The Shadow Knows

When I was a little boy, around kindergarten age, I lived with my grandparents. Once a week, my grandfather would sit me on the couch, give me a donut and a glass of milk, turn on the radio and leave me alone for about fifteen minutes as he retrieved my grandmother from the Catholic church two blocks away.

I remember sitting on that couch as the Lone Ranger and Tonto road across the rugged terrain of my imagination, with a milk glass in one hand and a donut in the other. Riding at the side of the masked man, we heroically pursue bad guys, saved damsels in distress, and all without anyone dying or even being seriously wounded.

I loved those few minutes of independence, but sometimes they were short-lived. If grandma was late to leave the lady’s bible study, the Lone Ranger would fade into the sunset, and a commercial would pitch a sugar-coated cereal to every young listener, along with the promise of a special secrete decoder ring.

Now I awaited the introduction to The Detective Story Magazine Hour, followed by the sinister voice that would strike fear into my five-year-old heart. “The Shadow knows…” It was a serial drama where the main character was a shadowy figure who was able to move among the bad guy’s unseen. I don’t know much about the show because I never heard more than the introduction. Once the introduction began, I would abandon my milk and donut, run to the radio, and turn it off. Then I’d wait for my grandparents to return, knowing that the Shadow was in the room watching me.

This morning I encountered that allusive ethereal figure walking along with me as I moved through the neighborhood before the sun rose. Each morning at around 5:30, I drag my sorry bottom out of bed, dress and hit the road. With Chopin playing low in my ears, and prayer on my lips, I trek along a five-mile stroll, finishing before bicycles, walkers, golfcarts, and gas guzzlers hit the road.

The homes along my path have a poll lamp in their yards about twenty feet in from the street. When I approached a home, the light from the lamp would cast a dark shadow behind me, as I passed by, my shadow would move to my side, then slowly move in front of me. Gradually it faded away. It was here that I had a bit of an epiphany. The shadow knows…

In the early days of my life, I had a youthful impact like the fledgling shadow that began to follow me. It was there but trailing behind, watching, and learning from whoever was in the lead. When I was little, it was my parents, then my teachers. As a teenager, it was my peers, and as a young man, it was a First Lieutenant in the underbrush of Southeast Asia.

When my shadow walked beside me, it brought to mind those middle years. After following a series of exceptional God-fearing men and women, I moved to their side and assisted in putting my feet to their vision. After several decades of service, the next move was assuming the role of leader. It was time to surround myself with those who were able to put Nike’s to my vision. My life has been blessed to have the finest and most gifted people at my side.

My shadow stretches out before me, and as everything that lives, it begins slowly, to fade. With a mind that thinks of itself as youthful enough to do all it wants to do, and a body that awakes each morning blessed that God has given it yet another day, I look out into the darkness beyond the light. With each step, my shadow slowly disappears, then it did something I knew it couldn’t really do. It turned and waved me on as if telling me to follow him. My youth is a memory, my successes hang in frames on the wall, but it isn’t over. The shadow knows there are still places to go, challenges to face, and lives to be touched by Christ’s compassionate grace.

So, I picked up my pace, ignored the casting shadows, focused on the rising sun, and headed toward home, where I had work to do. Enjoy the life God has given you, and rejoice in the life that is yet to come.

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all He created.  – James 1:16-18

See you next time…


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