Ziv walked along the path as it wound through small campsites on its way up a mountain. It was just past midnight, and the darkness pressed in on him as he hurried along. The tiny individual lights of the camp fires he passed, those that were still lit, reassured him that he was not alone, but did little to chase away the darkness. Ziv tried not to breathe through his nose, for each breathe brought with it a nasty odor of decay that seemed to come from all around him. Covering his nose with the top of his shirt had only made breathing harder, so he had given up and was now rushing up the path heading toward an unknown destination. All he knew was that he had to somehow rise above this evil darkness.
As he walked, Ziv noticed that some of the campfires he passed, as small as they were, were slightly brighter than others. Were they larger fires? Were their fuel sources different than the smaller fires? Or were they being better maintained? Not only that, but the rotten odor seemed to disappear the closer he got to those fires. Ziv’s curiosity made him want to stop at the next bright fire to ask, but a particularly foul odor suddenly swirled out from the dark site he was just passing, overcoming all thoughts of the fires. He had to get out of this nastiness.
Slowly he climbed higher than the campfires, seeing less and less of them. The darkness was still pressing in, but not quite as strongly as earlier. He was relieved that the odor was also decreasing. When he could no longer smell the tainted air, he stopped and looked around. The path ahead of him, illuminated by the stars as they began to come out as clouds dissipated, continued up the mountain, disappearing around a curve about twenty feet from him. On both sides of him scraggly bushes filled the spaces between tall evergreen trees. Branches stuck out at every angle, as if to grab any passerby who carelessly got too close. Behind him was the path he had just climbed. Where should he go? Going down was out of the question, and he didn’t want to attempt pushing his way through the underbrush, so sighing, he turned back to the only option he felt he had. Forward. When he got to the curve, he took one last look back, then determinedly faced forward and continued walking, not knowing what he would find.
What he found was a rock. A very large rock. A rock so white it seemed to glow in the dark, making it stand out from everything else. Ziv followed the path as it circled the rock and returned to the curve from which he had just emerged. There were no side paths splintering off from this main one. Apparently, this was the final destination of this path.
Not wanting to go back down, he decided to climb atop the rock. It would provide a safe place to rest as he considered what to do next. Finding some foot and finger holds, he managed to pull himself up until he was sitting at the top of the rock. It was as hard as he had expected, but that gave him a sense of security. It would not be crumbling under his weight. What he hadn’t expected was its warmth. At this time of night, it should have been cold, having lost its daytime heat. Yet, here it was, well past midnight, and this rock felt as warm as if it were midday. Confused, but thankful, he settled down in delight, enjoying the clean fresh air and bright stars. His gaze eventually wandered down the slope of the mountain that lay before him. If he looked hard enough, he could just barely make out a few tiny sparks of light. Although most campfires apparently had gone out, a few were still burning. Feeling safe and cozy, he began to doze.
Suddenly a voice jarred him awake as it called from somewhere below him, “Hi, up there. Room for one more?”
Apprehensive about who this stranger might be, he called back, “Who are you?”
“A friend,” came the swift reply.
Had one of his friends followed him? Although the voice sounded somewhat familiar, he couldn’t place it with a face. Besides, he had not heard anyone approaching, neither while he was walking or while he was on top of this rock. If it was a friend, how did he find him? Ziv needed to take a look, but leaning over the edge of the rock was not an option, not if he wanted to keep his balance. And, in spite of the star light, he probably wouldn’t be able to see the guy well enough in the dark to identify him. So instead, he asked another question. “What’s your name?”
“Where did you come from?”
“A long distance. Can I come up? It will make talking easier.”
Ziv frowned. Why was he being so mysterious? Was he was a thief? If so, he would be disappointed. Or was he friendly like he said? Something in his voice made Ziv want to believe the latter. He decided to trust his gut. “Sure, come on up,” he called back.
When the stranger came into view, Ziv scooted over making room for him to sit. Ryder quickly joined him, giving out a loud, relieved sigh as he stretched out his legs.
“Amazing how the warmth of this rock is so soothing after a long hike. Wouldn’t you say so?”
