And in my dream, I dreamed that you and I were on a circuitous journey, sometimes easy and sometimes difficult. Life!
‘Not all those who wander are lost.’ J R R Tolkien
We walked on carefully. And as we walked, we suddenly found ourselves in a valley, but horrors abounded there. On either side of the narrow path was a quagmire of foul-smelling and bubbling mud that would afford no foothold if one fell into it. Putrid was the word that sprang to mind. It is said that many a good person lost his footing in this valley, fell into the swamp, and was never heard of again, having died a slow, painful and miserable death.
The path got narrower, and we had to walk behind each other, but in such a way as to link our arms to give ourselves greater stability. We moved along very slowly now, helping each other for fear of falling into the swamp. Dark, brooding, and menacing clouds hung over the valley, blotting out all sunlight. It seemed like twilight was descending, yet it was midday. If negativity could be felt, then it seemed all around us. Haunting us. We slowed our pace even more, took more care, and worked together.
The wind howled making a deafening noise, and we had to shout to each other even though we were so close. The wind distorted our voices. We could hardly recognise each others voice.
‘All who hate me whisper together against me; Against me they devise my hurt, saying, ‘A wicked thing is poured out upon him…’, Psalm 41:7-8a, The Book
Suddenly I heard a whisper in my ear, a low rasping kind of voice, ‘If you jump, Mr Christian, it will all be over and you won’t feel so miserable’, and then from my left side, as if coming out of the swamp I heard something – for it didn’t sound human – say, ‘You’re going the wrong way, turn back. It’s safer. Only difficulty lies ahead’. From my right side, another gloating voice seemed to say, ‘Everybody is going the other way, you fool; only you are heading this way, and you’re all alone. Give up!’.
And, then you heard whispers – I could tell from your face. ‘You have to trust me, dear Druid. I’m right. You’re wrong. I’m your best friend, you know’, it said. ‘Now release your hands and go it alone. Your friend will be okay alone. Besides, they might trip and pull you into the swamp’ it continued. And, another guttural voice said: ‘You’re journey is a waste of time. They won’t even let you in. Even as we speak they’re building a wall – you’ll be separated from your friend, forever’.
We carried on, helping each other, regardless, and holding tightly to each other, and gazing toward the horizon – sometimes seeing the glow of a light just below horizon.
‘Truth lies within a little and certain compass, but error is immense.’ Henry St. John
After what seemed like several hours, the clouds became lighter, the wind dropped, and the path grew wider. The voices could be heard, but only in the far distance. Almost leaving the valley, tired by the journey so far, upset by the whispers from the quagmire we sat down, exhausted – physically and mentally.
We looked back along the way we had come. In the distance we were grief-stricken to hear those evil whispers engaged in enticing others – such as Mr Worldly, Miss Gullible, and Mrs Easily-Fooled. One by one, and by no fault of their own, they fell into the swamp. But we knew there was nothing we could do at this moment but continue onward – such help for others would come later.
It was time to give thanks. We looked at each other, sat down, and a slight mist seemed to envelope us. A ‘thin place’? We wanted to light the candle to represent our gratitude at coming through that dark valley – which we later found out was aptly named ‘the valley of the shadow of death’. We spoke about who should pay homage first by lighting the candle and who should go second? We only had one candle, and each wanted to perform a ritual of thanks that darkness had been overcome by the Light.
We knew that if we hadn’t worked together, and kept focussed on the way ahead, we would have perished, and so we shared that candle – each of us alternating in giving gratitude to the Christ-Who-Is-All-In-All, and you to the Ubiquitous-Source-Of-All. We also shared a small meal, and laughed at having overcome, together.
‘Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.’ Maya Angelou
In the mist that sounded us, it seemed that we both could hear another whisper – not one of those rasping, evil whispers; but a lighter, melodic, uplifting voice this time, whispering the word ‘love’, ‘love’, ‘love’, over and over again. We laughed even more – realising that in the face of whispering lies from negative places, each person of (any) faith must work together for the good; and love, love, love really does conquer all, difficult though the times might be.
[With apologies to John Bunyan for ‘borrowing’ part of his work ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’, and adapting it]