Dogging my steps, stalked a man in the shadows.
With hat pulled down and trench coat covering his face, he followed at a distance
Fear gripped my throat as I clutched my cloak, like a desperate mother pulling her children to safety.
Try as I might to ignore his pursuit, the sound of rainwater squishing between his shoes and the ground incited panic, so I quickened my pace.
Who is this tormentor of my soul…this callous tool of hellish disdain?
I wondered with angst.
Then a mystery occurred.
I could smell the sweet, fresh scent of something cleansed, as if by heaven.
The fragrance of clarity mingled with the musty, pungent alley smells.
In the midst of urine stained buildings and trash piled high,
This shrouded man following no longer incited fear.
In an instant, I knew He held the answers to secrets I sought.
What I had searched for yet could not find.
So I stopped, turned around, and faced the stranger.
And narrowed the gap between us.
Years ago, when I first started to write poetry, I envisioned a dark stranger in the shadows following me as I ran away. I titled the piece “The Stranger,” and tried to write what I saw in my imagination. Over the years, I’ve often pondered the meaning of this piece and yet the understanding remained veiled, until this morning.
Now I wonder whether this stranger is clarity.
Clarity comes in the most interesting ways. I live for this subtle knowing that assures my heart when I’m in just the right spot at just the right moment. Nothing thrills me more than those “ah ha” moments when doubt clears and the gift of clarity appears.
I used to be fearful of those situations in which clarity visited. Drawing away to a place of privacy meant wrestling with my mental tormentors: unpleasant memories; fears of financial insecurity; destructive relationship obsessions; confusion over future plans.
I dreaded those lonely moments spent only with The Stranger. Yet in those times of solitude, I learned to write away those mental tormentors through journaling my thoughts onto paper. Instead of smothering in tumultuous feelings, the stranger whispered insights that calmed my soul and ushered in heaven’s delights.
I had to learn how to turn and face my worst fears. In doing so, I have found that this dark stranger of clarity has a kindly soul, even though his insights often tear scales of self-deception from my eyes. He dares to venture into the worst of this world’s circumstances in pursuit of me, His prize. He beacons me to follow Him into lonely rooms of the soul so He can turn on the lights of understanding.
Often clarity waits in dark shadows as we stumble towards table lit banquet halls. Who wants to draw way from the crowd in a culture like ours that extols celebration? Yet I find that clarity often calls to us from the most unexpected places and people.
You can tell those who have spent time in the presence of The Stranger because their eyes shine and their words resonate within your soul. When I meet these people, they often have a piece of my destiny’s puzzle tucked inside their heart’s pocket. Although they are unaware of the solutions to the mysteries that they give to me, my heart flutters just the same.
They share just the right words I need to hear, words that provide insight and direction I’ve been waiting and praying for but struggling to find, let alone grasp. It’s kind of like someone giving you the perfect ornament for that empty spot on your Christmas tree. You sit back and admire the beauty and muse over the possibilities.
I go about my day with an eye and ear open for those who have spent time with The Stranger. I look for sublime encounters with people who possess His wisdom. I listen more acutely to what proceeds from their mouths and tether their understanding to the anchor of hope in my soul.
Darkness no longer frightens me because I have found that in those filthy alleys of reality, the stranger follows close behind me.
Clarity is seldom raucous or lively, yet bold and beautiful just the same. It lights a star in the night sky, draws magi from afar, and heralds glad tidings to lowly shepherds watching over their flocks by night, in darkened fields.
Yes, this man in the shadows beacons us to follow Him. Those who dare to face their fears and stop to listen will receive the gift of life. A gift as real today as it was when the magi and shepherds found a tiny babe in a manger so many years ago.
*Author’s interesting side note:
After writing this piece, my husband and I went to Starbucks for a coffee and an old friend, Bill Lummus, walked in after us. We have reconnected on Facebook and he had commented on a poem I posted on one of my blogs. He had asked whether the poem was lyrics to a song. I had said no and then he suggested I find a songwriter to help me transform the poem into lyrics. Although his idea intrigued me, I procrastinated because of my musical insecurity.
In Starbucks, Bill reminded me of what he had said on Facebook and once again encouraged me to find a songwriter. I admitted to having reconnected with a former friend who is a musician and songwriter. Barry has a new CD coming out soon. I recognized this unexpected visitation of clarity and promised to take the risk. Thank you, Bill, for providing clarity.
*All photos for this post were computer screen shots I took of my best friend’s Christmas decorations. Thank you Barbie!