
While the town was poor, it was in many ways idyllic, and mostly beautiful. It was the kind of town in which everyone knew everyone else’s name, and her streets were named after families that had lived on those roads for several generations past.
There was a small market, a corner service station, a local cafe named after the local high school mascot… and two textile mills, one on each side of town.
My family lived near the one on the north end. The mill was at the top of the street on the hill, standing tall over all the houses and neighborhoods… of which our family’s was, down at the bottom of Richland street.
Now, my Dad, he grew up poor. But it was not for lack of care. Grandpa was a hard worker and always took work where he could find it… and he had worked in more than one position at the Mill over the years, there at the top of the street.
And when my dad was young, Grandpa was the mill’s Night Watchman.
While the rest of the town would sleep, he would be found walking the dark halls and manufacturing rooms of the plant, armed with a large flashlight. There were no motion sensors or alarms; no night lights or security services. Just my Grandpa and his flashlight.
Now, there were also no microwaves and online lunch ordering back then. So every night, just before his bedtime, my Dad would take his father’s lunch to him for later.
He would walk up this poorly lit street to the very top of the hill, where the textile mill stood looking down dark and ominous with all it’s high, darkened and unreachable windows. It had to be unwelcoming and downright foreboding to a 10 year old boy.
But he did not waver.
My Dad would every night, walk up to the employee entrance with dinner in his hand. He would approach the entry lit by one solitary and bare light bulb. He would turn the knob, and walk in to the dark and giant and silent factory… to find his Dad to give him his meal.
I remember the first time my Dad told me this story; how amazed I was.
I said, “Weren’t you scared?” Remembering the factory from my own youth and how dark and large it always seemed, I couldn’t imagine walking into it alone at night, not knowing where my Dad would be and when.
And he said, “Yep it was a little scary. But I always knew I could do it because I could see where my Dad was.”
“How? Dad that factory was huge!”
“I could always see where he was through the windows. His light was always shining as he went.”
You and I, our lives will be filled from beginning to end with times of trouble. And of worry and of fear and of insecurity and moments when we are just not sure. But throughout Scripture we are reminded that we are not alone.
In John 16, Jesus says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
There is nowhere that you will go where He is not present, where He is not powerful, where He is not for you and with you and in the process of working in, around and through you.
Sometimes we have to look at life’s darkened windows to see where the light is shining.
We are told in Isaiah, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
And again in John, Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid… Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
So… are you afraid?
I am not sure how realistic it would be to tell you to simply, “Don’t be.” But perhaps the key to being less afraid is recognizing that we are… but then looking straight at how we feel, and yet continuing the path up the hill, focusing our eyes on where our Heavenly Father’s lights are shining.
The most profound and mountain-moving acts of faith are usually when fear raises it’s head, shoots it’s arrows, tries to wield the darkness… and yet we continue walking the path with our eyes set on the light of our Savior.
In Psalm 27 we’re told where our light comes from: “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?”
Practically speaking, this means that you remember what you can about the light that God has shined on your life… the gifts, the blessings, the hopes, the miracles.
And when you cannot remember those or they do not come to mind so quickly, we cling to the beautiful things he puts in front of us now. The peace of quiet… the joy of laughter or noise, the faithfulness of a servant, the smile of a friend, or the beauty of sunshine and people.
Today is Palm Sunday. We celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. In Matthew 21 we read about it:
“Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
I want you to know today that we say, “Hosanna” because He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords and your life and your spirit and your soul and your eternity is held in the palm of His hands, and He has saved you. He has secured you. He is for you and has forgiven you all of your sin and brokenness and fear and anger and frailty.
And you are only at the beginning of the incredible joys that He has waiting for you.
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”