FRONT-PORCH GOSPEL: LOST IN YELLOWSTONE (chapter 1)
Editor’s note: Today’s column is the beginning of a series covering the events surrounding Coach’s getting lost in Yellowstone the week of July 11.
“The journey begins.”
It is difficult to know where to start.
Perhaps I should introduce by saying that the days of the week will forever be defined by the seven days of that journey.
Last Tuesday (July 11), was the day Tod Perrin and I got lost deep in the remote part of Yellowstone, sleeping in a wet tent in a grassy field a foot or more high. I will tell you that story, Lord willing, further along. Wednesday was the best of times, the worst of times, as says Dickens. There’s a bear on Thursday, and an angel on Friday. Oh, the Monday before may have been the most grueling day of all.
Perhaps we should start by telling you of the characters who take a part – some big, some small, all significant – in this dramatic week: There’s Todd Perrin, Roy Deering, and Randy Butler, three brave, able men who dreamed this dream and saw it either unfold roughly or come tumbling down far too early.
These are good men, and I am honored to have started this journey with them, and I am regretful that two had to come out early, and I am thankful, even more, the other two came out of the wilderness safely late on the sixth day. The seventh day was a day of rest for the four hikers. It was a day of Thanksgiving, and the four, having played different roles and having endured different challenges, worshipped together in Westminister, Colorado on the final Sunday, July 18, two days after the journey ended, and, that – somewhat mercifully. The last song that day in Westminishter was, “Be with me Lord.” There may have been lumps in a few throats during that singing.
And I suppose a good place to start would be to tell you that each of these gentlemen had their own special dream tucked deep down in their souls – dreams that led them to begin that journey, some of which were profound, some infused with a pure simplicity.
To put this account into a nutshell, we can begin by pointing out that these real-life events affirm, yet again, the old platitude that truth is far stranger than fiction – and that when you roll all of these events into a ball they form a compelling story of disappointment, of brutal endurance, of faith, of a brotherly camaraderie, of a deep spiritual communion with the One who created that vast wilderness, of unique personalities walking side by side miles and miles (the distinctness, perhaps, giving the final two of the hikers a chance to emerge on Friday night), of a refreshing spiritual journey, and of a real encounter with a black bear. I never would have thought I would come face to face with a bear deep in the wilderness. But that is part of the story. I’ve always bragged, jokingly, that I sometimes go bear hunting with a switch. On Thursday, July 15, I didn’t even have a switch.
I mention that it is a spiritual journey. I could tell the story with a far greater degree of brevity were I not to look at the story as a microcosm of a life. On Aug. 4, I will be sixty-five years old, should the Lord choose to extend my walk to that day. If He does not, I will be satisfied as well. But I will be thankful, forever, that the Lord allowed the unique journey of July 11-17 to give me a sort of mirror for those decades that we walked here with you and with Him, though sometimes the walk was far more a stumbling than a walk.
Oh, my friends, now more than ever I can say, “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”
I learned a great deal about walking and not fainting July 11-16.
I am honored to share all we learned, all we endured in those days. If you are reading this, you are our friend, for you’re sharing more than a story of a few hikers. You are sharing life. It is not my story alone, but yours equally. Thank you joining life’s amazing hike together.
May God bless you.
P.S. If you offered just one prayer during those six days, I know four hikers who owe you much. Or if you now offer a prayer of thankfulness, thank you.
Lost in Yellowstone continues next week