Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. Isaiah 40:4
There were a few mistakes that gradually lead up to one of the worst walks I’ve ever taken my dogs on. It ended up as more of a death march for the pups but that was never my intention. It was about 70 degrees on a Saturday morning when I decided to take my dogs for a run/walk. The decision was early in the morning but when I actually got around to doing it, it was noon and the temperature was around 90 degrees. In my excitement to exercise with my dogs I didn’t notice how hot it was when I left the house. There is a trail nearby and a while back I had mapped out how far a mile was so I set out to jog a mile and then walk back, total trip would have been about 1.5 miles in a loop. I came to a crossing in the trail where I should have gone right, could have gone left and did go straight. Not noticing the heat was my first mistake. Going straight was my second mistake. Going straight makes the trip about a 3 mile loop. I made it to the mile marker jogging the whole way and I was hot and the dogs were burning. Dogs don’t sweat and they keep a high body temperature to begin with, running outside with them in the summer isn’t recommended. I started to walk in the direction that would have taken me home if I was on the right trail, but I was on the other trail. They both kind of curve to the south and look similar, again another mistake. Right around 1.2 miles into my trip I realized my mistakes. Looking at the dogs and how tired they were I figured water and resting would be good. I could walk home, or I could walk half a mile to a small park, use the water fountain there, rest, get their bodies back to a normal temperature and then go home. On to the park it was. I reached the park shortly after and we sat down in the shade, but as I looked around where I expected a fountain to be I only saw a tree. Another mistake. The path lead up a hill where I could take the dogs home, nearly as far as I had taken them already but shadier, or there was another park further down the road that I was positive had water. Also it was getting closer to when my wife got off work and I could have her pick us up. I decided I’d call her and she could pick us up, then I noticed I didn’t have my cell phone. I knew the park was a little closer than home from where I was so I decided to go to the park.
The dogs were tired, we stopped about every half block on the way to the park. I carried Addie for the majority of the trip, but holding her hot little body against my sweaty chest seemed to keep her as warm as when I let her walk. I was still on a trail but came near to some houses and thought about turning on someones hose and spraying the dogs and letting them drink the water. I was a few steps away from a spigot before someone came outside and stared at the weird sweaty guy standing strangely close to their neighbors house. I tried to act cool and continued walking towards the park. I remember a small voice in my heart telling me, I’ll never take you to a place where I can’t keep you safe. I was telling my dogs roughly the same thing. I kept telling my dogs that it was right up ahead, a place with water and a place we could relax.
We finally made it to the next park. I knew this park much better, I had played football there when I was younger and even a month or two before had gone there with some friends to hit softballs. I knew exactly where the water fountain was. When I got to it there was no water fountain. I looked around some more, no water. It happened that some county park workers were there and I asked them if there was a water fountain. Both of them thought there was one. I asked them where. Turns out they were wrong too but it didn’t solve the problem that I had two dogs that were about to pass out. I asked them if I could borrow a phone. I called my wife and she came and rescued all three of us.
The day I had the terrible run was a rough time in life. When I got home I remember God impressing in me that the way I knew there was a sanctuary up ahead, that I wouldn’t let my dogs fall apart in the little wilderness we were in was the same way he felt for me. God doesn’t make mistakes, so if you’re overheated in the middle of a ravine with no water in July you can bet that God is trying to teach you something and He knows there’s a park ahead that does have water.
There will always be valleys that exist between summits and there will always be dry places that contrast lush terrain. Lead me to the still waters and oases in between.