Chapter 15: Lost in Yellowstone

Published 10:30 am Saturday, October 9, 2021

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This Thursday morning would be one I will never forget. Soon after Todd got up and around, I made the trek down to the Snake River to wash my face, brush my teeth, and re-fill our water bottles. The river was so beautiful that morning, its water flowing swiftly and churning over the rocks at a small waterfall a few feet downstream.

By this time, we did not worry about walking out into the water early in the morning, as our feet and shoes were going to be wet all day anyway. Todd had asked me to wash out the empty food bags at the river when I went down, so I did that while he did his own work at the camp. One of the water bottles got away in the swift current, and I almost had to dive in to get it. That was something we could not lose. I was glad I did not have to take a swim to retrieve it.

After I had finished my little chores, I paused there on the rocky river island and looked out over the flowing water of the Snake River as the sun was barely getting its head above the trees on the surrounding mountains. It was one of the most peaceful, serene scenes of our trip.

I mentioned that it is hard to know how the mind works. I stood out on the edge of that flowing river that morning, even as we had stood on the edge of so many dangers – seen and unseen – over four full days; and the world seemed to fall down on me. I do not remember ever having a moment quite as that one before.

The realization that the Lord had gone before us and behind us, he had sent his angelic guardians to surround us every tired, weary step of the way, he had directed any of the dangerous wild creatures – bear and moose alike, and others, no doubt – from invading wherever our feet would trod or our exhausted bodies would lie down to rest; he had orchestrated every move, every element of this most unexpected and unparalleled journey; and he even had preserved these muscles from injury, knowing just one injury would have jeopardized our lives even more than before.

And, now, looking out in the coolness of another morning, absorbing all the blessings that the river seemed to represent and provide, I felt overwhelmed. I had to show the Lord my thanksgiving and deep devotion, if, somehow, I could.

I stood there, out of the earshot of Todd or any other human – but not of the angels watching about us, or around us, I know, nor of our ever-watchful God who holds us in his unchanging hand, nor of our blessed Lord whose grace sustains us through every storm and down every trail, nor of that Spirit of Promise who would intercede even then at this sweetest and most precious hour of prayer – and I attempted to sing that song that always goes with me:

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder … I tried to get the words out, but they faltered in the emotion of those moments. I could only stumble over them, my voice shaking at each word … consider all the world thy hands have made …” … a pause, to gather myself, and to take in more of the peaceful flow of that morning river, and to soak in God’s greatness as that marvel rolled along and churned at my feet … I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, thy pow’r throughout the universe displayed … I came to that resounding chorus, taking my time, for the world seemed to have stopped at that moment, pausing along with us to give the Lord this moment of honor and praise … Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to thee … Oh, I scarce could take it all in, and the words failed to capture the heart’s praise … How great Thou art, how great Thou art … I managed to get those words out, more meaningful than before, then gathered myself to repeat that grand declaration once but needing to do so a thousand times, and a thousand times a thousand. I managed the final words … Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee, how great Thou art, how great Thou art.

With a few more deep breaths to gather in the grandeur of God’s presence deep within the soul as much as I could do, I washed my face once more in that cold, pristine water. I wondered if I could stay and never lose that moment. But life has its demands, so I left my river and made my way back up, reluctantly, to my unsuspecting friend for us to continue our journey. We had miles to go before we sleep. I had, at that time, no idea of the miles and of the wonder that lay in the trail ahead.

I thought of something else as another day’s traveling began, and my good friend took his place faithfully some distance ahead as usual: I had come to that lovely river that morning, its roar still making its presence known behind us, just as we had come to it over and over in our traveling and searching. But it was a different river that morning, far different than it had ever been. No man comes to the same river twice, my friend Roy had said, what seems now months ago. He was right. It was so different that morning, different than I had ever known it.

And so was I.