Some years ago, I heard a story about a young woman who was walking in Detroit in the wee hours of the morning, going to catch a bus to go home. She had just gotten off work.
It was so early that the sun was barely creeping over the horizon. The streets were nearly devoid of all traffic.
But in the quiet of that early morning, tragedy befell that young woman. A young man, who the story said was only 19 years old, decided on that very day to take his life. He jumped from a building and landed on the young woman.
She died. He survived.
It is a fact that we do not know what kind of danger we are in on a daily basis. It is a good thing, because if we knew, we would be caught in postures of defense. Our entire spirits would be stiff, ready for flight. It is an act of mercy that we do not know the valleys of the shadow of death that are before us.
It is said that in cases of automobile accidents, severe injuries often happen when we see an oncoming car and anticipate the crash. Because our bodies are stiff and taut, there is no elasticity in our bones. The impact of the crash hits the taut bones and they break and cause injury to our internal organs. Contrarily, we have all heard stories about babies who survive crashes and falls from high places because they do not know, they cannot see and anticipate, what danger they are in.
I was always told by my mother that if I ever got married, don’t look for trouble, because you’ll find it. Trouble is always around but sometimes it remains latent, unless and until you go looking for it, she said. It was sound advice. My mother said it was better to anticipate good times because “your spirit will work to make those times become a reality.” Look for trouble, she said, and you will be one miserable person.
Trouble is around us, for sure. In this current political landscape, we feel the winds of racism, sexism, militarism, homophobia, Islamophobia and worse. We are truly walking in a valley.
We are not like the woman who was killed by someone who jumped on her as he tried to kill himself. We know there is danger and trouble ahead of us, but the challenge will be to handle what we know we must handle and take the journey one step at a time. We anticipate issues…but because we know that God is near, we anticipate without fear. Our spirits must feed us hope; we must see daylight even though we are in a valley, where it is dark. The darkness may very well be a gift, a place where we can gather strength for the journey, so that by the time we need to be at full strength, we will be ready, not broken because we spent valuable valley time fearing what was ahead of us.
This is what we know: God is with us. We may be disappointed with God, or confused, or angry …or all of the above. But no matter, what, we walk through the valley, the dark valley of uncertainty in which we now find ourselves, with the blessed assurance that Jesus …is with us. The psalmist didn’t know Jesus; he knew Yahweh, but we know Jesus. This Jesus is the same Jesus who has walked with people through dark valleys for millennia.
Surely, our ancestors knew what we are feeling right now. Surely, we can call on the cloud of witnesses for advice and guidance and help. Surely, their valleys, when they were slaves, being beaten and lynched at will, were dark. Surely the valleys of indigenous Americans, when they were being killed off and driven off their land, were dark. Surely the valleys of Palestinians, being forced off their land, are dark. Surely the valleys of the poor are dark. There is little light in anyone’s valley.
But there is always God. No matter how deep and dark the valley, God is there. God is there when we are ill, when our loved ones are ill, when we suffer loss …and God is here now, in this time of political upheaval and uncertainty.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me…”
It was from a place of darkness and danger that this psalmist wrote these words. Evil, danger was there…and he could not see it all …but he did not look for it. He looked for God and therefore, he did not fear the evil nipping at his heels.
If ever there was a time for us to look for God and look to God, it is now. The writer of Psalm 42 wrote, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
So it was then. So it has always been. And so it is now. The evil in front of us and alongside of us …is not greater than the God above us and in us.
Amen and amen.
Yea, Though I Walk… is from her collection of Tuesday Meditations.