I half expected to run headlong into a mastodon. The little valley I found myself in actually appeared to be that untouched, that pristine.
It was early May several years ago when I first discovered this treasure. I had noticed something on the map that intrigued me. So I figured the coordinates, picked up my compass and took off through the swamp. What tickled my fancy was the Dead River Valley located about seven miles or so South Southeast off of the sharp right turn in the King snake trail as it heads back into the park: the Congaree Swamp National park.
If you continue in a straight line past the turn, you will eventually run into the Congaree River, provided of course that you can see the signs of an old rutted road that once carried loggers out of the swamp towards home; but if you veer off a bit to the left, say at about at a thirty degree angle or so, and keep going until you think you’re there and then go half that far again, you will come to the Dead River Valley and the Dead River Lake. It is like stepping back into another time.
There is a holy, almost sacred feel to the place. When the undergrowth thins out before you and the cypress and tupelo come together to form a canopy above; the hush of the place seems to envelope you. You know, or at least I knew, that God was there. I was in a safe place. I was able to speak freely with my Lord, and the world was far enough away that the still small voice that is God, could be heard.
Oh, the wind worked its way through the tree tops giving voice to that mysterious, almost baleful sound that carries within it the whispers of the past. The birdsong rebounded and echoed from cypress to cypress through the ever present mist, coming from everywhere and nowhere it seemed and yet the silence of the place filled me with peace and brought such a blessing.
The Congaree Swamp is a magical and mysterious world. If you listen closely you can sometimes hear the faint echo of Sherman’s cannons or the staccato cadence of a denizen long forgotten held within the memories of the ancient trees. The cypress knees take on a life of their own at dusk and at dawn. It is in those moments of half-light that you see things and you hear things that breed apprehension and fear. Few are the folks who venture off the beaten path to discover the wonders within, and therefore few are the folks who receive the gifts offered there.
How often do we miss out on the blessings of God because of our fear of the unknown? Can we even count the times we have refused to venture forth for Jesus Christ because of imaginary dangers? Why is the well-worn path so appealing to the human being?
We are given but one life to spend as we wish on this earth. Why do we insist upon wasting so much of the gift hiding in the darkness when we could be basking in the Light?
I fear that we simply don’t trust the Light. We have lived in the familiar darkness so long that the Light frightens us, so in darkness we remain.
The blessings of God are only found when we venture out of the darkness and into the light of Christ. Only after we break the chains of fear are we blessed. So my challenge to each and every one of you is that you release your hold on the darkness, break the chains of your fear and venture forth for Christ.