I peered up the endless spiral of stairs. In the pitch dark, I couldn’t see how far up they went. In fact, with my flashlight, I could only see one or two steps at a time. I hugged the wall of the old lighthouse while I ascended because there was no railing to keep me from falling into the abyss on the other side. Slowly, I made my way up.
Soon I lost track of how many steps I’d climbed of the 177 total, so I couldn’t determine how much farther I had to go. Looking behind me was pointless, as those steps had already disappeared into black shadows. I stopped at one of the two windows along the stairwell to take a breath and gazed out. But it was dark outside too, and revealed nothing. Should I go back down or keep going up? If I was near the top, I would have given up too soon and never meet my goal of reaching the top.
My thoughts carried me back to centuries past, when lighthouse keepers had ascended these same stairs at least twice a day to tend the light. The tallest lighthouse on the Gulf of Mexico, the Pensacola Lighthouse must have been a challenge to maintain, the keepers having to climb the steps while hauling a heavy bucket of oil. And no flashlight. No, they would’ve had to balance a lantern in one hand and the oil in the other.
Did they ever get tired, I wondered. Did they ever want to quit? I’m sure they thought about it and some did. It takes determination and dedication to the goal to keep going up those stairs. They believed their efforts made a difference. Who knows how many lives they saved as a result of their daily effort?
In much the same way, life is like going up those steps in the dark with just a small light to illuminate the steps. You can only see one or two steps at a time. Yet, you keep moving up toward the goal to reach the light at the top, the end of the journey. Sometimes, I want to know what’s going to happen next, but I can only see a little bit at a time. What would we do if we knew what would happen in our lives? Would we try to change the future? We might. We might want to take out all the bad things that will happen and keep all the good.
But God chose not to give us too much information at once. The famous line from Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, “You can’t handle the truth,” comes to mind. We really can’t handle knowing our entire life’s story all at once. Instead, we must live it one day at a time, one step at a time. We have just enough light to deal with that. We need the light to keep us from stumbling or falling off the edge.
We can’t go back to the beginning and start over, so we keep focusing on the step in front of us. Looking back won’t help either; we must move forward to make progress. Each step is a step of faith and trust in an unknown future. Only God knows where we’re headed, and He’ll meet us at the end.
“A person’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand their own way?” Proverbs 20:24