The Man on the Road

Courage only exists to dismantle fear.  If there is nothing to fear, we do not need courage.  But we do fear, and so we ask for what we need temporarily to show us we were wrong.

This is a story of a man walking down a road.

A man is walking down a road he has never been. It is dark.  He will likely stop for directions, if a house is lit, or he will rely on himself, or perhaps a flashlight.  Some things may jump out at him.

It is not comforting to stay in the dark, so he may seek out internal guidance, to ask which way to go.  He may be told to stop, or turn left or right.

If he keeps going the same way he will experience more fear because he didn’t listen and now is very much alone. He has no idea where he is going, and every noise bothers him. He has nothing to judge it against other than it is “not me” and so it is very scary. Even a bird in a tree will make him jump.

But if he sits down for a moment and asks, he will do one of two things:  He will either get up and leave and run fast back from where he came, trying to go where it is safe and known, or he will be told something new he hadn’t thought of.  This will be like a door appearing out of nowhere, something specific he can do, or something that leads him somewhere real and new.

"Open Wide Your Heart" website Mark Mallett

If he goes through the door, and feels the light of it (though he still may feel fear), he will make it to the other side and all will appear lit and new.  It will be as if the path he was on disappeared or transformed, or it suddenly made sense to him for the first time.  Also, there will be a hand, and he will not be alone.

What was scary before now seems just foolish and silly, something a child does when he is alone and protecting himself from the dark.

But now that he sees the door, and the path and the hand, all lit like never before – he has no choice but to step through or play the fool.

If he retreats back into the dark, it will likely not be as scary this time, it will just feel as if he is wasting his time.  He will now be more impatient with himself for not grabbing onto that hand and lifting himself out.  He may even shout profanities. Or he may even fall on his knees.

This is all silly and sad because there is no need to complicate things. It is only because he thinks he knows already that he won’t ask and receive.

For a moment, he has to admit, “Clearly, I don’t!”

So he asks again.

This time the door appears and light floods him.  It startles him a second time and he may experience fear because now he wants to be on top of it, to understand it.  It appears like he can command it, and yet he doesn’t know how it got there. But it is.  If he can’t control how this happens, how can he control what it does?

This frightens him even more, because now the implications of this light that comes is mind-boggling.  If he can’t predict what it does or where it might take him, he must shut it down.  It is too scary to comprehend.

The light seems to go on and off again as the man challenges God for a second or third round.  There is no end to the light, but he is growing very tired.  It is tiring to put up this front.

Then a wise man comes.  He is holding a lantern in his hand and standing on the road. He asks the tired man where he is going.  The man admits, “I don’t know.”  The tired man tries to explain himself but the more he tries to explain, the more he realizes it makes no sense and gives up.

The wise man laughs.

The wise man is real to him. He comforts the man. Offers a hand , but the confused man is still clinging to the dark.

The wise man tells him stories of another place, and the tired man says, “Oh, I know! I’ve been there once or twice.”

The wise man asks, “Then why did you come back?”

“Because I was looking for myself.”

The wise man responds, “Oh, I know. But did you realize you are going in circles and you’ve been this way before?”

“It couldn’t be!” The man protests, “I couldn’t see, and it all seemed new and frightening to me.”

“That’s funny,” the wise man said. “That bird’s been yelling at you since round three. When are you going to listen to him?”

“I didn’t realize he was talking to me. I couldn’t see!”

“And what are all these supplies on your back?” the wise man pointed and the other man sat back on a rock.

“Oh, I was hungry so I brought enough to eat for three weeks. And a knife and other camping supplies just in case, to protect myself so I could eat and sleep.”

“Have you slept?” the wise man asked, pulling the lantern up to his face.

“Not really.”

“Did you not notice that innkeeper at mile one waving at you to stop and eat?”

“I thought he was a thief and so I ran into the trees.”

The wise man just shook his head and let the silence speak for itself.

The tired man stood up, and the wise man asked him directly,

“Now, are you ready to come with me?”

Still, the man shrunk back, unbelievably, and dug his heels into the path.

“Really?” the wise man asked, “You don’t trust me?”

“How do I know you are not a thief, too?”

The wise man set his lantern down. And then he said,

“Here, take it. And go your way. Take as long as you need. But the light may not last long, and it is very dark indeed.”

“I’ll take my chances” the other man said and took his leave.

The man went on his way and thought about what the wise man said, and the bird, and the trees, and noticed the lantern was not as bright as it should have been. And he wondered if the wise man took the light with him.  But he was nowhere to be seen.

Huh! he sighed and sat for a time contemplating everything. He wondered if he would come back. Could he have been wrong about everything?  This is all not very flattering, he thought, and his shoes were beginning to leak.

Soon he wouldn’t be able to walk, he worried. Soon, he would have to crawl his way out of this giant circle. Or climb his way out! Maybe there was a wall, or was it some kind of giant trap?

Maybe this was a test of strength and he could still succeed. He decided to himself, “I will keep going at any cost. I will not give up even if this tiny light goes out. And I’ll have no thanks to give that man, either. I’ll show him.”

“And maybe”, he thought, “the wise man will even be proud of me. Or maybe there was somebody else on this path. They would come soon.”

But nobody came. Not for a long, long time.  And the man thought God was punishing him, and wasting his time. “Clearly, I am a miserable sinner!” he exclaimed, “and there is no hope for me!”

