“There is a light that shines in the darkness, which is only visible there.”
― Barbara Brown Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark
The other day, my friend Eve mentioned that her daughter and son in law were driving with friends to the smoky mountains to see fireflies.
I chuckled imagining a car full of adults clutching mason jars and remembered my own daughters when they were 5 or 6, chasing fireflies in our front yard on warm summer nights.
“Driving to see fireflies?” I asked in a slightly sarcastic tone.
Eve replied, “Google synchronous fireflies and you will understand.”
Apparently, every summer, people drive from all over to witness an amazing firefly event in the smoky mountains of Tennessee. In fact, there is a first come, first serve lottery in April which awards parking passes to around 1800 lucky winners…and you must have a parking pass to attend.
People carry their lawn chairs into the darkness in order to see this firefly mating event which lights up the forest. As one woman said, “It is a silent symphony of fireflies by the thousands. What is so beautiful is the darkness and then the brightness in the darkness, like the forest is breathing.”
A silent symphony.
Park employees remind people to remain quiet. Stop talking. Listen in the darkness.
CBS Sunday Morning followed families into the woods and asked, “Why are you sitting in the woods in the dark?”
The more people answered, the more it became clear that there is something beautiful about finding light in the darkness. As one person explained, many people “would never go to the woods during the day, but here they come to sit in the woods in the middle of the night.” The lightning bug light show brings people out of their comfort zones.
I think sometimes our hunger for light gives us the strength to stay in the discomfort, especially in difficult, darker seasons of life.
I thought of this as I watched another story about a little boy named Roman who was born with spina bifida, a birth defect that doesn’t allow the spinal cord to form properly. He was also born with hydrocephalus, which is extra fluid around the brain. It was unclear whether he would ever walk on his own and yet he has defied all odds against him. The video of Roman joyfully announcing to his dog, “Look, Maggie! I’m walking, Maggie!” is nothing short of a delight for the soul.
He is a medical miracle and yet his parents are always having to monitor his health and make sure certain symptoms are not complications from his condition. As his mom, Whitney said, “When he gets a headache or something, we have to take that seriously. We can't just be like 'Oh, you're fine.'"
His dad, Adam, explained, “As parents we have to continue to check the boxes and be like, 'Is this a normal kid thing? Or is this a hydrocephalus thing? Or is this a spina bifida thing?'"
Whitney’s final comment in the interview struck me the most. She said with spina bifida, you're never fully "out of the woods. You just kind of learn to live in the woods.”
How does one learn to live in the woods? When the path in front of us seems so uncertain or scary, how do we find the courage to keep walking? At times it feels so much easier to just coast through life, to make sure things are comfortable. And yet, life has a way of making that unavoidable no matter how valiant our efforts might be.
I had to ask Adam and Whitney how they have learned to live in the woods.
Adam admitted that choosing to stay in the woods “doesn’t come naturally to anyone” and yet his faith and his “amazing marriage to Whitney” give him the strength to keep walking on this journey. It is a delicate balance of hard work and God’s grace that keeps them moving forward each day. Instead of seeing the entire path all at once, so you learn to walk together step by step and look for the light as you go.
As Whitney has walked through the woods, she has learned that her relationship with God is what allows her to have the courage to keep walking. As she trusts Him with her son and her fears and her family, He has provided her with an amazing support system along the way. Also walking through the woods have been other moms who have children with spina bifida. They understand her struggles and often share advice that helps her “avoid mistakes they have made.” Her “strong support system with Adam and her family” allow her to press on through the “woods” of life.
This is such a beautiful reminder of how much we need God and each other to have the courage to walk through the dark.
One of the hardest parts about faith is trusting that the Lord is with us in our struggles. The discomfort and pain often tempt us to believe that we are alone in the dark. In Isaiah 45:3, the Lord reminds us of this: “I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness—secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.”
We are not alone. May we find the courage to keep walking in the woods in order to experience the quiet symphony of His light.
And as the video says, no mason jars allowed.
(Click HERE to follow Roman on Instagram! @defyingodds_romansjourney)