I have thought lately about Louis L’Amour’s novel, “The Proving Trail,” the story of a young man who goes off to find his father’s killer. The journey becomes more about him proving himself than it does proving who his father’s murderer was.
Life is often a proving trail.
I have a good friend who recently went in for a kind of routine brain surgery, if there is such a thing, only to be told the tumor the doctor thought was harmless turned out to be malignant and the prognosis not good. A loving husband and father of a darling young daughter he now faces challenging treatments and involved medical procedures. But his spirits are high and he is determined to beat the odds. He is a tough, smart guy who loves life and he is walking his proving trail with remarkable courage. I cheer him on and find in his faith, hope for my own feeble beliefs.
Another dear friend recently came to the awareness that perhaps in her childhood she was sexually abused. The trauma of abuse is often not remembered by the victim of it until years later when the secret is finally revealed to them in some ongoing life crisis. My friend has struggled her entire life with a sense of loss, with feelings of shame, displacement, and an inability to feel good about herself, to believe in herself as someone worthy and gifted and deserving of a life of purpose and accomplishment. She is one of the brightest and kindest souls I know. Funny and beautiful and compassionate and yet impaired by sinister haunting fears and the discouragement of so much unused self. She boldly has entered into therapy and is finding with her skilled and caring therapist insights, acceptance, and inner resources to bravely traverse this proving trail she is on. I have such confidence in her and I am so proud of the steps she is taking toward healing and wholeness.
I think, too, endlessly, of the parents whose children attending the Sandy Hook Elementary school lost their tiny lives in a tragedy of such horror we cannot yet any of us comprehend it. And I think of the school principal and the teachers and other staff who died trying to protect the innocent. All of their surviving loved ones are mothers and fathers and extended family, school mates and neighbors and friends, bearing now the heavy weight of this atrocity. The proving trail they have entered will be long and arduous and exhausting. But there will be those who will keep step beside them and their presence will help make the journey endurable.
In the most tiring and life draining times we do what the ancient mystics said they did, “thirst for the beauty of the Eternal Beloved.” That may be God or Jesus to some. Or the Saints or angels, or other religious greats such as Buddha, Mohammed or Mary the Mother of God. It may be some long gone loved one, a grandmother, a spouse, or a child. For most of us it is some holy presence, some sense that along our own dark proving trail we are not alone.
That great song, “Into the West,” is a part of the entrancing music in the “Lord of the Rings” movie trilogy. At the end of the final episode, “The Return of the King,” the aging Bilbo Baggins, Frodo, his brave adopted son, and Gandalf the Great, all come to the close of their own proving trails. As the movie ends Annie Lennox sings “Into the West” with such power. And as she does the lyrics build and then soar into so much beauty. I envision those words to be sung for all us at the end of all of our proving trails:
“Lay down your sweet and weary head
Night is falling
You have come to journey’s end
And dream of the ones who came before
They are calling
From across the distant shore
Why do you weep?
What are these tears upon your face?
Soon you will see
All of your fears will pass away
What can you see on the horizon?
Why do the white gulls call?
Across the sea a pale moon rises
The ships have come to carry you home
And all will turn
To silver glass
A light on the water
All souls will pass.”
Until then, we travel on.
© 2012 Timothy Moody