Lost In The Woods And Dark Is Coming...
I have always enjoyed being outdoors and in the woods. Some of my favorite childhood memories are of the times that my father would take me bird hunting in the fall. We would walk all over the great outdoors with our bird dog Brit, a small, Brittany Spaniel that had a great nose and beautiful point. As I got older, and my schedule became crowded with friends and sports, I found myself spending less time in the woods. I told myself that, "someday I'll get back out there". Time has a tricky way of advancing though. Some seasons seem to drag on without end in sight, and then all of the sudden, you look up and 20 years has passed in what feels like a blink. One day I woke up and I was 26 years old, getting married and moving to Michigan....life had advanced quickly.
When I moved to the upper peninsula 13 years ago I learned that my idea of "the great outdoors", was lacking. I'll never forget the first time my wife took my kayaking on Bass lake, the water was so clear ( to be fair my comparison was the Ohio River, but still) and lake Superior had me laughing at the notion of what we called "lakes" near my hometown. My wife, Stacy, also loves the outdoors and we would make frequent trips to various natural playgrounds all within a short drive of our home. My wife's family also introduced me to another yooper treasure that was foreign to me....Family Camps. I don't remember anyone from my hometown having a "camp". Sure, people had campers where I grew up , but not some rustic (or not so rustic depending on who you are) shack in the woods reserved for a few hallowed weeks in November. I was very excited to experience this place that was so special to Stacy, a small family camp in Hardwood, Michigan that held so many memories for her and her family. The first time she took me to Maple Grove I fell in love and immediately understood why it was so special, I had found my way back to the woods. Ever since that first trip to "The Grove", as we affectionately call it, we have made it a point to return as much as possible. When we were first married we dreamed about introducing our kids to the wonders of creation under the canopy of the tall Maples. My father-in-law and I would dream about where the kids would sleep, and hunt, during future deer seasons in the years to come.
Fast forward to November, 2019.
I now have 3 sons that greatly enjoy going out to camp. They love adventure and have imaginations that put mine to shame. They also love to spend time with me on what we call "man" days. We had been planning our next man day to be out at Maple Grove hunting grouse. We packed up the car with
snacks and all the blaze orange we could find and headed out to camp. This particular Sunday we arrived at camp later than we were hoping, and were left with about 2 hours of daylight to work with so we rushed into the woods as fast we could. We were very excited to get into our little slice of paradise and start our adventure.
I have spent a lot of time in the woods that surround Maple Grove over the past 13 years exploring, hunting and adventuring. I try to make it a point to bring my cell phone and a compass when we hit the woods as the 120 acres that make up Maple Grove have gotten more than 1 person lost through the years. We were about 300 yards from camp when I realized that I had forgotten both of those tools back at camp. I looked back and could still see the small, red shack and thought I should probably turn around and go back to get them, but the clock was ticking and I felt confident about my ability to get around camp without them. I knew these woods, no worries. We decided to carry on and not go back, a choice I would soon regret.
A friend of mine and I had been grouse hunting the past several weeks with his bird dog out at the Grove. We had explored parts of camp that I hadn't seen before and had even found a few new places with birds. I really wanted my boys to experience a flushed grouse ( they sound like a little helicopter taking off), so I took the boys on a little venture off of the normal trail and into the new section we had discovered. In no time at all, nothing looked familiar to me, I really regretted not going back for that dumb compass.
I tried to play it cool, calm and collected in front of the boys, but with every step, they were starting to catch on that something wasn't right. I looked for a familiar tree or trail. Nothing. We were turned around in the woods and dark was closing in fast. My boys were beginning to get scared with each turn around and back track our little team made. The idea of having these little guys in the woods...at dark...lost... had me a little on edge also. Our man day was quickly becoming less fun for all of us.
We stopped in the middle of a little clearing where an old deer stand was still keeping watch over the local wildlife, at this point my boys were in full blown panic (tears and all). I asked them if they would like to stop, pray and ask God to help us find our way home, they did, and we prayed. We walked another 100 yards and found an unfamiliar trail, but a trail none the less. With any luck it just might be a trail that lead to somewhere familiar.
We walked that trail until we came to a very welcoming sight, the neighbors camp. The crazy part about coming up to this camp was that it was in the complete opposite direction that I thought we were going in.
I was humbled.
My pride adjusted.
Relief and gratitude showed up too.
The overall attitude of our little group quickly changed when we came up to the lane that leads to Maple Grove, we had found our way and the good times feeling was restored.
When we got back to camp, we made a fire and played some games, being lost only a few minutes earlier was now being replaced with other thoughts. We began to think about the cool story we now had to tell to the boys grandfather ( I wasn't looking forward as much to telling the story to their mother). I asked the boys what we learned from our little adventure. Reed, my middle son, reminded me of something that I say to them often...
"It's o.k. to make mistakes but it's not o.k. not to learn from them" and dad, "you shouldn't have left your phone and the compass at camp and you took too long to pray, you should have done that sooner". - Reed Harrison
Kids say the darnedest things.
I have thought about that day quite a bit over the past couple of weeks . I thought about how confident I had been into those woods at the start of our journey. In my hurry, and pride, I had left behind the very tools that could have kept me and my children out of that mess, and even worse it would have only taken a walk of about 300 yards, 10 minutes tops, and would have made a big difference. I wonder, even as I write this, how many times I have made those same mistakes in my life in other areas. Arrogance, foolishness, pride, rush, self-reliance...the list goes on and on. But I am also reminded that God sees all of that, and yet, loves me still. He doesn't love some future, cleaned up version of me. He loves this me. He keeps chasing me, molding me, teaching me. His patience and grace are hard to understand.
God reminded me that day to slow down, " haste makes waste" as the old saying goes. He reminds me that it is ok to admit you make mistakes, and that I must always be aware of my pride. Pride and Arrogance are liars. He also used that moment to remind me that He is always there - especially when we are lost. He is there even when we think we can do life without Him. He is there even when we take far longer than we should to reach out to Him.
Do you ever have those kind of moments where you find yourself lost in the woods ?
Have you ever felt hurried by life and rush into making a decision you regret because you think you know enough? We live in a world where the line between the familiar and unfamiliar is hard to define. We are prone to make mistakes. I think it's the most human part of all of us, and I am thankful for these teaching moments in life. Our failures are also great reminders of how much we need help that is outside of ourselves, we need a savior.
The good news of Jesus is that He came looking for all of us that are lost, not to condemn us, but to save us ( John 3 : 17 - 18). The good news of Jesus is that He doesn't wait for us to clean ourselves up, wondering if we are wort searching for, He just searches. He searches because He loves and that is what love does. There is a reason it is called good news, we just need to remember that we are all in need of it.
I don't know if my boys will be eager to get back out to the woods anytime soon ,but I know I will remind them of this adventure and the lessons God revealed to us that day. I'm also making a mental note to go back, get the compass, grab the cell phone and remember to stop and pray -
sooner rather than later.