Headlamps: “no torch, no race!”
I love it when a metaphor comes together.
I am in a state of nervous excitement. I am (planning on) doing “The Mighty Deerstalker” this weekend: “hills, mud, swamp, darkness, rivers, obstacles and a wee bit longer than billed…”
I have read the seven pages of instructions about how to get to the start line; the nine or so miles that come thereafter do not come with such a guide.
“Don’t forget your head torch: No torch, No race!”
So I ordered a head torch and it arrived yesterday. So I am wandering about the house with a head torch on. It’s very nice. however, it wasn’t long before I stumbled into tight loop of biblical metaphor which was very satisfying:
“Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”
The psalmist here sees the Word of God as a guide for his life, lighting up perhaps the right way to go, or to illuminate dangers in his path, to highlight the terrain, the gradient and to help him figure out how to best proceed, metaphorically.
I then visualized “Thy word” as a head torch – and then I remembered – that has been done for thousands of years!
Back in the day when I studied a bit of Judaism, there were “phylacteries”, also known as “tefillin” which were little leather boxes. The boxes contained scripture, I think – “The Shema” – “Hear O Israel, the Lord thy God, is One God” and verses following from Deuteronomy chapter 6. These boxes were strapped onto the forehead exactly where one wears a head torch. This is done in response to the verse from the same passage: “Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads”.
In this way the worshipper had a physical reminder of the prayer and the scripture as they prayed. But the physical similarity to a head torch is remarkable – sticking out from the middle of the forehead above the eyes.
In practice, when you are using a head torch, running at night, the path is illuminated – as long as you look where you are going. If you stop looking in the right direction, you don’t know what you are about to run into or trip over.
By running with others, though, this hazard is lessened. With everyone running in the same direction, you can be guided by the light coming from everyone else’s head torches. Your path is lit up by the people coming like a herd of gazelles from the rear. In turn, by keeping my eyes on the path in front, it helps those around me keep safe.
To draw the metaphor back to the word of God I can perhaps take from it that to spend time with other people who are figuring out how to live, using Scripture as a guide, is of benefit to all who travel together.
Interestingly, there is a downside to head torches. You can’t look anyone in the face. If you look them in the face, you dazzle them and they can’t see anything. To shine your light directly into someone’s face is just irritating.
If I draw this metaphor back to the Word of God, I am thinking that this is the equivalent of hypocrisy. You are implying that people should look at the beaming light emanating from you – but you are not even going in the right direction – you are not illuminating the path helpfully – you are an obstacle, stopping them from seeing the right way forward.
The other text that comes to mind in preparation for the Deerstalker is the first two lines of a song we used to do at Sunday School:
“When the road is rough and steep,
Fix your eyes upon Jesus”
This is based on this bit from Hebrews 12:
“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus..”
The “race marked out for us” on Saturday night will doubtless be rough and steep. Bearcrawling up scree in the main, apparently. A good chance to learn perseverance.
As for my head torch. I hope my batteries last the distance. I hope it illuminates the paths so that I don’t get taken by surprise, lost or injured. At the same time, I hope I can draw on the experience to illuminate my understanding of the use of “light” as a metaphor by the Psalmist and others in the Bible, such as John who wrote this as an introduction to his gospel account:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”