We were six hours into our mountain adventure. The guys were ahead of us somewhere and we girls were tired, but plodding on in hopes of getting to the destination.
The woods ended with a blunt line of pines. Before us lay what appeared to be a meadow with a narrow path through the middle. The guys were nowhere in sight. We started asking each other. “Where are they? Are we on the right path?”
Rachel piped up, “We could get attacked,” she said putting her hands on her hips. “Or lost and no one would know.”
Then Emily started screaming, exposing what was in each of our hearts, “Where is our shepherd? Where is our shepherd?” We felt like abandoned sheep.
The moon was out now in full radiance. It had a mystical aura. Two circles of rainbow colored light surrounded it. It looked like a big eye in the sky.
God’s word says, “I will guide you with Mine eye.” (Psalm 32:8) “I have given My angels charge over you and you will not even dash your foot against a stone.” (Psalm 91:11-2 paraphrased)
Again, praise rose to our heavenly Shepherd as we crossed the meadow singing, “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”
This path, though straight and without rocks or roots or stumps, was treacherous. It looked like a path made by deer or pack-horses when the meadow was wet. Where we were walking, was three to six inches below the soil and grass. It was a narrow trench in places. The only way we could maneuver it was to put one foot in front of the other as if we were walking a balance beam. This slowed us down, but we didn’t mind the rest.
Still, without warning, I found myself resting in earnest on the ground. My feet got tangled in the trough and my knees buckled under me. I lay on the ground laughing my head off. I felt foolish, but all I could do was laugh. Soon all five of us were laughing. We sprawled out in the moonlight for a few minutes, prayed, rested, got up and went on.
Soon after, we caught up with the guys, but when we came to another sign for Bridal Veil Falls, despair hit. The sign was pointing back in the direction we just came from, except on the opposite side of a little creek. We could have saved ourselves a mile or more.
It was 11:30 P.M. and we’d started at 4:50.
We had to cross the creek without a flashlight, and trust the hand held out to grab us on the other side. I was grateful for Sam’s hand to steady me across the rocks. My past hiking and camping days were filled with memories of slips into the creek. It helped to have someone ahead to tell me where to step and support me across. Thank You, Lord.
By now poor Rachel was numb from the waist down. She rotated her body throwing one leg ahead of the other to get down the path. About three hundred yards past the creek, she sat down on a rock and refused to budge. We went a little further and we stopped.
Tired, discouraged, cold, hungry and without strength, we couldn’t go on. A couple of us went back to Rachel. I took her hands and Mia got behind her. We pushed and pulled her up the trail.
The pastor and Sam decided to go ahead and scout out the falls. “We’ll whistle when we get there,” they said. “And let you know that it is okay to follow.”
Jared chose to stay with us.
All joy, compassion, praise, and hope were gone. We felt lost and alone on top of this rocky plateau. There wasn’t any part of our bodies that didn’t hurt.
“It’s freezing. What on earth were we thinking? This is nuts.” The complaining and grumbling seemed to be the order of the hour as we waited and waited in the cold. No whistles, no shouts. We waited. Our light jackets were not keeping us warm. Emily missed one of the rocks when we crossed the creek, and stepped into the water. Her feet were wet and cold.
We decided to lay in spoon fashion to keep warm. Jared sat alone a few feet from us guarding. He too was cold and exhausted.
There on top of that Colorado mountain, intercession was birthed. We thought of the thousands of small groups around the world crying out for a shepherd. There were churches started by traveling ministers, only to be left to go it alone, when the minister went on with his purpose. We pulled into the Lord for them and for ourselves. Out loud and in our hearts prayers started to ascend for the faceless others in similar circumstances.
For God’s reasons alone, I felt the nudge to pray for Chinese Christians locked in cold dark prisons. I had a mental picture of some of them standing in knee deep water for days without a place to lie down. They had no one to spoon with to keep warm. And they were without hope of release when the sun rose in the morning. “Lord, send Your angels. Minister to them and set them free from their captors. Encourage them with Your presence,” I prayed.
Before the trip, God told me, “I am going to take you into the inner chamber.”
“What do You mean by inner chamber, Father?”
“The inner chamber of My heart,” He said. “I want to show you My heart for the nations.” As I lay there praying I knew He was fulfilling His word.
We continued to lay there in the dark and cold. I felt prompted to pray for Sam and the pastor. They’d been gone over an hour and we hadn’t heard anything from them. As I prayed aloud, the others joined in. We prayed for their safety and their soon return. In spite of the many times we felt abandoned by them on this trip, I believed they were trying to get us all to the falls. I hoped they were safe.
At times, we heard animals breaking through the brush. “What was that?” Mia whispered as she pressed closer to Emily. “We don’t have anything to defend ourselves,” she said.
Earlier that day, we saw reports in the paper of bears attacking people in this area. Her worries were not without reason.
The night drug on. It got colder and we heard thunder in the distance. What was I going to tell Mike about this trip? Being a seasoned hiker himself, I could only imagine. Would there ever be unity and support for each other in our marriage? “Just get me off this mountain,” my heart cried. “this whole thing has been such a farce. Am I following Jesus or some man’s idea of Jesus?” I didn’t know.
Cold, worried and frustrated, I wondered why my need to obey God, kept getting me into messes like this.
When Sam and the pastor got back, all us women were spent. “We did whistle for you,” said Sam. “We shouted and whistled. Didn’t you hear us?”
“No, we didn’t.” By now it was well after one in the morning. Anger, fear, and frustration were so thick, we could have cut it up and served it on luncheon plates.
