DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World


Written by: on October 12, 2020

The dark forest path by ~DjLuke9 on deviantART // This photo is so stinkin'  cool. | Beautiful photography nature, Mystical forest, Nature photographyI breathe a sigh of unease as the fog around me begins to clear. I cannot recall the last time I stepped beyond the walls of the Tower. There is tension in the air as we navigate the winding path through the thick fog. Pockets of it are less dense – vague recollections of places I knew long ago – but it is not the same. So much has changed, leaving me feeling unsettled.

“Where are we going?” I ask the Pilgrim.

They shrug. “I don’t know.”

“What do you mean you don’t know?” I demand. “Are you not supposed to be my guide in this?”

The Pilgrim shrugs again. “The journey is one of adventure and mystery, my friend. We are simply moving toward the next waypoint – wherever that may be.”

I’m flabbergasted. No idea where we’re going?! I cast a glance over my shoulder to see that my Tower is still in sight, still calling for me. The Pilgrim notices my continuous backward glances and pauses.

“I will not force you to continue. The Pilgrimage is one of personal choice. You are welcome to return to your comfort and your old life, if you so choose. But I can see that there is a desire for more in your heart.”

“What if I’m making the wrong decision?” I demand.

“What if?”

“What if I’m moving too quickly? Surely I could have done more to prepare for this journey. Maybe I should return to the Tower. I don’t know if I brought enough supplies with me for the journey.”


“There are just so many unknowns and variables.”

“There are.”

Frustration is mounting inside of me. “Don’t you have anything else to say?”

The Pilgrim shakes their head and continues along the path. “Fear is a natural response, my friend. But do not let it paralyze you. There is more growth in the journey than there is in your Tower.”

“How can you be sure?” I demand.

“I can’t,” the Pilgrim laughs.

I stand in place as the Pilgrim continues to move forward, whistling a traveler’s ditty as they walk. I try to will myself to move, but the call of the Tower is strong. I cast a glance over my shoulder and can feel myself itching to return. I turn around and stop myself. No. This is the journey you’ve chosen. I turn back just as the fog swallows the Pilgrim, who is now much further ahead of me. Within moments, I’m completely alone. My heart begins to pound and with a loud groan, I chase after them. The fog swirls around me, its cool touch brushing my skin. I shiver with the cold.

“Pilgrim!” I call out.

There is no response.



Fear begins to take root as the fog closes in around me. It becomes so thick that I can no longer see the path beneath me. Disoriented, I turn around, looking for my Tower. It is a faint outline in the fog, getting fainter with each passing moment. The monstrous shapes with their glowing eyes reappear, mocking me in my current state. I’m alone. I don’t know where I am. This was a mistake. My chest tightens and my pulse races, a cold sweat breaks out over my body, my head spins.

“Help me!” I cry out.


Anger wells in me. “You told me to trust you!” I shout in fury. “Have you already abandoned me?”

Hot tears roll down my cheeks.


I close my eyes and take a deep breath, trying to calm myself.


The distant sound of rushing water fills my ears.


In the distance, a dim light breaks through the fog. Hurriedly, I hitch up my pack and race toward the light. The fog parts for me and the sound water grows louder and louder as the light gets brighter and brighter. Within moments, I find myself staring at the weathered sign of an old inn.

The signs swings in the breeze reading in faded letters, “Knowing’s Edge.”

 Not wanting to stay outside any longer than I have to, I hastily push open the door and enter the common room.



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About the Author


Dylan Branson

Small town Kentuckian living and learning in the big city of Hong Kong.

14 responses to “Alone”

  1. mm Darcy Hansen says:

    Your words bring up a very visceral reaction in me, reminding me of the times I’ve been called out of my “tower” into the wild and unknown. Over the past few years, the prayers of Ted Loder have been a grace to me as I stand on the edge. Here’s one of my favorites:

    I never know what’s out there until I muster up some courage and step bravely. I have found even if I step over the edge, Grace is there to catch me. Such a gift.

    When was a time you felt abandoned by your “guide” and how did you respond?

    • mm Dylan Branson says:

      LOVE that prayer. Thanks for sharing that. I’ve got it bookmarked for future and continuous reflection.

      I think the most poignant time I felt abandoned was when I began my time of Exile a few years ago. At the time, it was the feeling of abandonment from both the Church and God — both of whom I felt had been such close “guides” to me throughout my life. I remember that time of wandering and choosing every thorny and rough path I could, ones that I knew at least subconsciously would cause more harm than good. My Ego became my new guide and it was one that pushed me to follow a path of the Self rather than the Other, which I feel like most of my life was centered around prior to that point. What amplified it was that quite a few of my friends were going through similar journey, so we fed off of each other’s pain and justified our actions through one another.

      But the longer I traveled that path, the more I realized how utterly pointless it was – how there was only decay down that path. It was at that point where I found a fellow “Pilgrim” in the form of Bonhoeffer who had traveled down the path of the questions I was asking at the time. He acted as a means of grace in a way and led me back to a path of growth.

