I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.
Another day was dawning, as tranquil as those before it. The dark mist lay low over the land. Were those mountains holding some sort of private council together – away from the prying eyes of the world, and still not inclined to share their secrets with us?
At last! There was the sun, trying hard to push its way through the mist. It looked hesitant, as if trying unnoticed to take a shy look at us to see what we were up to. Since the sun and the mist are never on very good terms with each other and never stay long in each other’s company, there was hope that at last we would be able to gather in the sheep from the mountain. Shearing day was close at hand, and the sheep had not even been washed. Trusting that the sun would succeed in clearing away the mist, John called in the neighbours who always come to help us, and they set off in a cheerful little band towards the mountain. The dogs as they leaped about, weaving in and out, reminded one of children going on an outing. The presence of additional dogs from other farms provided an excuse for them to race and run.
Leaving the rest behind, John set off with the dogs towards the furthest boundary of the mountain. But after walking for some considerable time he realized the uselessness of going on. The mist was growing denser, and had obviously gained the victory over the sun once again. The wisest thing for him to do was to take the quickest way home.
But very soon he had to admit that he was not at all sure which direction would lead him home. The mist obscured every visible landmark by which he could guide his steps. How valuable is a landmark to enable one to find one’s direction! John found himself smiling at the thought of people losing their way in the mist. Such a thing could never happen to him – not on this old mountain which he knew like the back of his hand. He started off in the right direction, as he thought, the dogs following him. It would have been better if he had followed them! They knew the way better than he. But how could he get the silly animals to understand this? They followed him, confident that a purpose governed every step and every change of direction.
Suddenly they came upon a peat bank, where folk of previous generations had cut their peat. John was quite convinced that he had never seen it before. It looked strangely dark and deep as the mist closed in around it like a woollen sheet. Walking on (in which direction he did not know), they came to an occasional open space which should have been familiar to him. But as he was approaching from an unexpected direction, everything looked strange and different. He found himself suspecting everything, and unable to trust the evidence of his own eyes.
As he walked on, following his nose, rocks would loom up suddenly in front of him, looking like mammoth crags standing out of the misty background. Staring at them at close quarters he noticed the furrows and indentations on their surface – things he had hardly noticed before when they were simply part of the scenery. Somehow or other little things had become big things. He shuddered to think that this could be the beginning of losing one’s mental balance – yes, losing one’s very reason.
Some time later, to his surprise, he found himself back at the peat bank. Well, well! What a waste of time and energy, walking round in circles, purposeless and proceeding nowhere!
He thought to himself about the two kinds of mist. There is the valley mist which rises from the humidity of a river, marsh or lake, worsened often by the filth of town smoke, darkening it and making it even more dense. It is like the mist or darkness which sometimes comes upon us in life when we break the laws of nature or health, or indeed any of God’s laws. This is something which we can expect to happen to us inevitably in the normal course of events.
But the other, the mountain mist, is one that comes down from above, as it were. This is the kind of mist that envelops us when the trials and difficulties of life cause us to ask, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ It can hide our heavenly Father’s face from us, and blot out any glimpse of heaven while it lasts. All our landmarks are obscured, and we lose sight of life’s purpose and are left groping in the dark.
John stumbled on like a blind man, hoping that eventually he would come to a familiar landmark. As he came upon the sheep in the mist they looked as large as llama! What an excellent time to sell them! The wool mark visible on their backs assured him that at least he was on his own land – but still lost! The sheep were grazing happily as if nothing was wrong. In the silence he was reminded of certain people who bear the mark of the Great Shepherd of the sheep, and remain in perfect peace in the thickest mist.
Dread immediately gripped him as he thought of what would happen if he suddenly reached the edge of Craig Lledron (‘Lledron Rock’) or Craig y Pistyll Gwyn (‘White Waterfall Rock’). How easy to take one step too many into thin air over that precipitous ledge! From then on he walked much more carefully, proceeding step by step. His one hope lay in finding the Pumrhyd stream. If he came to the mountain boundary fence he would be none the wiser as to where he was; a fence is a dumb signpost which tells us nothing at all. But the advantage of a stream is that we can rely on it, because it always runs downhill towards the valley. He felt as though he were in a world of make-believe. Had the fairies whisked the stream away somewhere? In his confusion he could only stop and admit fully that all his efforts were in vain. He stopped to listen, just to listen, in the dead silence that surrounded him… At last he could hear the sound of water somewhere. He listened again – and slowly went towards it. The mist compelled him to go right to the water’s edge to find out which way it was flowing.
There was a cheerful spring in his step now as he followed the stream. He felt perfectly confident, like one who for a long time has been searching for the truth in life, and finally knows he is on the right path. As he followed the little stream that danced over the pebbles he found himself suddenly and unexpectedly out of the mist. He stopped again, but this time it was to gaze – to gaze, as if in a dream, at the greenness of the valley below. He was like one whose sight had been restored, or whose soul had been brought out of darkness into light.
He returned without the sheep, but he knew that he had seen and realized in that mist much is true about life. The lost one, and the one who has lost sight of his Saviour, must earnestly seek after life – and often stop and listen – until he comes at last to the living water which wells up to eternal life, and brings us out of the mist and into the light of Him who said:
In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see. Isaiah 29:18
Mari Jones, In the Shelter of Aran