Monday, November 17, 2014

The Story of the Walking Stick

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a situation that happens so quickly that you don’t have time to think? Auto-pilot kicks in and it’s as if you’re watching yourself instead of being in the moment?  Clarity comes on the other side of the situation as you look back and see God at work on your behalf, even when you didn’t know you needed it.

On a gray, fall afternoon we decided to take the girls to a local wooded park and do some nature walking.   As is our usual routine, we took the walkie talkies and broke up into two teams to see who could spot the most wildlife.   The walkie talkies are used to tell the other team when a red headed woodpecker or white tail deer is spotted.

This particular Sunday Olivia and I were a team.   We’d taken a trail that we’d never been on, and it led us far into the woods in the opposite direction of Tom and Lindsey.  About 30 or so minutes into our walk we spotted a lean-to, so I cautiously studied the underbrush and surrounding area.  After I determined all was clear, and that the lean-to was most likely left over from last year, we proceeded. 

Another 10 minutes of walking and Olivia and I both stopped and stared at a freshly cut walking stick leaning against one of the trees along the pathway.   It was approximately 5 foot in length, 2 inches in diameter, still green with all of the little extra branches trimmed right down to the base.   Suddenly I was on alert, and again I stopped and took inventory of the surroundings, listening for the slightest rustle of leaves or foot steps, but there was nothing.

Olivia radioed back to her sister and told her about the walking stick.  Lindsey excitedly said “Bring it back to base camp so I can see it!”  Olivia snatched it up and we went on for another 100 feet or so, and then, for whatever reason, Olivia turned an handed me the stick.  We rounded a bend in the path and were about to begin the climb back up towards the ridgeline.

Suddenly, I saw movement at the top of the pathway.   A late 40-ish couple stepped into view at the crest of the hill.  Instinctively, I said “Stop” and Olivia froze in her tracks.   The man saw us, and so did his dogs, as he scrambled to grab the three leashes off the ground.   His scramble was partially successful, as he brought two dogs to an abrupt halt but there was no stopping the large black lab, who was already at a dead run.

The huge, snarling dog rushed down the hill, and Olivia let out a panicked scream.  In one movement, I  grabbed her by the shoulder, and shoved her to safety behind me.   Instinctively I stepped into the path of the charging dog.   The walkie talkie starts to blare “What’s happening?  What’s wrong?  TALK TO ME!”, as my husband hears the screams and snarls echoing through the forest. 

A surreal scene unfolded as the dog came charging; my newly found walking stick connecting firmly with his jawline, sending him reeling.   The owner all the while running down the hill,  towards the fray, shouting, “He doesn’t bite!”

I don’t have time to argue the point, as the dog again lunges at us, snarling and snapping.  Again my walking stick fends off the attack; slowing the dog enough to give the owner time to grab him by the collar in a way that evoked as much pain as the blows of the stick.

The man is now struggling to drag all three dogs away from us.  The wife is standing frozen in panic at the top of the hill and the walkie talkie is still blaring.   About 20 feet away, the man stops, and pulls a muzzle out of his pocket and starts shoving it onto the raging dog, still insisting, “He doesn’t bite.”

Now, I’d like to say that at this point I was nice, but I wasn’t.  I did not use any profanity, but I was not nice.   The wife has now regained her senses and takes offense at the fact I’ve said something like, “YOU IDIOTS, DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ALMOST CAUSED TO HAPPEN HERE?”, and takes this time to lip off to me. (Lady, don’t make me beat you with this stick, because I will).

Anywhoooo, ahem.   I tell Olivia to answer her father and tell him we’re ok as we put some distance between us and the couple and their dogs.    They move off, and I realize they are heading towards Tom and Lindsey, so I radio back and warn him, giving him time to get her to safety.

The entire event took probably less than 90 seconds, but it seemed like a lifetime in slow motion.   As we climbed up the ridge and into the clearing I began to think of the walking stick I still carried in my hand.   Where had it come from?  Who had placed it by the tree?  How long had it been waiting for us?   Why did Olivia hand it to me when she did?

Had we not picked up that  stick, or had Olivia dropped it in panic at the sight of the charging dog, we would have been defenseless.  Some people would say it’s coincidence.   I don’t believe in coincidence.

I do believe that God worked on our behalf.  I don’t know how He got the stick where it needed to be, and when it needed to be there.   But I know that my God is mighty to save! 

Did He warn me before that time?  Probably so, as there were several times I wondered if we should head back instead of pressing ahead.  Then again, had the couple and their dogs come from behind, and without having yet found the stick….it could have ended differently.

The walking stick now stands just inside our front doorway.   A reminder of God’s provision, and protection…even when we don’t realize we’re in trouble.

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