Earlier this summer, in late June, Nancy and I had the privilege and good fortune to be able to take an incredible vacation to one of God’s true wonderlands: Yellowstone National Park and The Grand Teton National Park. We had planned it for a long time, and the trip was off and on and then off and on again as our finances took various turns over the last couple of years. But, in the end, God blessed us with an opportunity to both escape the usual pressures of our careers and also enjoy some of the most spectacular scenery that He has created anywhere in the world.
We flew to Salt Lake City where we rented a car and then drove on up to the Wyoming. Staying inside the park, we journeyed each day to another part of the area; taking in as much of the variety as possible in the one week we had for the adventure. We explored the natural wonders of geysers, hot springs, mountain lakes, and beautiful green valleys. We watched trout spawning in a small stream. We watched the Bison roam, and the antelope play. Eagles, elk, owls, ground squirrels, and bear.
And we hiked.
Nearly every day, we took a good hike or two. One day was extra special because two of our good friends, Brian & Becky flew in and spent the day hiking with us in the Grand Teton National Park. We hiked out and around a couple of lakes, getting rained on, hailed on, and enjoying the overwhelming wonders of that mesmerizing mountain range.
However, we saved our best hike for our last day. We started off hiking along the rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone…with lots of other people around. Feeling good. Feeling safe. But eventually, we hiked far enough out that the crowds became scarce, and then we took a turn into the back country to make a large loop back to our vehicle. It was at that turn that it hit us.
The fearful eagerness.
You see, Yellowstone is truly wild. 90% of the people who visit that vast wilderness park do not range more than a half mile from the road. The animals truly own the place. And, some of those animals wouldn’t mind having you for a snack.
So, there we were…ready to make that turn that we knew would take us in to the truly wild country. We were so eager to see what was out there. To see what we could see. To see what 90% of the other visitors would never see. But, even with that bear spray strapped to my belt, there was a streak of anxiousness…fearfulness that wrapped around us like a rope. We had our doubts: Maybe we shouldn’t go on. It was just the two of us, instead of being in a group of at least three like the park service recommended. Perhaps it wouldn’t be safe, and we should just turn around and backtrack. We were eager, but fear was right there with us.
After talking it over for a few anxious minutes, we decided to go for it; to forge ahead with the adventure! Folks, I am so very happy that we did!
And, in reality it was the fear that made that hike just all that much more exciting and worthwhile!
But, that was early in the summer. Before Kent’s illness, and before Ebola became so real to us at Southeastern. Before we witnessed God using harsh, raw situations to touch people’s hearts. Before we saw Him use a terrible disease to change us, and change others. Before He used an illness in a young doctor and an obscure sermon given in his home church to reach into the hearts of thousands—famous and average, white collar and blue collar, young and old. Have no doubt about it! God is at work!
And, that makes me feel that same feeling that I felt on that trail in Yellowstone: fearfully eager. I'm eager to see what God is going to do next, but I'm a tad fearful of what that will mean. I’m not the first. Daniel at the edge of the lions’ den. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego at the door to the furnace. Esther in the hall of the king. Jesus in Gethsemane.
Each felt the fear. Each could have turned back. Each forged on ahead.
Make no mistake friends. The world is a royal mess right now, but God is up to something! I can feel it tingling up my spine and looping around my gut…that rope of fearful eagerness. I don’t know where this is going to take me. Or you. And I don’t know how much sacrifice will be required. Like Daniel, I don’t know in advance if the lion is going to devour or embrace. I don’t know in advance if the furnace is going to burn me or not. And, Jesus did die…as did Stephen, and James, and Peter, and Paul.
PS: I visited Alice Fay Brown in the hospital tonight, and she told me to say “hello” to everyone for her! So, I told her that I'd put it in the blog and make her famous. She told me to make sure I spelled her name correctly. (How'd I do, Alice?)