If you grew up in church, one of the earliest Bible verses you memorized was the 23rd Psalm. It says in part; “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”
Did you know that there really is a valley called the “Shadow of Death” in Israel? I once saw a picture of its long and winding floor and steep rocky sides. The only time that sunlight reached the bottom of the valley was high noon when the sun shone directly overhead. Supposedly thieves would wait until travelers were in the middle of the valley, and then block both ends to trap the travelers and rob or kill them.
Many of us are walking through our own personal journey in the valley of the shadow of death. Life is definitely scary and the tendency might be just to hide. Not only are we not to fear the valley however; I don’t think we are meant to cower in the shadows. We are not built for that.
Let me share some examples of this faith.
Chick-fil-A has long had a strained relationship with the gay community. We’ve all heard of the many boycotts and protests leveled against the company. In the immediate aftermath of the Orlando shootings, the American Red Cross put out an immediate call for blood donors. The next day, Sunday, saw donors line up for blocks. If you’ve ever visited Chick-fil-A, you know they are closed, nationwide, on Sunday. On this Sunday however, some Orlando stores opened and cooked chicken and made tea that they delivered to the hundreds waiting in line to donate. They gave the food and drinks away for free and also delivered food to the law enforcement officers. I am sure lots of other eating establishments did likewise, but how many did so after being boycotted? That is stepping out of the shadows.
As I write this, a story is coming out about Tim Tebow helping out a family in crisis this week during a flight to Los Angeles. A family member suffered a heart attack and while the crew worked on the passenger, someone stepped forward to comfort and pray with the family. That man was Tim Tebow.
Personally I cannot recall another sports figure in my lifetime more maligned or ridiculed for his faith than Tim Tebow. He has been the butt of jokes from sportscasters and other players and even his simple act of praying before a game became mocked as “Tebowing.” He could have stayed in his seat, but when he thought he could comfort a family, he stepped up. That is coming out of the shadow.
The lesson is not only to not fear, but also to not stay in the shadows just because it might be safe. Step up and keep going.
Aiken is vice chair of the UNC Board of Governors. Email