Lighting things up in the darkest of nights

Playl's Ponderings


“It was a dark and stormy night...”

Well, not really. It was clear, not at all stormy, but it was very dark. Pitch black. Almost as dark as a cave, where you can’t see your hand in front of your face. I held my hand in front of my face to be sure. I could see my hand, but I couldn’t see where the road went. Not until I exited the vehicle.

It was a Friday night in the Smokies. Grayson was playing football, in Gatlinburg, next day at the Rocky Top Tournament. Finding a room or two in the area had been  challenging, especially with players, coaches, and families from 400 youth football teams in town. Stacia had come to the rescue, locating a cabin on Douglas Lake for the three of us; and it was cheaper than two rooms in town, in a motel.

Between Sevierville and Newport, our GPS directed us to take a left, and we did. Then it told us to take another left, and we did. Our destination was 1.7 miles. Soon the road narrowed. Then it turned to gravel. Trees hid the sky. It was dark. Pitch black.

Sammie: “Honey, are sure this is right?”

Me: “You heard the GPS lady, same as me!”

We passed a driveway and kept going. As the road curved, we crept along, then GPS lady said, “You have reached your destination.”

What?! Where?! We stopped and looked, but all we could see was a very small driveway, or was it a turn-around? The turn off disappeared down a steep hill into the darkness. I got out and looked, but could see nothing. We drove further until we finally found somewhere to turn around, then headed back to “you have reached your destination.”

We stopped in the middle of the gravel road. Middle was all there was. No one was behind us. We were scared. We had cell service - surprisingly - so we called Stacia who was a few miles behind us and probably the closest human to where we sat.

“No house, Stacia.”

Then I mustered enough bravery to risk my life, and I said, “I’m going over the hill and see what’s down there.”

“Please don’t go,” begged my wife, “You might get eaten by a bear...or something.”        

But with only the dim light from my cellphone, I plunged in. Turns out the driveway was paved (couldn’t tell ‘til I walked on it), and there was the silhouette of a cabin on an inlet of the lake. I huffed and puffed back up the hill. We drove down, parked, found the light switch, and discovered our beautiful accommodations.

Funny thing. Once we got to our cabin, we emerged from the woods and entered a clearing from which we could see the full moon, a harvest moon, rising above the horizon. And the darkness that had engulfed us was completely dissipated. What an amazing transition from the fearful darkness to a revealing light.

This season of Advent is a time for preparation for celebrating the coming of Christ into the world, and our experience that night in the Smoky Mountains reminds me of the words of the prophet, Isaiah: “Those who walked in darkness have seen a great light; the light has shone upon the ones who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death...for unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called wonderful Counsellor, mighty God, everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

In the words of John, the beloved disciple, “The Light is shining in the darkness, and the darkness has never been strong enough to overcome the Light!”

When the Light illuminates our lives, we can serve as reflectors of that Light - like the moon reflects the light of the sun - and the Light of the world will drive out the darkness of the darkest of nights.

 O come, o come Emmanuel and light up our dark world.

--Steve Playl, columnist, college instructor, former pastor, and hospital chaplain, may be reached by email at       


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