What made us think that we should take the path that was “penciled in” on our map is beyond me, but we did.  And it was beautiful.  Really.beautiful.  Like open meadows with wild buffalo and ponds beautiful.  And paper trunked birch trees so thick it took your breath away, like something out of a painting.  Beautiful.  Breath.taking.beautiful.

Beautiful, that is, until we started to notice that the path was a bit untraveled.  And then, we had to drive over a tree that had fallen onto the path.  (Yes, one would think that was a warning sign for us, but no…) I began thinking “what happens if we get lost in the woods?”

I quietly double checked the “drawn in” trail, yep, we were heading the right direction.  It appears if we just go up this really steep hill that has what might or might not be a path, then we will be at our connection.  So, up we go.  Over and through things that a family of 5 on a four wheeler should not attempt to go over.  And the beauty is fading and it’s starting to seem darker, cloudier, almost scary.  It’s about now that I realize, we’re lost. (yes, this photo shows where we were – it really looked a bit more like a trail when you were on it!)

We are in the middle of the hills, cell phones DO NOT WORK here, and we are lost.  With our three littles.  Our only option is to creep back down the very steep hill we just crawled up, which seemed more than terrifying to me.  (At one point I did threaten that we would get off and walk down and let Tom go over all that again… but then I remembered we’re in uncharted territory here – rattle snakes were the first thing that came to mind… OK, maybe we’ll stay on for just a bit!)  To say it was a white knuckle trip down is an understatement.  Pretty sure I held my breath the entire way!  “what if we go this way?”  So we turn again.  We’re  back to beauty, but still lost.  And clouds are coming.  As we pull over to try to make sense of it, God whispers this to me…”what did you do the last time you couldn’t find your way?”  I knew at once that he was talking about me losing my car in an airport parking ramp after spending a week praying for human trafficking at the super bowl.  And I knew he was telling me we needed to pray.

So right there, lost in the woods, our little family bowed our heads and I simply said, God, we’re lost, but you know right where we are and right where we need to go.  We trust you to guide us and get us home safely.  (or something real close to that!)  I had barely said amen, and Tom was turning us around, when my sweet quiet Caleb says, maybe we should go back to that sign back there, I think it said 3c.  I was quick to point out that all I saw was a sign that said “no atv’s” so that couldn’t be the right spot.  But then, what did we have to lose (we were already lost right?) so we headed in that direction.  Sure enough, that was the direction to head.  As we turned onto that trail Caleb is nearly in tears..  Mom, we can’t go here, it says not ATV’s.  How do you tell your child that we are breaking the rules because we are lost in the woods and have no idea where else to go and not freak them out?  VERY carefully!

It wasn’t until we hit a main trail and were in familiar territory that I began to be overwhelmed with emotion.  As we drove down that dusty road tears streamed from behind my sunglasses down my face.  We were going to be ok.  All of the thoughts of what could have gone horribly wrong replayed in my head, and I was so grateful that God captured me in the moment and reminded me to seek him.

In all your ways acknowledge him,

and HE will make your paths straight – Proverbs 3:5-6

I knew this.  I have learned this time and time again.  I speak about this.  No matter what, seek Jesus.  And when I was lost in the woods… well, I lost my bearings.  I let the enemy scare me into a place I didn’t want to be.  I let my mind process through how will we find help and what will we do?

And God, in his goodness reminded me to practice what I preach.  Oh how very human I am!

As we drove those last miles down the familiar dusty trails, here’s what I kept thinking.  I wonder how many other times I have been lost in the woods and didn’t call on God.  I wonder what wrong turns I could have avoided had I just talked to him first?  Why is it that in our free will, we so quickly forget and go it alone?  Why do we wait until we are lost and desperate to cry out to Him?  

How about you?  What are your tendencies when you are “lost in the woods?”

It has given me new perspective on the parable of the lost sheep.

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.- Luke 15:3

I was and am that sinner that tries to go my own way and then repents.  Lord help me to not stray… help me to stay on your path.  And thank you, thank you Jesus for coming after me when I am straying (figuratively and literally!)  Amen!