Running Deer, a Native American, is ready to be accepted as an adult member of his tribe. Tonight is his “passage “ which will make this happen. During this night he faces tests of personal courage, strength and endurance. If he survives these challenges without wavering, tomorrow he takes his place among the young braves of his tribe. While excited at this honor, Running Deer wonders if he has the steadfastness to do it. His worst nightmare is spending the night alone in Shadow land, the nearby-enchanted forest. Its name alone signals unfriendliness. Shadow land sits on the side of a tall mountain, thick with trees and menacing shrubs. It rarely gets enough sunlight to find trails or to walk unimpeded.
Long-standing tales tell of exotic and dangerous animals that roam within, alongside restless spirits who feast on unsuspecting young prey. Pondering these scary thoughts, Running Deer anticipates the longest night of his short life.
Certainly he realizes the purpose of this challenging night. Ever since he was seven years old, he has trained almost daily to get ready. He has listened to mentors who coach him, elders who teach him, family members who encourage him, shamans who bless him plus newly graduated young braves who reassure him. Running Deer knows well of the great shoulders on which he stands. Now it is his turn to step forward to use his freely given natural gifts and enter that tradition.
On this important night as the sun sets his father speaks: “Running Deer, my cherished son, embrace your heritage, remember your traditions, believe in them and have confidence in yourself. But more than anything else know your Mother and I and all your family love and support you. We go with you tonight. Let our love warm you when cold, feed you when hungry, and know full well you go with our care and with the protection of the Great Spirit.” And then all became quiet as sun faded behind the clouds and Running Deer walked into the twilight of Shadow Land.
With his heart beating faster than he can ever remember, Running Deer peered into the black night, watching, listening, and responding to each noise with quickness, alertness, patience and sheer grit.
He felt empowered above all else to defend his honor and that of his tribe. With this attitude, Running Deer withstood this momentous night. And to his astonishment and relief, this seemingly endless night passed without incident.
As dawn’s light dissipated the darkness, Running Deer saw figures emerge in the sunlight all around him. He saw his father, grandfather, older brothers, friends and other tribal members. They stood nearby, as they did all night long, undetected protecting Running Deer from any danger. Realizing this his fears turned into cheers as his father stepped forward and welcomed his son as the newest brave in their tribe.
To some extent, are we not all “Running Deer’s” as we grow in our calling to follow the Lord? Those who go before us prepare us for our journey just as they did Running Deer. They teach us needed skills and the knowledge of how to live wisely especially when it comes to faith and trust. They remind us of the many ordinary people gone before us who succeeded through their dark nights, and when we go forth, they pledge their support and love as they send us forth to face those Shadow lands in our path.
When our ritual of passing arrives, they commend us to God reminding Him of why we are all here: to be loved and to give love. And we know that life tests us, but this love reminds us that life is more a celebration of God’s love shared.
And like Running Deer when we do find ourselves right in the middle of a frightening Shadow Land, we remember Our God never challenges us with one more iota than we can carry. Either he will help directly with grace or send others in His name, as he sent Running Deer’s family and friends.
God wants to do all He can; because God is determined we succeed in much the same way Running Deer’s family wished. God always wants us to “get through our dark night” even right now in whatever we are doing, so later we can be with Him forever.
Living our discipleship we look to God, our Great Spirit, who can’t wait to step forward at the end of our lives like Running Deer’s father. At this moment God joyfully welcomes His new brave disciples home into heaven, once and forever.
When we hold this truth gladly in our hearts we will live today and everyday well!