Sam tried to get us together to pray and none of us would cooperate. “This is a hard crowd,” he said a bit perplexed.
With effort we rose our stiff bodies from the cold ground, gathered in a circle, and prayed. Or I should say, Sam prayed. After prayer, he said, “God, wants us to dance.”
“You’ve got to be kidding! What a joke,” my mind screamed. With stubbornness in full bloom, I forced myself to dance anyway. After all, he did say it was God’s idea.
The ground was rough and we couldn’t see where we were stepping. I’m sure God was chuckling. How ridiculous we must have looked. Was this a sacrifice of praise? Regardless, it broke the tension. Soon we were laughing. Warmth started to return to our frozen bodies and spirits as we came together again for prayer. This time we all prayed.
“Let’s stay put until morning, then we can all go to the falls together,” suggested the pastor.
We women looked at each other and in unison said, “No, we want off this mountain.” We voted to start back immediately. We’d had enough of trying to stay warm or sleep on the ground.
Together we headed back down the trail. Rather than return the way we came, we chose a flatter path. We walked in robotic fashion in our exhausted state. Soon we came to a sign that said four and a half miles to the trail head parking lot. The trail map showed a direct route up and over the mountain. We voted to stick with the path we were on and not attempt another steep climb.
Somewhere along this stretch Sam and Jared saw a large bear about twenty-five yards off the trail. They kept an eye on it but said nothing to us. We were oblivious to the danger and continued down the trail. We women were talking and making a lot of noise shouting back and forth. The animals were not about to attack such an odd bunch of noisy beings out there in the woods in the middle of the night. God gave His angels charge over us. I know we were keeping them busy.
Ahead of us was an odd assortment of brown-boarded buildings that appeared to be a group camp area. We hollered and tried to raise someone, but there was no response.
We continued on and the path became a wide cleared firebreak road through the forest. Then the ascent began again. We were struggling to keep moving. As one got tired and fell back, another would fall back and join them.
Emily saw Mia dropping back, so she waited for Mia to catch up. “Come on. Let me walk with you,” said Emily. “It can’t be that much further. We are going to get out of this together.” Mia agreed. Encouraging words and companionship kept us moving.
After some distance, the guys decided to go on ahead of us and see if they could find the car. They would come back and pick us up or find someone else to help us. We were going about ten paces, resting, ten paces, and resting. Sam offered to stay with us, but we told him to go on. “We’ll be fine. Just find the car,” we said.
The guys headed up the trail and we five women walked over to the side of the road and sat down in the ditch. It was so steep that our rears were in the bottom and our legs shot up at an angle to the road. Our backs rested on the embankment. There we sat, huddled together, too exhausted to go on.
The longer we sat there, the stiffer we got. I knew we needed to get up and keep moving or we’d never be able to crawl out on our own. So, I coaxed them out one by one. We helped pull each other out and started walking again. We took turns encouraging each other.
Further down the trail we saw a light. Whoops of joy echoed through the forest. We headed for the light only to discover it was for a stock barn, and the barn was empty.
“Why don’t we spend the rest of the night in here?” Rachel questioned.
“If we do, the guys won’t be able to find us,” I said. “Let’s keep moving.”
With resolute steps, we plodded away from the barn and up the hill. It took every ounce of determination to keep moving.
After a while, I could not coax myself or the others to proceed another foot. Again, we crawled over to the side of the road and huddled in the ditch. I knew it had to be nearing dawn. It was so black. The saying, “It is always darkest before the dawn,” was true after all. I’d never realized how true, until that moment.
We identified with the homeless thrown outside without warmth, food or shelter. Rachel cried out, “My kingdom for a cardboard box!” We all laughed and agreed that even a box would be a welcome sight.
Again, Rachel declared, “Life or death? I choose life!” Another round of laughter erupted.
Laying in that ditch with my head resting on a rock, I felt every shred of energy and self-will gone. I was grateful to be with these women. In spite of every trial put before us, we’d never been angry with each other. We each gave our all.
About dawn two forest ranger jeeps came down the road toward us. The pastor, Sam and Jared were passengers. They didn’t find the car, but they found help. We were grateful.
It’s been twenty-two years since that trip. Questions still go unanswered. It looks like a foolish trip. Yet, on that mountain I did discover new dimensions of God’s faithfulness. It was also a turning point for me in placing my entire trust on the Lord and not on man.
God gives us servants to follow. But He also expects us to listen for ourselves and choose His will regardless. This trip was a hard way to learn that lesson but it made an indelible mark, I’ve never forgotten.
~~ How About You? ~~
Have you ever made a decision, thinking it was God and later find yourself in a mess? While we believed He sent us to Colorado, we didn’t use wisdom when critical decisions needed to be made. Yet, God continued to be faithful to us.
Have you found in these kinds of circumstances that it is easy to blame others and their poor decisions, rather than taking responsibility? If you never missed it or blamed someone else, I’d love to talk to you. I don’t know of a child of God who hasn’t.
Psalm 36:5 says Your mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
He is faithful to forgive and enable us to go on. When we’ve missed it,let’s confess our sin to Him and remember, “The Lord is merciful and gracious, Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.” (Psalm 103:8) He loves to get us back on track, walking with Him.
And in Hebrews 10:22-23 Let’s run to Him knowing we are welcome and loved. “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”
Sometimes it takes a mountain trip to see clearly, but the evidence is always the same. What we see is Jesus, our forever True and Faithful Friend. No man or strength of our own compares. We need to be willing to seek His counsel, listen to Him only, and follow Him.