FRONT-PORCH GOSPEL: Headed to Yellowstone again, my friends
Welcome, all, to the “front porch.”
Well, my friends, we are doing it again.
By the time this column gets to you, my friend Todd Perrin and I will be deep in the wilderness of Yellowstone.
As I’ve prepared my mind, I went back to something I wrote in the aftermath of last year’s debacle, and I found this selection. It is appropriate for today, I think.
Someone, someday, will ask this question, I am sure: “As you and your friend walked out of that Yellowstone wilderness, what one lesson above all the others did you carry out with you?”
The lessons are many, and we have only just begun, but here is one such lesson: Whatever you do, and wherever you go, seek with all that is in you that rare peace, a peace that flows like a river stream.
That will be the lesson I will want to leave with my own children and grandchildren, perhaps above any.
The Lord provided us a deep look into such peace on our journey. But the peace He shared was more than an abstract idea. It goes far deeper, literally.
As you readers know (because many came along step by step as we have retraced the precarious moments from those six days), the most powerful symbol that emerged from that vast wilderness was the ever-flowing waters of the Snake River.
Ah, I can see the river, now in my mind, carving its signature into that wilderness to give a place of peace amidst all the unknowns pressing from every side. (Ah, can’t wait to see that again!)
That river took us to one of the greatest ironies of the journey: Peace came on the most confusing of mornings – the morning Wednesday, July 14 – when all doubt about being lost was lifted.
We were twenty miles deep into the wilderness, and there was no trail to be found, just an endless expanse of mysterious, unexplored forest. In the early dawning of that morning, we gathered our backpacks – leaving one backpack behind out of desperation – that we traveled east until we ran into a swamp-like area, then turned back west, having no other alternative. A half of a mile west took us back to the river that we had crossed the evening before.
And we stood there that morning on one of the many rocky islands that separated the river into separate tributaries, it was almost as if this were the beginning of our journey, not the fourth long, hard day. My friend Todd and I stood in that place, feeling as calm as the little prayer we shared before he went on ahead trying to find a trail, and hope.
It was crossing over into the river once again, with nowhere else to go, that we experienced the most peaceful hour of all.
To me, though the reasons are more complex than I can even realize, the best explanation I can give is that it is in just such a place that you realize that you are with God, in His presence, and none other. There is no other communication and no means of contact with anyone in this world.
“The only GPS we’ll have,” I told my good brother Charles Usery four days earlier at worship in Riverton, Wyoming, “will be with the Lord.”
I remember his reply well. In his humble, down-home way, he answered with a chuckle, “Well, that’s all you need.”
He had no way of knowing how prophetic those words were.
That morning, with the communication with the only One we had near to us, the Lord gave us that special peace. And He did not just stamp that peace on our minds in a mere fleeting thought – ah, that would have been glorious enough – but He gave us a symbol, flowing there at our feet, of its truth and power. He gave us the great river.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
I cannot help but marvel at the thought: As fervent prayers were ascending from loved ones and friends from more than a thousand miles away, the Lord was sending down on these two weary travelers His gift of peace.
It came on the wings of a dove.
It is hard to understand why the Lord does what He does, why He notes two wandering souls in a remote region of the earth, but He does.
And just to think: He was guarding not only those two lives down by that ancient river-side.
That would’ve been enough.
But he was guarding their hearts and minds, too.