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  • Maggie Wallem Rowe

TUNNEL VISION: When It Seems You'll Never Emerge from the Dark

Has anyone ever said things like this to you?

“What happened to you was terrible, but you need to move on.”

“There must be a reason you’re going through this. You’ve just got to stop letting it consume you and think about all you have to be grateful for.”

“Well, you think that’s bad? Listen to what happened to me…”

“Just relax, it will happen when it’s supposed to.”

Could be you are in a dark place right now that, like a tunnel, offers no glimmer of what lies ahead – no promise of a turnaround or quick exit. Maybe you’re trying to get pregnant, and the wait is agonizing. Or you’re going through a painful divorce, legal trial or health crisis, and those who were initially supportive have moved on to other concerns when you cannot.

Here in Norway, you can’t avoid traveling through tunnels carved out of the mountains lining the fjords. This small country has over 1400 of them. Mike and I have driven through literally hundreds in our weeks here. In mountainous terrain, tunnels are unavoidable if you want to reach your desired destination. When you’re stuck in one long enough, your vision calibrates to the limited light.

Tunnel vision is a neutral medical term for the loss of peripheral eyesight, but sometimes it’s used derogatively for those who seem fixated on or stuck in a certain situation. But how do you broaden your vision when nothing has changed around you? Who will help you navigate the darkness of your circumstances? Where do you find the light?

Here are a few suggestions from a sister tunnel-traveler.

Look for the lead car.

On a trip this past week, Mike and I encountered road work in several tunnels we had no choice but to pass through. With only one lane open, we couldn’t possibly attempt safe passage through the tunnel on our own. We learned to wait for a car to appear with a sign reading Ledebil Folg meg: “Escort Vehicle – Follow Me.”

Sometimes the lead car will be a friend, coworker or counselor with experience in navigating the same situation you find yourself in. Or you might discover a book, podcast or blogpost that speaks into your circumstances. God sends us traveling companions, and when things look pitchy is when we need them most.

Look for the signposts.

In especially long tunnels, the Norwegian Public Roads Administration places signposts indicating how many kilometers you’ve traveled and how many are yet to come. Wouldn’t it be great if someone would do the same for us? Dark times are not as difficult when we know dawn is about to break on the horizon.

Most of the time, though, no one can predict how long a harrowing situation will last. Our family entered a tunnel of sorts in 1997 that we did not emerge from for a full ten years. Sometimes you simply don’t know that you’ve come out on the other side until you hear the welcome words, “You’re in remission,” “We’re offering you the position,” or “Congratulations - you’re pregnant!”

Look for the little things.

Last week we wanted to travel from the town of Aurland to Fondnes to catch a ferry across Sognefjord. Travel expert Rick Steves calls the Aurlandsvegen “Snow Road” connecting the two regions his favorite scenic drive in Norway, and we were eager to take it. But guess what? Equipped with winter tires on our Touran, we headed up only to come to a dead stop. Though it’s only October, the road was already closed due to yes, snow.

On the Aurlandsvegen “Snow Road" just before we had to turn back.

Our only option was to backtrack and use the Laerdal Tunnel instead – at 24.5 kilometers the longest road tunnel in the world. Instead of enjoying the scenery, we were stuck underground like moles for mile upon mile. But the tunnel got us where we needed to be.

The hardest experiences of life feel like sheer bedrock – impenetrable, immovable, immutable. Unending. Yet in God’s mysterious itinerary, they can be the most direct way to get us to where we need to be.

Does every tunnel eventually end? Will every difficult experience find resolution on this side of eternity? How do you press on when there are no guarantees?

If you’re traveling a dark and sorrowful road right now, look for escorts along the way. They’re there, friend. You are not alone.

Watch for the signposts, the sparks of joy and flashes of beauty that illuminate – if only for a moment – the shadowy passageway.

The Laerdal Tunnel is the longest in the world and has been constructed with "caves" in several places with lighting simulating the breaking of dawn.

And stay alert for the Voice that will greet you with a glad welcome when you finally emerge from the darkness into inexpressible Light:

Velkommen! Your journey is over. Good and faithful servant, welcome Home.”


Copyright 2019, Maggie Wallem Rowe. Permission granted to share this post with attribution.

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