“We sure know how to have fun!”
It was another brilliantly crafted moment of sarcasm from one of the Gray boys that will be recounted anytime hiking lore is on the agenda.
Moments earlier the only thing that could be heard was the whipping wind, the constant patter of rain, and the chattering of teeth as the four of us huddled together in a three-man tent. The tent had been thrown together as quickly as possible on an incline that caused about two inches of ice cold water to pool on one side of the tent – right where my sleeping bag lay.
We had taken a beautiful two-day hike into the Wind River Range, WY and spent one day relaxing, recuperating, and fishing a crystal clear mountain lake. However, my dad, my two older brothers and I crawled out of our tents the next morning to discover a deceitful fog had settled into the valley and a cold drizzle through the night had soaked the landscape and all of our gear. The overcast sky broadcast its intentions for the day. We had a choice to make at this point. We could hike back the same way we came in or stick with our original plan to hike up and over Flat Top Mountain. Somebody said, “I think we can hike ABOVE the weather” (I won’t tell you who it was but, his initials are D.A.D.). Probably not one of the smartest things one of us ever said.
So, up we went. Lizard head Trail across Flat Top Mountain ascends to about 11,200 feet. This particular mountain got its name because the top of it is … flat. In fact, it’s flat for so long that when you hike across it you can forget you are on top of a mountain. The temperatures dropped to the low thirties. Because we were above the tree line the gusts of wind had no obstacles to hinder them from cutting into our faces. Down-pouring freezing rain and sleet were our faithful companions the entire day. The four of us exchanged our usual chatter for silence as we trudged along the trail.
Seven hours later I don’t know if I was in a determined zone or a hypothermic daze. My head was pointed downward to avoid the sting of the sleet as I watched my feet slosh through the water covered trail. I was feeling extremely sleepy and forcing my eyes to stay open as I marched along. Suddenly I felt someone tug on my jacket, pulling me behind a huge boulder. The others had decided we had gone far enough. We quickly set up a tent to shield us from the never-ending storm. My hands were so cold that they felt like nubs at the ends of my arms. No matter how hard I tried I could not move my fingers and I couldn’t pull off my gear. Despite his own soaked clothes, cold and pain my oldest brother saw my predicament and stepped over to help. He had to peel my jacket off for me as I stood there a little like a frozen mannequin. I was surprised by my own spontaneous, uncontrollable tears that began to flow down my face. Prior to that moment I didn’t realize how bad our situation was.
For the next sixteen hours we huddled together in that small tent attempting to get warm and escape the mountain’s antics. It was then that my brother uttered those now famous words, “We sure know how to have fun!”
It was also in this moment that I realized the power of these words:
“It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. If one falls down, the other helps.
Two in a bed warm each other. Alone, you shiver all night.
By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped” (Eccl. 4:9-12 Msg).
I like being independent. Usually, I try to handle things on my own. I don’t like being told what to do and I especially don’t like admitting that I need help. When I walk into church on Sunday, or in the office through the week, I want people to think that I have everything under control and that I am always cool, calm and collected.
I want to be someone my kids can look up to, someone they respect, someone they can count on when they are in need, and someone they can go to for guidance. Even my sweet wife, though she knows me better than anyone else – I want her to think I am a strong man who knows the answers and always knows the best decisions to make.
Independence. Men tend to idolize independence. Strong, independent, lone-ranger types garner our attention. We are drawn to the ones who beat all the odds and rise to the top; the sole vigilante against the world of injustice; the singular superhero. It’s the guys who don’t seem to need anyone else, who have the drive, perseverance and tenacity to push through regardless of the obstacles that we admire. We eat up the stories of people like Steve Jobs, Muhammad Ali, and Warren Buffet. We love movies with characters like Rocky Balboa, Pale Rider, or Superman. Not only do we love those stories – we want to be that guy!
I didn’t realize how much trouble I was in that day. I would have continued on that path headed for disaster if my brother had not stopped me. I was determined to keep on marching down the trail regardless. I was in a zone. The problem with the man who doesn’t think he needs anyone else is he usually doesn’t know when he’s headed for trouble. God knows that without the companionship, strength, and encouragement of others we will be defeated. My Dad said, “Looking back I’m glad we had that experience together. It makes you a stronger person.”
God never intended for us to go through this life alone. He never intended for us to face the hardships, difficulties and circumstances of life by ourselves. When God saw Adam alone was the first time in the history of the universe that He declared something was “not good.”
To ask for help, advice, or even an opinion is in a small way an admission of weakness. Weakness is the last thing I want to be associated with. But, this is exactly the position God wants to bring us to. It’s only when we get real and admit our weakness that God can really show off. It is in recognition of our weaknesses that we understand our desperate dependence on God. Our deficiencies prove our need for the other members of the body of Christ.
The good news is that God already knows you don’t have it all together. He declares, “My strength is made perfect in weakness!” When you recognize this truth, there can only be one conclusion: “So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me” (2 Cor 12:9 NLT).