Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. – Isaiah 40:4–5 (NRSV, adapted)
I don’t know much about what it’s like to move through an unlit world. I know every stone on the path between my house and garage, but still after dark I never make the trek without turning on the floodlights. I’m not scared, not worried about what might happen on the way; it’s just automatic: my hand flips the light on as the rest of me walks out the door.
I try to imagine a premodern, pre-electric, pre-candle experience of the night. It sounds awful. Journeying across an unfamiliar landscape is bad enough, but in the dark? With, like, chasms under your feet and rocks in the way and invisible overhangs right at forehead level? You don’t have to try very hard before you begin to understand why Isaiah considers a smooth path a sign of God’s arrival.
Imagine: a way forward without pitfalls, unexpected trip hazards, unknown ravines, with nothing to smash into or plunge down.
Imagine: a way that everybody can move along with confidence, no matter how well their eyes, or legs, or balance work.
Imagine leaving your house, even at night, and for once not flinching your way forward, wondering what will get you next.
Imagine a world so leveled that you can move through it with your lizard brain at rest, relieved of scanning-for-danger duty, your higher functions fully engaged.
Imagine moving without fear, even in the dark, even where you’ve never gone before.
Let this be your glory, O God: a people who are free to move through the world without fear. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is Chaplain of the Protestant Cooperative Ministry at Cornell University. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.