Where did this come from? Grief had suddenly stricken him and he bent up on the ground.

He cried it out and gnashed his teeth and cried out even more. Angry fists pounded the air and his stomach growled.

But who is listening? Who cares now? The bird was silent, and the man, the friend, nowhere to be found.

This isn’t how it was supposed to be! he thought. He remembered when the light had come how it filled him with dance and song. But he didn’t know if it would last so he returned quickly and came back around. Now there is nowhere, and nothing at all.

“Clearly, clearly I was wrong!” he cried out one last time.

The trees moved and a bird suddenly flew out and landed on his nose.  He startled and jumped, struck the air and then stopped and waited for a sound.

“Are you ready now?” he heard.

The light had come.  He awoke with a start to the sound of music, and people laughing and and singing.  He was under a blanket as if asleep, but just steps from a door slightly ajar. The light filled the room as he cracked the door open even more.

A giant room opened up to his sight and was filled with good cheer. Women laughing and dancing, children playing and running about, men eating and talking and whistling on the way in and out.  Like a circus or parade.  He stood dumfounded and rubbed his eyes.  He could not believe nor remember how he got there. No one had come for him, just that silly bird.

Then he remembered.

Up on the mantle he saw it. The lantern. Now with a glowing wick, and more lights glowing everywhere in the room. It looked like daylight though clearly he had been in the dark before.

He stepped forward and a woman ran over to him.

“Come!” she said. “We’ve been waiting for you.”  A giant bowl of soup she dished out with a ladle and gave him a spoon. The steam and smell reached his nose and lips.

He was sure this was heaven. And the man was still nowhere to be found.

The woman hovered round him again, “Darling, we were worried about you! You’d lost your way or your light had gone out.” She pointed to the mantle.

“But there was a man with me before, he would have come back. Did he?”

“What man, darling? This is where you live. Don’t you remember?  You set out to find something , but got lost in the woods. This bird found you, but now it is dead.”  She pointed to a bird that was now limp in a pale. The man turned white.

A bird found him? She must be crazy, or he is. How could this be? Oh! The bird, I killed it! He thought.

“No, there was a man on the road who was helping me, he gave me that lantern, but I didn’t believe him and then I took it and went on my own. I  never saw him again. Oh!” he cried again.

“Darling, this light is yours. You must have lost it in the night, or dropped it, and then found it again.  Clearly it is yours – your initials are at the bottom of it, see?”  He looked and saw the initials scrolled beneath the base. He didn’t recognize them or himself.

“But I told him to go away!  I wouldn’t listen to him, or myself, or that bird, or anyone!” He was delirious.  “I saw him, he was so real. And then he was gone.”

The man fell into despair.

“Darling,” she said again and wiped away his hair.  “That man is right here in front of me.  I see him as clear as day to night. You are here, my sweet. You are here!”

He wouldn’t believe her. How could this be?  An apparition came? That wise man was me?

She gave him some water and sent him back to bed. Clearly, he couldn’t see himself. She would love him back to health.

As the man returned to bed and accepted a gentle kiss from his wife, he stirred a bit and then had a gentle dream.

The sky poured open and the bird flew high overhead. It flew in circles round his head until it swooped down and then up and then disappeared into the heavens.

He was troubled then. Is that bird me, too? Or is someone trying to tell me something? Who is it that I am seeking? Where is it that I am glad and known?  My dear wife seems to know me, but who am I, really?  Please show me again, he thought.

Suddenly he felt a gentle tug in his head and a light he thought he had forgot filled him from head to toe.  He saw the bird again, resting on the hand of the man with the lantern.  He reached out to touch the wise man, and this time they clasped hands and stood directly in front of each other and smiled. He didn’t know who this was, but he was willing now.

Soon he found himself like the man with the lantern, walking in a miraculous field of golden lilies and birds of every colour flying overhead.  The trees were whispering to him and he was listening.  His heart was glad. There was no promise in him of tomorrow, and no plan of attack.  He just was, there, everywhere and everything. Resting in the universe of things.

The light was so strong but there was nothing to hold onto anymore, no lantern, no day or night. Everything was just shimmering and live in him. His heart was filled to bursting and he was not ready to come back down.  But something in him felt a presence all around him and a serene silence spoke to him that he could never speak of.  It was so great.

Do you see, now? 

Now go back, your wife needs you.

The man, if he could be, was dumfounded . How could I ever leave you, this place? This magnitude!

He grew momentarily upset.

The light is in you. Take it with you this time and don’t ever let it go.

“The lantern?”  The man asked, confused.

No. You.

Then he knew. When it is dark, ask the light to shine in You.

And then he laughed, because he heard to himself:

And the next time you meet yourself, say hello.

The man laughed and cried in gratitude and then he awoke.

He shook with happiness in his bed at what he had seen, heard and felt. Then he noticed his wife was in bed sleeping with him.  He curled up beside her and pulled his arms around her and drew her in closer. And then he slept for a long, long time.

And he never, ever walked alone.

 

Amen.

 

 

– by  Krista Moore

 

One Response to The Man on the Road

  1. […] Quest”, a rite of passage to gain spiritual insight or understanding. The wanderer, as in The Man on the Road, ventures out to discover himself, and more importantly, his vision, mission or purpose on earth.  […]

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