Saturday, December 10, 2016

#LIGHTtheWORLD: Trust Your Guide on the Treacherous Trail


Three years ago for Christmas, our family went on an adventure to the Dominican Republic where our son had served his mission for our church.  It was an amazing, forever life-changing trip.  We saw such beautiful people and breath-taking scenery, ate such delicious food I never wanted to come home, and swam in a turquoise sea.  One of the things we did was ride horses to see a waterfall.   We needed horses and guides to take us on the treacherous trail.  The waterfall was nestled deep in the forested jungle at the end of a dangerous trail that crossed a river twice and was covered in clay and giant, slippery rocks.

It was a beautiful, sunny, Caribbean morning.  The humidity was 100% and the heat was 85 degrees.    We left the hotel and hired a little broken-down taxi to take us to where the horses were.  After seeing the horses and meeting the guides, we paid our pesos and were ready to go.  I was a little concerned because the horses were skinny, without any shoes, and only blankets tied on with ropes instead of saddles.  Our guides were small, sweet, Dominican men with big, happy smiles.  They chose the horses for each of us and who would be our guides.  Soon we were each on our horses, ready for the trail.



At first the trail was just a steady, even slope.  Quickly the terrain changed and the trail was very steep, with large and smooth stones covered in wet clay.  It was very slippery.  I was feeling terribly guilty that we were on these horses while the little guides were trudging through the slippery mud and on the clay-covered stones.  They just smiled and gently followed the horses, whistling once in a while, or swatting the horses on the backside with a bundle of grass.

We crossed the river and the horses stopped to take a long drink.  It was pleasant and cool there in the river, but soon it was time to make the ascent back up the slippery trail.  In some places the trail was almost a vertical slope, it was so steep.  Large, jagged rocks covered with sticky clay looked like a disaster to me.  The horses lunged forward to keep our weight properly balanced.  They knew the trail and exactly where to hug the edges, where to gather speed to gain momentum, and where to take it slowly and carefully.  The guides were not leading the horses.  The horses were in front with the guides behind.  The guides were simply encouraging the horses in a loving way with kissing sounds and swats on the behind with their plumes of grass.  The horses just needed the positive encouragement to get up the rough and rocky mountain.

We finally reached what appeared to be our destination, only to have the guides show us the waterfall, still off in the distance.  We were told the horses could go no further and we would have to hike the rest of the way.  When we saw the trail before us, a straight decline of very steep and muddy rocks, I started to wonder how this was going to happen.  The guides said they would go the rest of the way with us, to help us on the dangerous trail.  We were not accustomed to it, but they seemed to glide over the danger with ease.

My little guide (named Papa) was in tune with me needing some extra help.  We had been staying on the coast where the heat was not as intense and there was a steady ocean breeze, but here in the mountains, it was intensely hot with nauseating humidity.  My heart was truly pounding like it was going to jump out of my chest.  Papa held my hand the whole way down the trail.  He moved things out of my way and pointed to the safer places to put my feet.  Papa was an old man with ragged clothes, but he smiled bigger than I have ever seen and kept calling me Senorita.


We reached the waterfall at the bottom of the slope and spent some time there wading in the pools beneath it.  It was truly beautiful.  A prettier picture than I have ever seen in National Geographic.  Even the pictures we took do not do it justice.  Our guides held our shoes for us while we went wading and rested.  They knew we needed our strength to get back up the mountain.  Soon we finished our picture taking and swimming and knew it was time to start the climb.  It was hard for me, but my family was patient as I needed to stop many times to catch my breath.  John was concerned and tried to help me, but he was new to the territory and needed his own guide for help.  Papa kept stopping and forcing me to rest.  He waved leaves over me to help cool me off.  I told him in my very limited Spanish that I had a heart condition and he immediately took even more care to help me rest and wait.  Finally, we made it back to the horses and had to start the journey back the way we had come, over the slippery, steep mountains.

It was an exhilarating experience to be so close to danger.  It was both terrifying and exciting to know that if any one of us fell off our horse, we would probably be killed.  We were in a third-world country, tucked away deeply in the jungle, and hours away from Santo Domingo and any hospital.  Even though I am prone to be anxious, I never worried while on that horse.  I trusted him and I trusted Papa.  They both knew the way.  I wasn't anxious for my family because I trusted their horses and their guides.  I also trusted God.   I felt deep humility in that place, with our new friends, surrounded by the Lord's creations.  They had made me feel safe.


A lot people have helped me to walk at different times in my life.  My parents helped me when I was a baby learning to walk.  A kind land-lady helped me to the hospital when I fell and broke my arm. Whenever I've been in the hospital to have a baby or surgery, the nurses have helped me to walk.  Last year I had two hip surgeries, 3 months apart, and I needed a lot of help to walk with crutches and therapy to get well.  And no, they were not hip replacements--I'm too young for that actually.  It was reconstructive surgery for defective joints.  Worse than hip replacements.  I've had trouble with a heart problem that causes me to lose consciousness and I need help to get up and to a chair.  I've had kind strangers help me to my car when I wasn't feeling well in a public place.  Just a few days ago, my sweet husband came to my aid and helped me walk to the car to go home from church.  I'm so grateful for all the kind people in my life and that I've met through trial and hardship that have helped me to walk---both literally and figuratively.  

The One who helps me walk the most is Jesus Christ.  It is comforting to know that He knows the trails I've walked and the paths I'm walking now.  He knows about all my struggles.  He is kind to me and doesn't judge me because of any physical limitations.  Jesus gives me strength to walk the road as a Christian wife and mother in this increasingly unkind and judgmental world.  He's proud of me when I accomplish anything with eternal merit.  He's cheering me on and wants me to make it.  Like little Papa, he never leaves my side and won't, until my journey here is through.  He will see me to the end of the trail, the glorious waterfall and epic vistas.  He will carry me when I can't walk and provides the sure-footed horse for me to ride upon over the rocky and slippery slopes.  He knows the way because He has already been there before.

The most important part of this is that Jesus will never, ever drag me up or down the trail.  He will never force me to my destination.  It is up to me to choose Him.  If I accept the horse God has blessed me with, which is His perfect Plan of Salvation, and I trust the Guide behind the horse, I am destined to reach my goal safely and soundly.  If I reject the horse and the guide, I am sure to fail.  And it's not a race.  That day in the D.R., sometimes one person and their horse and guide were in front of the others and sometimes they were in the back.  We all need a little more help at times.  It only matters that we're on the right trail of making correct choices and honoring our covenants, keeping our promises we made to God and Christ before we were even born.

Little Papa helped me reach the waterfall safely.  It was a taxing and exciting journey, but we made it. Together.  And my husband and children made it, too.  We were all there together.  God cannot force us to Heaven and we can't force our families.  We can only love and honor God and His Perfect Son, keep our promises to them, and keep on working our way to them.  We have the best guide, a perfect guide.  Jesus Christ.  He won't let us fail, IF we choose Him and His gospel.  

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