• Barb Lownsbury

From Darkness to the Stars

I took a personal spiritual retreat back in February to one of my favorite spots around, Potter’s Ranch. It’s this gorgeous meeting center in Northern Kentucky with those lush, rolling green hills and gentle flowering valleys the area is known for. There’s a creek, tons of walking and hiking trails, and what I most long for on these retreats of mine—peaceful quiet and solitude.

There’s something about getting away, especially when life is chaotic and crazy, that rejuvenates my spirit. I get a lot of extra time to read, to pray and to take the time I need to get re-centered with my Maker. In the silence, I hear His voice more clearly. When I walk around the hills and the hollers, I sense His presence like a warm embrace, wrapping me up within Him. Nature has a way of doing that for me, of taking me back to what really matters, and remembering there is something far greater than myself, my world, or anything else within this world I inhabit for a slice of time. Everything seems to land in perspective.

During my last retreat, I had a vision. I don’t get visions very often. Maybe you get them all the time, but for me it’s a rare and special thing, very profound. I’d like to share with you a little bit of mine. At the beginning of the vision, I find myself sitting in a chair in a very dark cave. There is just enough light for me to have a sense of proportion, of where the walls and the ceiling likely are, but that’s it. I can’t see ahead of me; there’s no way to know where I’m at or how to move forward through this cave.

Then Jesus comes and stands behind my chair. He begins pushing me forward, almost as if my chair was floating just above the floor. I am struck by how easily He navigates through this dark, dark cave! I can sense we are turning a little to the left here, or a little to the right there, but it’s like a maze and I quickly realize there would be no way of navigating through this tunnel quickly and safely without Jesus doing the driving.

After some time, He guides me to this tall shaft that leads up and directly out of the tunnel. All above me I can see the twinkling of a million stars, but as I stand up and look around, there is no way for me to climb up the tall shaft I’m in. It is a sheer climb from bottom to top, easily 40 feet high. I search for a way to exit, but there isn’t one. Frustration starts to set in. I have no idea how I’m going to scale this wall, how I’m ever going to exit the cave I’m in.

As frustration starts to melt into fear, Jesus quietly reminds me He’s right behind me. He hasn’t left; I just forgot to look. He asks me to sit back down in my chair, so I do. Not even a moment later, He starts to push my chair again but this time, He walks sideways straight up the wall! I am astounded by this, by His ability to not only defy gravity, but to push me up that way with no effort, no strain. The whole thing is remarkably easy for Him. And from there, I literally take flight with Him into the night sky.

Even now, I am struck by how much life resembles that cave. Whenever I feel lost or stuck, unsure of where I’m at or how to navigate forward, when I take the time to listen, Jesus shows up. He reminds me I don’t have to figure out all my answers. I don’t have to have perfect perception. I don’t even have to understand how it’s all going to work or where I’m headed exactly. But when I trust, He leads me flawlessly in fearless and unexpected ways. I end up going to places I never thought to go, experiencing things I’d never entertained experiencing. And when I’m deeply hurting, alone in the dark, I’m never truly alone. Behind me stands my strength, and He will lead me to the stars.

For Further Thought: “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done …” (Psalm 105:4-5). You don’t need to receive a vision to know that God is there for you, no matter what, and He will guide you if you let Him. In the midst of the challenges we all face, remember to take time to connect with and listen to God’s leading. It can be out in nature, alone in your room, or any other space that warms your spirit. Take whatever time you need and embrace the peace that comes from knowing you are never, ever alone. (For a great song about this, google “Testify” or just click HERE)

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