“Yeah, I guess so.” Ziv tried not to stare at the stranger’s appearance. His dark face seemed to be lit from the inside. He wasn’t exactly glowing, but there was definitely something there. His black curly hair framed his head and reflected the light from the stars that were still shining brightly. His long sleeve hoodie and denim jeans barely had a spot on them. No twigs, no layer of dust, not even a wrinkle. It was like he had just put them on. Even his hiking boots looked clean. Ziv looked down at his own dirt-coated pants and self-consciously picked off some hitchhiking seeds that had managed to attach themselves there. Wherever this guy had come from, it wasn’t from the same path Ziv had taken. Giving up on removing all the hitchhikers, and not wanting to rudely stare at his visitor, Ziv looked down the slope of the mountain at the tiny flickering fires.
After a few minutes, Ryder’s voice broke through the silence. “A penny for your thoughts.”
“Oh, I wasn’t really thinking about anything,” Ziv said without looking up. “I’m just kind of daydreaming I guess.”
“Those fires down there.”
“What about them?”
“Well, I know the people who are sitting by them are probably thinking they are a decent size, but all the darkness around them pretty much swallows them.”
“True, but the light is still there, no matter how small it appears.” Ryder said with a shrug.
“They don’t seem to matter much when compared to the amount of darkness that surrounds them, is that what you mean? That they don’t do much to drive away all the darkness?” Ryder looked at Ziv. “We both know that’s not their purpose. But let’s suppose for a moment that it was.”
“That campfires are supposed to provide light up an entire mountain? That’s crazy.”
“If we’re talking about campfires, then yes. But what if they are something more than just campfires. And the darkness is more than just the natural darkness of night on a mountain.”
Now it was Ziv’s turn to ask, “What do you mean?”
“Well, when I look out, it reminds me of the darkness that covers this world. Not a natural darkness, but a spiritual darkness. And those lights down there are like the prayers of the people as they pray against the darkness. Do you understand?”
Ziv nodded. “I can see that. As people pray, they light up their immediate areas.”
“Right. And the people down there who have gone to sleep, letting their fires die out, are like the people who are no longer praying for one reason or another. What do you think would happen if everyone woke up and relit their fires?”
“Well, there would be a lot more light. But it still wouldn’t be enough. Those fires would still be very little.”
“What if groups of people decided to combine their fires?”
“You mean share a campfire?”
“No, I mean add their campfire to another campfire.”
“That would make it twice as big, giving it twice the light. I think I see where you’re going with this. People combining their prayers with the prayers of others would create a brighter light that would illuminate more of the darkness. But even if everyone got together and made one huge bonfire, there‘s still way too much darkness that wouldn’t be touched.”
“What if the bonfire drew others? Like those who, through their own choices, had walked away from the light? What if they saw it and turned back to the light? And what if those who never had a light were drawn to it and wanted to join in?”
“Then the large fires would spread and become even larger.” Ziv’s eyes lit up. “Eventually the darkness, including that evil smell, would be gone. Everyone would be in the light!”
“Well, almost everyone. There are always those who prefer the darkness.”
Ziv was disappointed. Then what would be the point? And then it hit him. He turned to Ryder. “But that wouldn’t matter as much because the light would be greater than the darkness. The world would still be a better place.”
“Exactly.” Ryder smiled and closed his eyes.
Not wanting to disturb Ryder’s rest, Ziv continued to stare at the fires. Could it be that simple? Everyone praying together against the darkness, adding their light to the light of others around them? Turning from their own evil deeds making sure their light was as bright as possible, and strengthening each other’s lights in the process? What would it take for everyone to come together like this?
I have the same question. What would it take for all of us who call ourselves Christians to join together as Christ’s disciples – fully committed to all His ways – in order to share the light of God with the whole nation? I think maybe we’re beginning to find out.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him – a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
John 3:19-21 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come into the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
(Ziv as a boy’s name (also used as girl’s name Ziv), is pronounced zeev. It is of Hebrew origin, and the meaning of Ziv is “radiance, brilliance or light of God”. The name Ryder is a boy’s name of British origin meaning “cavalryman, messenger”.)