On a vacation to the beautiful mountains of Virginia our family experienced one of our That-will-make-a-great-story-one-day events. It will require another blog post to fully explain that phrase, but suffice it to say, those are unexpected events that seem sad, scary, or horrible at the time, but we come to relish telling the story over and over as the years go by.
This particular That-will-make-a-great-story-one-day event started out, as they all do, with a normal day. From our cozy, rental cabin in Virginia just off the Blue Ridge Parkway the six of us had set off that morning to visit Virginia’s Natural Bridge and surrounding outdoorsy tourist attractions. The day was great fun. The 4 kids were between the ages of 6 and 16, so they were independent and adventurous. We hiked and took photos, read historical markers, and marveled over the rainbow trout in the crystal clear creek that runs under the this non-manmade bridge.
Natural Bridge Virginia truly is a national wonder. This solid rock bridge fashioned by Our Creator and the forces of nature He set in place is so big, thick, and strong that the traffic of US Highway 11 crosses this bridge, though an uninformed traveler might not realize it. The 215 foot high limestone bridge was once owned by Thomas Jefferson, and you can even see one place where George Washington carved his initials on the wall of the canyon.
We went from the Park to a wax museum of historical people, and then drove to the James River for a picnic. After a late afternoon meal and lots of playing and hiking we headed back to our home-away-from-home. We passed through several small communities with only a flashing light and a couple of stores and were climbing back into the Blue Ridge Mountains by a different road than we had come. Since it was dusk, we planned to cross the mountains here and travel a 4-lane highway north along the other side of the mountains back to the turn off was for our cabin.
Less than a mile up the foothills, I looked down at our gas gauge. It was just short of the big red E – Empty! (This is not uncommon for me, so the whole family was giving me a hard time.) I quickly found a scenic pull off where I could turn around. The kids were a little nervous we wouldn’t make it back to get gas, but dad assured them he’d seen a gas station at the last little community we’d been through and that he was pretty sure we could coast to it if we ran out of gas.
Sure enough, we made it safely to the gas station – without having to coast in. We filled up and everyone breathed a sigh of relief, weary from a fun-filled day and the moment of fear and just ready to be “home.” I was still driving. What else could go wrong? I’d already nearly run us out of gas.
The sun had fully set by now, so I turned on the headlights as we headed back up the mountain. At nearly the same place where I had discovered we were low on fuel, trouble hit again. It was as if we had run into a gray wall. In just those few short minutes it had
taken us to go get gas, a cloud had descended over the mountain. The fog was the thickest I had ever seen. We pulled off at a scenic overlook again, this time to get out the car handbook and figure out how to turn on the fog lights. After a little digging the fog lights were working and we thought we’d be on our way.
The fog lights did little to help our situation. We were completely engulfed by heavy fog to the point that I struggled to see the painted lines to stay in my lane and on the road. We were ascending the mountain, so the fog seemed to get thicker. The kids were giving us the whimpering “Mommy? Daddy?” voices, while we adults were debating the risk of keeping on driving versus the risk of trying to turn around when we couldn’t see. I slowed to under 15mph and still struggled. It got so blindingly gray that I slowed down even more and my husband, in the passenger seat, opened his door and watched the white line on the edge of the pavement as I drove to make sure I didn’t run off the road.
The short trip over the mountains, turned into over an hour of anxious driving before we crossed the peak and got far enough down the other side that we drove out of the fog bank just as suddenly as we had entered it. Relief filled the car as the danger faded behind us.
How often do we experience the spiritual version of this? We suddenly hit a spiritual fog bank that obscures our vision. Even right now in the US as we navigate through the unknown fog of COVID-19, rioting, racial tension, and political bickering I feel as if I’m in a spiritual fog. There have been several times these last few weeks that I have felt I needed help finding the white line and staying on the road. What are we to do walking blindly through this fog?
- Stay in our lane. Keeping our eyes on the lines to stay in our lane spiritually means to be in God’s Word daily – as often as possible. The Psalms, all the wisdom books, Paul’s letters with comments on how to live and how to treat others, and the stories of the Old Testament that teach us about God and about people are crucial to read and know to stay in our lane. Once we’ve read them, then it is our job to live out the truths scripture teaches.
- Have someone in the passenger seat helping you. The old “Jesus is my co-pilot” phrase is really not a bad one. Some people say no, that we should let God be at the wheel. But all through scripture I see God giving people a job to do and then allowing them to do it. He’s always there directing and strengthening, but I don’t see Him driving so much. So make sure you are praying and in tune with the Holy Spirit and His direction as you navigate the dense fogs of life.
- Don’t let the fear and confusion blind you. Our emotions can ruin us if we trust them and follow them. We must trust our Heavenly Father over our feelings. Philippians 4:8 tells us, “ Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” When our mind thinks on those kinds of thoughts, the emotions of fear, anxiety, anger, jealousy, confusion, pessimism, envy, and such fade away. Proper thinking frees us to see clearly through God’s eyes in those sudden times of turmoil.
- Trust the Light of the World to guide your through. God will be that guiding light in every situation. Are we focused enough to listen for His still, small voice that whispers, “Don’t type that post,” “Don’t say what you want to,” “Don’t take offense at that even though they meant to try to offend you,” “Forgive.” “Trust.” “Love.” At times the voice will be so quiet it will be like my lights in that fog bank, it will seem not to help much at the moment. We will find ourselves longing for a quick fix or retribution. That’s when we choose to follow the Light of the World even at what seems to be our own expense. He will get us through to the other side of that scary mountain. Trust Him.