Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Listen to Your Mother!

Am I the only one who assumed that a mom’s job would progressively get easier as each child moved out of the house? It was so comforting to think that as the kids got old enough to live independently I wouldn’t have to worry about them anymore. I looked forward to the time when I was released from the day-to-day concerns of child raising, no longer fretting over the decisions they made or what time they got in at night.

What a lovely fantasy that turned out to be!

When my then 23-year-old son, Stewart, called me to inform me that he was going backpacking, I thought it was a wonderful idea. He had often hiked in Northern Washington where he lived, and the three day trip he had planned was to a gorgeous area of the Cascade Mountains. I encouraged him to go.

Until he told me he was going by himself! That bombshell was met with stony silence. Too many stories of those foolhardy enough to trek by themselves sprang to mind. Something as simple as a sprained ankle could have far-reaching consequences. I could picture Stewart hurt, bleeding, alone, and without a way to call for help. Nope, it was just a foolish thing to even consider.

I strongly urged Stewart to reconsider, but his decision was already made. He wanted the time to be alone with God and wrestle with some life issues he faced.

Burdened, I immediately called everyone I knew to ask them to pray. Relief came only as I prayed for him myself.

It turned out to be a good thing that so many people were praying.

On the second day of Stewart’s scheduled three-day trip there was a message on my answering machine: “Hi Mom. This is from your a-little-too-adventurous son. Just wanted you to know that I’m home, safe finally, and a little early. I’ll spare you the boring details of a very long story, but let’s just say that I’m very glad to be home.”

If not for the fact that Stewart was obviously alive to utter those words, I think my heart would have leapt right out of my chest. This is the story he told:

As is common in the Pacific Northwest, there was a constant rain falling as Stewart began the first leg of his trek. A few miles in he hit the first of two possible campsites. His heart told him to keep going to the next camp, six miles further in. His head told him that because of the rain it would be better to set up camp before dark. This time he listened to his head and quickly set up his tent close to a sleepy little stream, and crawled in for an early night.

During the night he woke up and realized that the sound of the brook was considerably louder over the sound of the rain than when he had gone to bed.

“Curious.” he thought, and promptly fell back to sleep.

When the first light of morning woke Stewart, he peeked outside his tent. The sight before him was alarming! Instead of the gently flowing stream he found an ominously swollen channel that was threatening to overflow its banks. The still-falling rain continued to fill the turbulent creek even further.

Stewart bolted from his tent, threw it and the rest of his gear into his backpack, and immediately started a quick double-time back to the trailhead. Rivulets of water began to wash across the trail. At first, they were shallow and reached only to the top of his waterproof boots, but the still-falling rain swelled the running water until it reached his knees. When he stepped into one of these currents and found himself in water up to his waist, he began to realize the full seriousness of his quandary.


The ground was already saturated, so all of the rain had nowhere to go but downhill, and often its path cut across the trail. Stewart had no other way out but to follow that same trail.

Fear dug in, and Stewart began to pray in time to his rapid breathing. When he stepped into yet another wash of water, it reached all the way up to his shoulders before the swiftness of it swept him completely off his feet!

“Mom,” he told me. ”I have never been so scared in my whole life! Just as the current took me, I reached up and grabbed hold of a small tree growing in the rock beside the trail. I hung onto it for dear life. I struggled to get my feet under me, and finally lunged out of the water. I realized in that moment that I could die at any time, and only God could help me.”

Thankfully, Stewart found his way back to the trailhead and his Bronco shortly thereafter. It took a while for his breathing to slow to normal, and even longer for his thoughts to settle down. That explained the adrenaline-laced message that I had picked up.

As moms do, I was hoping that Stewart had learned an important lesson from his hair-raising experience.

“Of course I did!” Stewart assured me. “I learned never to go backpacking in the rain!”

I’m pretty sure he was pulling my leg about that. Regardless, I learned some very important lessons from his ordeal.

First, when everyone is telling you that what you are planning to do is foolish and dangerous, you need to pay attention! God often uses the counsel of other believers to challenge us to rethink a foolish perspective. Stewart’s desire to be alone with God was commendable, but he would have been far better off to heed the wise counsel of those who love him. It would have saved him a great deal of trauma (Proverbs 12:15, 12:1).

Secondly, our unwise choices do affect those who care about us. We do not live in isolation. Good or bad, our decisions have consequences for others. Many people love Stewart, and if he had been swept away we would all have been left to grieve (Proverbs 14:12).

Lastly, we are incredibly blessed that God’s grace so often covers our lack of wisdom. We choose to do what seems right in our own eyes, yet He rescues us from our folly. In His rich mercy, He chose to keep Stewart safe. In the process, he taught both of us some valuable lessons (Proverbs 19:20).

So listen to your mother, and don’t go backpacking by yourself!

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. Psalm 15:22

Further reflection:

  1. Has there ever been a time when you refused to listen to wise counsel?
  2. Looking back, what do you wish you had done differently?

Father, You are wise, and Your plans for me are for good. I’m sorry for the times I rushed in, doing my own things my own way. Thank You for the gift of godly friends who offer wise counsel. Above all, thank You for Your abundant grace that so often covers my foolishness.

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