While most of us have never been in a mine, we’ve almost all experienced walking through dark times in our lives. Consider miners and their head lamps as a helpful metaphor:
If you’re wearing a head lamp and want to illuminate the space around you, you have two choices: you can look down, in which case you can see a small circle in front of you; or you can look up, ahead, in which case you can see the space in the long distance. Unfortunately, you can’t see where to step at the same time that you look toward your goal. Additionally, in looking down, you gain only a few feet of light at a time, enough to take the next step. . . but darkness beyond.
In periods of difficulty, if we keep our eyes on the goal, we are likely to stumble on the rocks underfoot. But if we focus on the rocks underfoot, we are likely to stray from our goal.
As we make our way through dark times, we’re best to proceed by alternating looking up toward our hoped-for goal and looking down to see our next step. It literally is not possible to see all we wish to see to move forward with assurance. But it IS possible to see enough to take the next step. “Taking the next step” is often an act of faith.
There are many times of darkness or uncertainty in kids’ lives: applying for college; deciding whether or not to join a sorority or fraternity; weighing your group’s choices and finding they don’t match your values; realizing that you and your parents may see things differently; concluding that your boyfriend or girlfriend is not a good long-term match; not doing as well on a test as you thought you could. Your teens need help to learn the value of the miner’s head lamp: glance ahead toward your desired destination; then take the next few steps as they become clear; lift your head again for your bearings; return for the next foot forward.
Many of us have heard the adage: the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. What we also need to help our kids learn is: the journey of a thousand miles continues with a single step.
May you and yours have enough light for the next step.