A few weeks ago, the staff of The Donelson Fellowship planned our annual retreat at our family home in Roan Mountain. Our mountainside is full of springs, and my father’s hobby was to locate and tend these springs. He would find marshy spots on the side of the mountain and dynamite back to the springhead. Then he’d build a simple cistern around it with a sort of faucet or aperture, to which he connected black plastic pipe. He unspooled miles of black plastic pipe crisscrossing the mountain to the reservoir above the house. That was our water supply. When I’m hiking now in the mountain, I almost always find strands of his black plastic pipe.
Well, at our retreat, I took a rigorous hike up the side of the mountain and decided to take a short cut coming down. I got myself into a laurel thicket so dense I could hardly make my way through it. It covered about an acre, and I got so tangled up in the laurel I wondered if I could get out of it. I was crawling on my stomach and climbing over branches like a child in a jungle gym. One of the basic rules in life is never let the laurel stop you, so I kept going. But then I spied a tree fallen over the thicket, and it made a bridge. I thought to myself, if I can just get on that log I can tightrope over the difficulty. I was halfway across the log, which was wet and moss-covered and slippery, and, of course, my feet flew out from under me. I fell backward about five feet, hitting my back in the one spot where no laurel broke my fall.
I hit the ground with a thud, and it stunned me a little. My first thought was that no one would ever find me in the middle of that ticket; my second thought was that a bear might; and my third thought was my cell phone wasn’t working. But I felt my bones and realized I wasn’t hurt, just stunned, and I pulled myself up to my feet and looked around trying to get my bearings. I was disoriented. And then I looked down and there right by my feet was one of my dad’s black plastic pipes, one he had laid many years ago, one that I could follow down the mountain, one that would lead to the reservoir just above our house. And I followed the pipe home.
Here’s the morale of the story: Maybe you’ve had a terrible fall. Maybe you’ve made a mistake. Maybe you’ve fallen into a sin. It’s knocked the wind out of you. But the Lord Jesus Christ died to provide all the forgiveness you need. If you’ve had a terrible fall, pick yourself up and look around. You’ll find the Heavenly Father has a pipeline of grace running right by your footsteps. And if you’ll follow His grace, He will lead you home.
(PS – The beautiful oil painting at the top of this blog hangs over my desk at home. The artist is my friend Ken Simmelink of Elizabethton, Tennessee).