There are times in our lives when being able to see a clear path is crucial. That was certainly true on a rainy August day a number of years ago, when two young adventurers decided to scale Mount Dom, the highest summit wholly within Switzerland at 14,942 feet.
Even though these American tourists were young and inexperienced mountaineers, they felt confident that they could make their climb with ease. After all, their first-day goal was only to go halfway up the mountain to the "high hut," which was staffed that time of year by the Swiss Alpine Club.
Despite a late start and deteriorating weather conditions, they set out enthusiastically, moving up the forested trail toward the halfway house. Because they hadn't planned on being out all night, they hadn't bothered to bring any cold-weather gear. They soon regretted that fact when the clouds started spitting drops and then a steady rain began to fall. What's more, as they climbed higher and crossed the timberline, the temperature fell dramatically.
By that evening, when the cold rain began to turn into snow, they were still climbing. They had long since crossed the timberline, and the trail before them had become increasingly difficult to follow. When darkness had fallen, they both began to realize they weren't just lost — they were in life-threatening trouble. They were soaked, shivering and at risk of hypothermia, and darkness was swallowing the path.
Just when their situation was most desperate, a tiny light began to flicker. Even at a distance, the glow looked as bright as a lighthouse beacon to those two shivering, frightened young men.
Before retiring for the night, the keeper of the high hut had decided to step outside and place a kerosene lamp next to the door — just in case a beacon might be needed by anyone caught in the worsening storm. That light drew the boys out of the life-threatening cold and darkness and into a place of warmth and safety.
That story provides a context for the importance of a clear path in times of increasing darkness — like these times in which we live. If we are serious about helping our children move toward warmth and light and love, we need to light their footsteps on just such a positive path. The blessing is the best way I know to provide such a light.