Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I wake up and find myself living a childhood nightmare. Every creak, every sound makes shivers go up my spine... and I find myself locking doors that I never lock, closing windows, and turning on lights... because I am suddenly afraid of the dark.
I've long realized that it isn't the darkness that makes me afraid. I know that it makes no sense to fear darkness... when it can't do anything to impact my life except maybe make it hard to read. It's what the darkness hides, or doesn't hide, that engenders my mental turmoil.
I'm not really afraid of the dark.
I'm afraid of the unknown.
And that's a fear that didn't disappear with childhood...
Walking into a situation where I don't know what will happen, I find myself afraid. Not knowing where I will be in a year or ten, I find myself wondering if I'll be up to whatever task I'll face. Waiting for the Lord to fulfill His promises today, tomorrow, or the next day... I find myself wondering if it will happen.
And dispelling the unknown is a little more complicated. With darkness, shedding light on the unknown is as simple as flipping a switch or pressing a flashlight. But with events in life it's not that easy.
For some things, I can plan out worst-case scenarios in my mind: "what would be the worst thing that could happen?" Then I ask myself, "So, if that happens, what would you do? How would you keep going?" In most cases, the worst case is actually far less scary than the amorphous vague fear I was dealing with... and putting it into words makes it far easier to move forward.
But sometimes the timeline is so massive, or the possibilities so vast, that thinking about a worst-case scenario really isn't a viable long-term option.
Take marriage, for example. I'm planning to get married sometime in this life, but that could be years away. Facing life with a worst-case scenario attitude (and I'm not really sure what the worst case would be) in this case would lead itself readily to a whole lot of frustration.
There's another option.
Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient is the day unto the evil thereof (3 Nephi 13:34).
The other option is to learn to lose your fear of the dark... to not worry about the unknown.
Grown-ups are just as blind in darkness as little children. They have just as much lack of sight - and maybe even more. So what makes them less afraid? With time, they have made the decision, or perhaps, more appropriately, have learned the talent, of being okay with the unknown in darkness.
The same thing can happen with life.
I honestly don't know which way my life is going right now. In any facet. There are so many directions that it would be impossible to even begin mapping out the potentials of what will happen in a few months, let alone a year or five or ten.
But that's okay.
Because one thing that even children know is that even a little bit of light can scare away the darkness. A tiny bulb by their bed, or a flashlight that sends a single beam into the night makes all the difference. It really doesn't - you have no idea what types of trees are at your left, or if there's a monster under your bed. But being able to see at least something makes it easier to be okay with the unknown.
I don't need to know what will happen tomorrow - if I'll fall in love, or if I'll spend my entire life celibate, if I'll die young or live to be 100. I just need to know what to do and where to go - the Lord's will for me today. I can't overcome a lifetime of pain and unknown in a day - no flashlight can light up the world. But it doesn't need to. It just needs to light the path for one step so that I can move forward. I can do that.
"Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see the distant scene... one step [is] enough for me."
Some nights, I still wake up afraid of the unknown. And I'll probably always be somewhat afraid... because I'm still working on my faith... and because it is still unknown.
But that's okay. I pray for the safety of my family in the darkness, and for the blessings of God in the confusion of my life... then go back to sleep. The light through my window just barely lets me see the painting of the Savior on my wall... and I know enough to take one step in my life.
Tomorrow I'll worry about the next one.