Why are characters in children’s books forever getting lost in the woods? Why can they never stick to the path, or at least carry a map? The simplest answer is the most unexpected: it is because crisis breaks open paths into the future.
Children are keenly aware of this fact. They approach adulthood with due caution; every step along the way of life is fraught with crisis, and each crisis presents new, strange and forbidding futures. Such is the significance of the darkened wood. To be lost in a wood is to be presented with the challenge of finding a way out. Is it a new way, rarely traveled? So much the better. Does it lead to a babbling brook, a mountaintop or a sheltered glade? Let’s follow it and find out!
Children know what as adults we all-too-readily forget: that crisis can be a moment of opportunity. We need crisis in order to change and evolve – to become something more than we are today, and to escape everything that we have already become.
The most fearsome crises occur when the darkened wood is within. When the soul lacks a way, the future ceases to exist, and we are condemned to what the past has made us. Ask your children: is this living? They will tell you it is intolerable. It is here that the word ‘redemption’ acquires its spiritual meaning. Redemption in the religious sense requires that the seeker find the light that leads through the darkness; that they follow this light, perceiving it as the way towards a new and mysterious future. The light is never more than the opportunity of redemption. It is a curious feature of the human heart that this sense of opportunity is often just as valuable as the redemption itself.