  2. mm Jer Swigart says:

    D. Your piece and mine go together nicely this week. I espeically love the idea of the Pilgrim/Guide. They are seasoned from their commitment to the journey yet do not claim to be an authority. Accompaniment seems to be their primary verb over Instruct or Guide. Is this person the sage/guide that Campbell refers to? And how essential is this person to our own journies of transformation?

    • mm Dylan Branson says:

      Bingo! The Pilgrim is one who fills the role Campbell is talking about haha.

      Personally, I think the guide is important in that they make the journey into the unknown more bearable. A guide/sage figure has walked the path before and has an idea of what to expect. They help us make sense of what we see in the initial stages of the journey. However, there does come a point where the guide must leave the hero for them to truly find their own path. Or that guide is replaced by someone else (thinking along the lines of The Divine Comedy where Virgil acts as the initial guide and is then replaced by Beatrice).

      In the same way, we have mentors and guides in our own lives who bring us to a certain point in our journeys before someone else picks up the mantle. I think back to the various people who have played that role and can recognize a defining moment when that person was no longer my guide because they felt they had taught me all they could. Soon after that, someone else would come along and join me on the next stage of the journey.

      • mm Jer Swigart says:

        Great perpsective re: mentors rarely accompany us all the way to the new discovery. In your experince, when the guidance expires, who knows first? The mentor or the mentee? And should there be a “blessing into what’s to come” that should occur at this moment? What would be the benefit if there was?

        • mm Dylan Branson says:

          In my experience, it’s been a gradual realization from both parties that the relationship has changed into something else. I would say that a guide will always be a guide to a certain extent, even if it’s just in memory of that part of one’s journey. But I’ve also found the blessing as part of the end of that chapter of my relationship with former mentors.

          A good friend of mine runs an NGO in HK that focuses on training, coaching, and mentoring. I’ve participated in his workshops before and when talking about coaching and mentoring, he talks about the end of that relationship and how important it is to celebrate the journey together and to bless it as they move on to the next chapter. In a way, it’s a moment of validation that both sides have not just achieved something, but have mutually gained from the experience.

  3. mm Greg Reich says:

    The words in Hebrews 13: 5b -6 come two mind where I read you post. “I will never leave you nor forsake you.
    So we can confidently say, “ The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” I believe our guide the Holy Spirit never abandons us but I believe there are times when he is silent allowing us too sense the moment and realize the gravity of the moment.

    • mm Dylan Branson says:

      Very true. This week I’ve been preparing a Sunday school lesson on Jesus’ temptation for the youth group. One of the key points is that even in the midst of trials and temptations, the Spirit is still present with us. He doesn’t abandon us even if we don’t necessarily see Him.

  4. mm Shawn Cramer says:

    Are you familiar with Donald Miller’s “Storybrand”?
    He uses the concept of guide as the driving metaphor for marketing an idea. Where is the Pilgrim going, what does the Guide offer, what’s at stake if they don’t follow the Guide?

    • mm Dylan Branson says:

      “What’s at stake?” – I think if you look through stories and fairy tales, what’s at stake for not following the guide is a renewal of life. There’s an aspect of the Old Self dying while the New Self slowly emerges through the journey. At the end, the Hero is no longer who they once were; they’ve become someone new with a renewed perspective on the folly of who they once were.

      The Christian journey and the Guide that is Christ is the fulfillment of this story. The Journey changes us, even if at times it seems the Guide is no longer there; but He is.

  5. mm John McLarty says:

    I’m saddened by all those I see around me (and by the times I’ve done it myself,) who live and die in the safe confines of the Tower- content to exist in the safe and predictable space and never risk to see or know what else is out there. The Pilgrim invites, but does not force, because the journey is each one’s to make (or not.) Your post calls out the loneliness of the journey. There’s a guide, but the guide is not really a companion. Is there a place for community on a journey such as this?

    • mm Dylan Branson says:

      I definitely think there’s a role for community in the journey – that’s part of what it means to be part of the body of Christ! We’re all journeying together in the mission that Christ has given us, though there are moments – “side quests” if you will – where we may break off on our own for a time. These side quests are meant to be the trials or personal part of our journey as we come to a deeper understanding of who Christ is for us personally so that we may bring it back to the greater community.

  6. mm Chris Pollock says:

    Awesome. “Knowing’s Edge”.

    Left in total suspense.

    Love how he kept going and that outside of the Inn was not where he wanted to be. Going back was not where he wanted to go. Going inside was his only option.

    The adventure ‘out of’, ‘through’ and ‘into’. Along the way, all the signs and struggles. I suppose, you can read about such journeys in books, in towers. Fun for our brains! What a thought, that we too can become a character in our own story of adventure.

    Then, in a twinkle, everything changes.

    Peace, bro. Thank you 🙂

    • mm Dylan Branson says:

      Sometimes the only real path is forward. Other times the pull to adventure and the pull to return are tugging at us equally, leaving us hovering at Knowing’s Edge. Eventually there’s a choice to move forward or to take the step back. Though some will hover as long as they can, waiting for the opportune moment or out of fear.

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