A rough and rocky road
PLYMOUTH – It was a really cold winter morning in the Glass Mountains of West Texas. This small range of barren outcroppings was located just to the north of the Big Bend National Park with one rancher owning a good portion of this entire mountain range.
The foreman of that ranch was a member of our church and had on many occasions invited me to go out with him on one of his trapping excursions as he tried to capture renegade mountain lions. About three quarters of the livestock on this ranch consisted of sheep, and as you may know, sheep are one of the main listings on the menu for mountain lions.
For a lion to take one or two sheep a week from flocks that consist of thousands is not a serious problem for ranchers and is considered acceptable losses, but one particular lion was doing far more than taking an occasional meal here and there. This lion was a mother of at least two young adolescent cubs that she was teaching how to hunt and kill prey. Her prey of choice just happened to be mutton a la rare.
It was not unusual for this lioness to kill more than 100 sheep per night and not consume any of them. She would sneak into a herd at night as they slept and begin taking them down one by one while her children observed and learned. As one might imagine, an entire flock could be decimated in a very short period of time.
The destructive habit of this lion had caused my friend, Robert, to set out on a trapping run to try to capture the lion so that it might be sedated and transported to another location where there was no livestock. He asked me to go with him, so we saddled up our trusty steeds and headed up the mountain.
My ride of choice was a mule, but he preferred his favorite horse from the stables. I didn’t ride in the rough terrain of the mountains very often, and I wanted a mount that was sure-footed and stable. My beast was not pretty, but it sure was steady.
At times on our way up we would have to cross some very steep valleys, and then climb up almost vertical slopes. On more than one occasion I was laying all the way back on my mule with my head resting on its rump, my feet pointing past its ears and holding on for dear life. The mule just took it in stride and deftly descended and ascended the rocky terrain with ease.
Robert knew where the den of the lion was located, and most of its haunts. The lion had made its home in the very top of a mountain range in a secluded spot. It was a long hard ride, and the weather was deteriorating by the minute. A cold North wind was blowing, and the clouds had begun to shed a few flakes of snow.
When we got to the area where a trap had been set, we found that the lion had been there, but had escaped. Our arduous trek had seemingly been for naught. As Robert reset the trap and placed more bait, I decided to ride over to the edge of the cliffs and take in the view from the top. As I approached the edge and began to peer over the side, my eyes widened with amazement and wonder.
Never in my life had I seen such a beautiful sight. There I was at what seemed to be the top of the world looking down at an ever-expanding valley that stretched for hundreds of miles. It was cold and nasty on top of the mountain, but down below it was beautiful.
Herds of cattle and sheep splattered and speckled the landscape like so many drops of ink from an artist’s pen. A small creek snaked its way across the canyon floor with small pools of water periodically finding a resting place along its course. What a beautiful place.
The way I had traveled to attain this perspective was rough and rocky. My intended purpose and goals were never really met, but I found a visual treasure that has been one of my most prized memories.
Could it be the way you are going is rough and rocky? Could it be that your purposes and plans have all been dashed on the hard places of life? Has your present destination brought only disappointment and grief?
Just as Wayne Watson, one of my favorite songwriters and singers of decades past has so insightfully said, “sometimes the rough and rocky road will lead you to a beautiful place.” I want to encourage you today in this wonderful journey we call Christianity. Many times, our plans and purposes can be completely different from what the Father has for us. Remember, He sees what we cannot and knows well what we truly need.
If you are frustrated with the way things are “not working out” or are disappointed with the place your chosen path has taken you, never forget that He is in control. He knows you well and His plans for you. Trust Him. Rest in His sovereign care. Let the peace that passes beyond your understanding have control of your heart and emotions. Be patient and wait. To be in the middle of the will of God is a beautiful place.
Proverbs 16:9 – "A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps."
Proverbs 19:21 – "There are many plans in a man’s heart, Nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand."
Romans 8:28 – "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Patterson is Executive Director/Treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Elected unanimously in May of 2015, Patterson formerly served for 9 years as pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. He also served as trustee chair and national mobilizer for the North American Mission Board.