- Church Connections
- In the Pew
- Pew In-reach
by Carol Elaine Loperena
As I look outside at the golden leaves falling to the ground, my mind wanders back to a time and place when the falling of leaves brought pure joy and pleasure to my little kid heart. There couldn't be enough of them for me. Raking was fun because it meant the bigger the pile of leaves, the better for jumping and rolling around. To be sure, October is still my favorite time of year, with no room for thoughts of the impending icy winter when the fall palette of yellow, red, gold and brown fills my mind.
And yet many don't share my enthusiasm for fall, with good reason. They can sense that the long corridor of winter is imminent. After the harvest the gates of fall will close behind them and they will face the long darkness. Here in the northern lands the days will become unbearably short, with only the northern lights to break the darkness.
I picture the darkness of that winter corridor. For seven years we lived in the city of West Berlin, surrounded by the country of East Germany and a wall that went over 150 kilometers around the entire city. It was my inside joke that although I seemed to have a knack for getting lost, I could never get lost in Berlin because you could only go so far before you ran into the wall. But the concrete wall, which towered above us was heavily guarded by armed Soviet guards. It was no joke. The 'West' side of the wall was covered in graffiti, while on the 'East' side lay a no man's land of deadly mines and barbed wire.
Getting from the 'island' of West Berlin to West Germany was no small undertaking. Our anxiety began to build with the hours of waiting in our car to pass through a checkpoint. It was the only way out of the city and onto the Autobahn, which would serve as a corridor through East Germany. Frightening stories of people being questioned by the guards made getting through the checkpoint nerve-wracking. Trunks might be inspected or mirrors passed under the car to check for people being smuggled, contraband, customs violations, or bombs. Once on the highway we faced the drive through East Germany with the only stops allowed being the few designated State controlled rest areas and gas stations. While the two-hour drive was intimidating during the daytime, driving it at night seemed to take an eternity. Darkness completely surrounded my husband, little daughter and I as we passed by the few sparsely lit towns and continued into the nothingness ahead. We took great comfort in the fact that we didn't have to make the trip through the corridor alone. What a feeling of relief to finally make it safely to the end of the corridor and into the freedom of the bright lights greeting us in the West.
Though it's been years since those trips were taken, there have been other dark corridors to pass through. Perhaps you've had your own emotional journey through the darkness. You see the path ahead of you, whether it be an illness, a family problem, or a work situation, just to name a few. You have nowhere to go but forward. You've crossed the boundary into the problem area and you can't turn back, nor can you take a detour. You have to go through the darkness. No one will make the journey for you. No one can fix it. There is fear. There is anxiety. There might even be despair. You don't have a choice as to whether you go through that dark corridor, but you do have a choice as to whether you go through it alone.
King David took comfort in the fact that he was not alone. In the 23rd Psalm he writes, “...though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: For Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.” Notice that he doesn't expect God to take away his problems, but his fear. He doesn't expect God to walk through the darkness for him, but to walk with him. Spiritually, God's presence will comfort us when we tear down our emotional walls and let It in. It will be with us as we read in the Bible about the real life struggles of kings and prophets, priests and paupers. It will be with us as we are prayed for by other Christians. God's presence will be with us as we sit by other Christians in the pews of a church. It will be with us even as God gives us the seasons to remind us that where fall leaves us with winter looming ahead, so we will reach the other side to the new life of spring.