My sister and I once traveled to Peru and hiked the Inca Trail. On our way to Machu Picchu, we picked our way across a mountain ridge at night without a flashlight. That wasn’t the plan. We had started under a sunny sky, but I overestimated the youthfulness of my “granny knees” and their ability to scramble up stairsteps as tall as I am. I was impersonating a rock-climbing sloth as the sun began to set. Panic took hold. My flashlight was back at our campsite. Our guide, who didn’t have one either, reassured me that everything would be fine. But every youth pastor analogy I’ve ever heard about trusting God in the dark still involved a flashlight.
The Inca are one of the only cultures to name both the luminous constellations and the dark spaces between them. They believed that the Milky Way was a sacred river, and that both the dark and light spaces would help them mark important times: planting and harvesting seasons; sacred celebrations; the natural cycles of life. Their intricate pathways between cities mirrored the path that appeared in the sky. They placed pillars on the mountains overlooking their cities, so that when the sun set or rose between them, they could determine the altitude at which they needed to plant.
As my sister and I traveled an ancient Incan path between sunset and sunrise, our guide told us stories about the serpent and the toad, the llama and the fox, and how the Inca’s descendants mark the beginnings and ends of seasons. As our eyes adjusted to the darkness, the light from the moon and the sacred river above us illuminating our path, I wondered what else I might not have seen if I had been guided by my flashlight.
What signs mark sacred moments in my life?
God, help me to find value in both the light and dark spaces, and illuminate my path so that I may see more clearly. Amen.