I left the gym the other day after a hard workout class and stepped out into the mid-December air that bit straight through my jacket. I immediately thought, “I can’t wait to get home.” I knew that after a few errands and a stop by the grocery store I was going to be able to slow down and relax under a warm blanket.
My car seemed just as reluctant and I was to be in the chilly air and took several minutes to warm up. As I pulled out of the parking lot, I soon realized I was surrounded and in the middle of a heavy winter fog. I could barely see the car ahead of me, much less the road. Familiarity turned to doubt quickly as I second guessed the roads I drive on almost daily… “Am I headed the right direction?” “Should I slow down?” “I can’t see anything!”
It was slow going getting to the grocery store, a trip that would have normally taken a few minutes stretched into fifteen as the traffic crept along. Everything around me was blanketed with fog. Store fronts, billboards, stop signs, a school bus. I breathed a sigh of relief as I pulled into an illuminated parking space near the front of the store. Finally.
And I thought to myself… This is my hometown. I know the way to the store. I know the way home! Why was that so difficult for me?
Fog. Fog has a way of obstructing our view just enough so that we can’t see what’s just ahead of us…even the things we know are there! It takes an otherwise known path and clouds it, forcing you to second guess each next step until the sun rises and the fog is lifted.
I’ve written here before about sheep. That may seem like an odd segue, but I can’t imagine how desperate and blind sheep become in the thick of a winter fog. When the Bible talks about sheep, it very rarely omits their need for a shepherd. We don’t read stories about self-righteous, all-knowing, highly capable sheep. We hear about their less than flattering qualities… the qualities that make them like US.
Unknown territory? Doubt.
Lonely, hungry, thirsty? Anxiety.
Prone to wander? Lord! I feel it.
Life gets foggy. Either you are walking into a fog, in the middle of a fog, or you’re rejoicing because the fog is lifting, but there is no one exempt from the doubt that comes in the valley of decision. But like the sun shapes the shadows, so the voice of God, our shepherd, leads us through darkness and fog and winnows out our path.
As soon as the sun rose that morning, I walked confidently to my car in the parking lot and drove home almost thoughtlessly. Weakness blurs our vision, but strength propels us forward!
Psalm 139 praises the God who is near to us. He is still God within the fog…and very good at being God! He directs us and prepares our path.
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you. – Psalm 139:7-12
When we fall into seasons of doubt and questioning, He is big enough to be questioned and good enough to remain close to his children. He is not hindered or afraid of even the darkest of our nights. He who carries you will continue to carry you. He who created you will continue to create in you a heart that is molded and fashioned for His glory. We are hemmed in, behind and before, with His hand laid and eyes fixed on us.
And friend, He never shifts His gaze.