Your word is a lamp to my feet / And a light to my path. -Psalms 119:105 (NASB)

You never forget the word you missed in the spelling bee.

As a middle schooler, I won contest after contest, eventually representing my state in the National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. I studied the word lists over and over, but it came down to one word that knocked me out: Noctivagant. Noctivagant means “night wandering,” like someone who’s very active at nighttime.

When I missed that word, I left the stage in a daze, and went to a room made just for consoling kids who misspelled their words. My father then took me upstairs to our hotel room, where I curled up in my bed and sobbed, and he lay down in his bed on the other side of the room, waiting till I was done.

When I think back on that time, I remember not feeling any comfort or guidance or footing. I was the night wanderer! I had no guiding light in Jesus, whether by instruction or example. And I went on wandering in the dark for more than a quarter of a century after that, until Jesus woke me up at 40 years of age.

That very visceral feeling, which I can feel as if it were yesterday, just underlines to me how crucial it is–and completely perspective- and life-changing–to have Jesus as the rock under your feet, and His Word a light for your path. It also shows me that no matter how long and desolate the valley, He is there, and His salvation wipes all of that desolation away.

With my son, he will know and always be able to take comfort and solace in Jesus in his heart, and through my demonstrating His love to him. He will know that he did his best for the Lord (Colossians 3:23), and God’s smile is on him, no matter how he ranked in a worldly contest.

The wandering and weeping in the night is over, for the morning has come!