Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen. Psalm 77:19
Tough situations in life often leave us with a great story to tell.
As a college and young adult person I hated negative events that popped up in life: having an unexpected flat tire, running across campus in a sudden downpour and having to sit through class a muddy mess, getting lost in a strange city causing me to run late to an important interview, those type things. My goal as a young adult was to avoid all “bad” and ” difficult” circumstances. I know. I was very naive. You can’t expect to have only sunshine and roses in life.
A particular event my last year of college helped me change this “difficulty avoidance” I embraced. My brand new husband, Randy, and I headed out for a picnic to a local lake because we were a broke, college, married couple, and for cheap entertainment you could eat sandwiches out in nature just as well as you could at home. About 7:00 p.m., after a long summer’s day of swimming, picnicking, and fishing, we were looking for a small adventure to complete our outing. We got the park map and saw a road the led to the earthen dam which had been built to create this lake. It sounded like something worth of a brief exploration, and it was on the road out of the park, so we packed up our gear and headed that way.
We found the turn off and drove down the rutted, dirt/clay road to the dam. It was very anti-climactic! Disappointment. It looked like any other bank of the lake; there was no real view of the dam itself. Within 5 minutes we were back in the car to head out.
I neglected to say that it had rained all through the night before this picnic adventure. I did say it was a rutted road and a clay road. I also neglected to say this dam was at the bottom of a long, somewhat steep grade. As my husband started up the first bit of incline in the road our tires spun a bit. He kept trying and spinning for a minute, then realized he probably needed to back up to a flatter place and get a running go at The Hill. Second and third try had the same basic result – either tires would spin or we’d run into one of the deep ruts and get stuck and have to back down The Hill to get out. It was then that fear came creeping in.
It was getting late. The sun was setting. The park closed at sundown. No one knew we were here. And yes, it was The Time Before Cell Phones! We were alone, left to our own devices to get out of this one.
I would like to say we prayed and were at peace and God provided a way out, but that is not the true story. We were getting more and more anxious, didn’t think to pray, and felt we had to figure this one out. More than just providing a way out, God provided a lesson we’ve never forgotten.
We walked up and down The Hill a couple of times examining the possibilities. My hubby thought he might be able to get more traction if he drove very close to the roadside near the trees where there were more leaves, sticks, and rocks. We were hopeful, this fourth try looked promising. We backed down to the flat place, revved the engine, took off along the edge of the road… started spinning and fell into a rut again. Stovalls = 0 The Hill = 4. The anxiety was growing because it was getting darker as the sun fell lower behind the trees.
Being the engineer that he is, Randy realized we had to deal with 2 problems: getting traction and staying out of the many long, deep ruts. So his proposal was we spend the next hour before total darkness dragging fallen branches and sticks and rocks from the woods to fill in the ruts and strew across the lengthy, slick patches of wet clay road. It would take most all the daylight we had left and leave us with only one shot to get up The Hill to safety. Failure would mean spending the night in the car. Alone. No food. No water. No restroom. No one knowing where we were.
I was skeptical and a nervous wreck by this time and fully into my usual line of negative second-guessing. Why did we ever think this was an adventure we should try? But what alternative was there? I couldn’t think of anything else, so we set about patching up the road up the hill. I can’t even tell you how long this took. It seemed like an eternity. But finally we had all the deepest ruts and slickest spots patched up with debris.
My husband thought he would be more daring to floor it and weave and dodge ruts up the The Hill. So he appointed me to be something similar to those air port signal men. (I had to look it up, but they are called aircraft marshallers.) My job was to stand a couple of hundred yards ahead of him at the top of The Hill and use arm motions to direct him left or right to try to keep him away from the deepest ruts and slickest spaces, since we didn’t know if our patching would be completely helpful.
I climbed The Hill. He backed down to the bottom. at the shout of “1-2-3 Now!” he gunned it and took off my way. The plan was to floor the car up The Hill steering left and right like a madman by my directions, zooming toward me, and I was to jump out of the way at the last minute after he passed the last worst place in the road. I know. It sounds reckless. I would kill my young adult kids for trying such a stunt. But as they say, Necessity is the mother of invention! And those inventions aren’t always safe.
With much adrenalin, racing pulse, and sheer terror on my part, we worked our plan. Randy came weaving towards me at 45+ mph up The Hill. My arms flailed left and right directing him just in the nick of time away from this rut or that slick spot. He was getting really close, really quick. As he passed the final deep rut, I jumped left and he barreled on by me. It worked! We did it! He stopped on level ground a few yards away and I ran and jumped in the car.
We squealed! We laughed! We cried! We shouted, “I can’t believe it worked!” a few dozen times. All was well. After catching our breath and allowing the adrenalin to settle a bit, we drove home in the dark talking over the days’ events. One of us commented, “This is gonna make a great story one day.”
For the rest of our lives, when troubles come or sad, scary or horrible things happen, one of us will say, “This is gonna make a great story one day.” Our kids have even picked it up from hearing us say it at family outings that turned tragic in the moment.
So what is the point of my long story?
Our pastor says, “We are always are either in a storm, coming out of a storm, or about to head into a storm.” Trials will come ladies. They can wreck us or we can realize God allowed them as part of our story, and one day we will relish telling even the scary or sad parts of our story – once we have allowed Him to teach us through them and heal our hearts.
David’s song of praise in 2 Samuel 22 provides us with sweet reminders as we face struggles and trying times. (v. 2-37)
“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the hornof my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior—from violent people you save me.” (v. 2-3)
“I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and have been saved from my enemies. The waves of death swirled about me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me.” (v. 4-6)
“In my distress I called to the Lord; I called out to my God. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came to his ears.” (v.7)
“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. (v. 17-18)
“…The Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. (v. 19-20)
“You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall. As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.You make your saving help my shield; your help has made me great. You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way.” (v. 29-37)
The path of our life is allowed by God our loving Father. It is not always an easy path. Ruts and mud, and trying circumstances can bring fear and anxiety and almost overwhelm us. But God’s path for us is a broad path. He is with us on it. He helps our ankles not to give way. He delivers us, supports us, strengthens us, keeps us secure, and cares for us. He walks with us through trying times, even when (like me in my story) we don’t think to pray. Have faith in your Father God. Trust Him when times are tough and scary.
And I challenge you to remember, come what may, “This is gonna make a great story one day!”