In 2017 my husband talked me into riding the “Route of the Hiawatha,” a Rail-to-Trail mountain bike path that straddles the Montana/Idaho border. I’m not a biker, but the …
In 2017 my husband talked me into riding the “Route of the Hiawatha,” a Rail-to-Trail mountain bike path that straddles the Montana/Idaho border. I’m not a biker, but the website’s descriptive phrases “family friendly” and “mostly downhill” made it seem doable.
The ride begins (and ends!) with a 1.661-mile ride through the Taft Tunnel, cheerfully described as “a highlight of the trail.” It is also very dark. Our new headlights illuminated only a small circle on the ground and my confidence ebbed as my bike wobbled in the darkness. It was only by focusing on other riders’ taillights that I made it through. Light at the end of the tunnel never looked so good! Happily, the rest of the trail WAS downhill and the views were stunning.
At the end of the 15-mile ride, a bus took us back to the entrance of the tunnel. By now I’d had a few hours to fret about this second passage (ignorance had been bliss). We’d adjusted our headlights and could see better, but I was nervous. When my tire slipped on some mud, I panicked and down I went. I wish I could say I got right back on that horse, but instead we walked our bikes the rest of the way out.
I later read reviews of the trail and while many people loved the unique experience of riding through a long, black, cold tunnel, there were handfuls who found it disorienting and some suffered serious injuries when they literally hit the wall or went into one of the water-filled ditches that line the sides. (I was blessed to come away with minor road rash.) At least one reviewer asked, “Why isn’t this tunnel lighted?” Why indeed?
Light is “something that makes vision possible.” Without light we can’t find our way! Darkness on the other hand is “the absence of light” and can only be had by blocking or withdrawing light. Light from the sun is essential to the existence of life on the earth and advances in the creation of artificial light since 1800 have changed the world.
We are blessed by light. A daily walk outdoors lightens our mood, and increases vitamin D levels. Oxygen and food-producing plants grow. We are warmed by the sun, and cheered by its presence. Dark, worrisome nights seem to lose their grip when the first hint of morning lights the eastern sky.
We are drawn to light. Can you imagine a night sky without stars or the moon? A Christmas tree without lights? It is one of the first of our father’s creations. “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light” (Genesis 1:3). Intriguingly, it wasn’t until the fourth day that the lights in the firmament were created (Genesis 1:14-19). What was the first light?
“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined ... 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, the mighty God, the everlasting father, the prince of peace” (Isaiah 9:2, 6).
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1).
“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).
As the sun freely lights and warms all of God’s creations (“for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good” Matthew 5:45), so does THE light. His divine birth was witnessed to both poor shepherds and kingly wise men, signifying he is lord of ALL.
Of God’s love, President Thomas S. Monson of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints noted: “Your heavenly father loves you — each of you. That love never changes ... It is simply there. It is there for you when you are sad or happy, discouraged or hopeful. God’s love is there for you whether or not you feel you deserve love. It is simply always there.”
God’s love is reflected in the love his children share with each to each other. I have many friends and acquaintances from all walks of life who bring light to others. I am in awe of their goodness!
I wish that every time I looked at the beautiful lights around me I would remember the light of the world, and his admonition: “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid ... Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14).
I recently read, “God created today for us to live and to love.” With the gift of each day, may we extend the light of forgiveness, add light to our own lives, and share our light with others. As we remember the birth of our savior may we “follow the light, seek after the light, and be the light.” Merry Christmas!
(Maurine Akin is a youth leader in the Powell Second Ward of the Chuch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.)