Sabbath Swamp Adventures


Don't worry, I'm still planning to write Belize Blessings Part II! Hopefully I'll get it up this week :)

Sabbath afternoon. It was a little over an hour before sunset, and I was itching to spend at least a little bit of time in God’s natural cathedral before the day ended. I drove down to the Eno River behind my new abode, and happened upon a place I’d never seen before - a waterfowl impoundment area. It looked like a promising place to walk, so I parked my car in the empty field off the edge of the road, and headed off. 

There was a slightly raised grassy berm that stretched to the left and to the right, apparently encircling a large section of forest that was partially flooded to provide habitat for waterbirds to overwinter. I began following the wide pathway on the left, figuring that it probably made a big loop and would bring me back around to the other side of the field where I had parked. I tried once to follow a faint path into the middle forested area, but it quickly turned into water, so I decided to stick with the safe, (but slightly more boring) cleared area on top of the berm.

It was a lovely walk. The nearly horizontal sunlight cast everything in a golden glow, and there was a constant chirping and fluttering and squawking from the flooded forest to my right. I examined the discharge pipe that the Corps of Engineers presumably used to drain the wetland, tried my hand at imitating bird calls, scared some deer families, and generally had a lovely walk.

Sure enough, the pathway I was following curved around and appeared to be leading me back to where I had started. After about a mile and a half, when I estimated that I was at the top of the circle, directly opposite from my car (12:00 on a clock), the path split, with one fork heading more directly through the center of the circle to the right, and the other continuing on in the direction I’d been heading. Because the sun was getting close to the horizon, and because I’m always game for a more interesting trail option, I decided to take the apparent shortcut.

After a few hundred yards, puddles started appearing in the trail. They were easily avoided, so I kept going. A little farther, and the trail became more water than ground. Again, I was up for a challenge, so I kept going. Finally it became obvious that sticking to the trail wasn’t going to work if I wanted to stay dry. I considered turning back and rejoining the outer loop pathway, but I could see that the forest to the left was fairly dry, so I decided to save time by striking through the woods to my left, and hopefully rejoining the outer path (at around 4:00 on a clock). This worked well, and I proceeded until I got to a power line cut going perpendicular to the direction I was going. Because it was headed in basically the direction I needed to go to return to my car, I turned right and started following it. 

I was enjoying the birds and the sunlight on the cattails, when I noticed that my footsteps were beginning to be accompanied by squelching sounds. I looked around and realized that once more, the ground was beginning to give way to water. I really didn’t want to turn around now, especially because I could see the road I had driven in on crossing the cut about a half mile ahead. I knew my car was relatively close, and it now about sunset. Besides, along the edge of the cut there were some trimmed trees on which I could walk and stay above the encroaching water. So I kept going.

A few hundred feet farther, after slipping once or twice, I realized that I wasn’t going to make it back with dry feet. Again I considered my options. In the forest on my right, the water was approaching a foot in depth, and it was only getting deeper. To my left, towards the center of the power line cut, the healthy cattails were evidence of even more water. Straight ahead the water appeared to be slightly shallower. And the road was even closer now. Or I could turn around and retrace my steps. But I’d already come so far. And my feet were already a little wet. And I hate turning around when I’ve been trying an alternate route - it feels like admitting defeat. So I decided to keep going. I would just have to dry my shoes and socks back home.

Brr! The water was freezing! I kept slogging along, trying to jump from grass clump to semi-submerged tree trunk without exposing any more of my body to the water than I had to. Finally the trees cleared up on my right, and I looked out over a decent sized expanse of open water! The slightly shallower line that I had been trying to thread my way along ended at the edge of this pond, which also stretched partway into the cut. Again I thought briefly about turning around, but it was too late—I was too committed. 

By now my main goal was to try to avoid swimming back to my car! I decided to try to wade over toward the cattails in the middle of the cut. Holding my cellphone and wallet up in the air, I struck out across the open water. The chilly muck quickly rose above my calves, over my knees, and headed toward my waist. Finally I made it to the cattails, and just beyond them, to my surprise, was the long-lost berm path! I squished sheepishly along it back to my car, admiring the lovely lake on my right, and pondering the implications of my little adventure.

How often do I end up wading through a spiritual swamp because of my stubbornness? How often do I get myself into a difficult situation, and refuse to retreat because of my pride? And how often does Jesus have a dry path waiting, even in the midst of the mire, if I am willing to humble myself and seek His guidance?

If the path you’ve chosen seems to be leading you into deeper and deeper into trouble, consider the possibility that you’re on the wrong road, that Jesus has something much better to offer. Don’t let your sunk costs keep you from heeding godly counsel and turning around. You might just end up stuck in a swamp!