Wander in the Woods.

                When I was about five or maybe six years old, my family went on a camping vacation in a national park. The campsite was very interesting to me. I was particularly impressed with the long and large culvert that spanned the road above as sort of a magical tunnel.

                Beyond the culvert, there was a parking lot with several rows of cars and it was connected to the campsite area only by the culvert. Our family had a pickup truck parked in the lot and a camper trailer parked at the campsite.

                My three older brothers decided we should all go for a hike to explore the park, but with our mom and dad remaining at the campsite. So, I, being 5 years younger than my nearest in age brother, took up the tail end of the hike, trying hard to keep up. Sooner rather than later I became tired of the hike.

                My protests calling us to take it a little bit easier and give me a chance to rest were unheeded. So, not surprisingly for those who know me, I decided to take my own rest and return the way we came. The trek through the woods in the opposite direction from my brother’s path didn’t seem all that difficult.

                There were trails to follow and even the occasional sign, though at age five I was unable to read the signs. It was already late in the day when I came upon a parking lot. Soon to be back with Mom and Dad in time for supper, I thought, not knowing whether or when my brothers turned back or even if they had noticed I was no longer with them.

                The trouble was it was the wrong parking lot.

                There was no family pickup, no culvert and no parents cooking dinner. What was I to do? Well, I wasn’t going to give up so easily, so I climbed an embankment to get a good look around. Spanning the horizon, I noticed in the distance another campsite. Could this be our campsite… the one with the culvert? Well, I was getting hungry, so I determined to make a beeline directly to the camp I’d spotted.

                But I forgot about an important thing: the sun was setting. It wasn’t about to go dark immediately, so I could make it, I said to myself. Well, you already know what happened. Very soon I was lost in a forest and in the darkness. Like nearly everyone who gets lost in the forest, I found myself going in circles. Perhaps I didn’t know I was going in circles until I was told I was later.

                But it was clear I was by myself in the forest when apparently the whole campground was searching the woods for a trace of the missing six- year old.

                My mom must have had many scenarios going through her head. Could he have been snatched? Could there be a bear? Or is he just lost out there in the dark forest?

                Then I remembered what my dad, the boy scout, had told me and all my brothers. He said if you ever get lost and it’s a dark night, let the stars guide, well one star in particular – the North Star.

                My dad had said that the North Star always maintained a position that was due north, so it could be followed. This prevented one from walking in circles even if the destination was not north. Thankfully, my dad had also shown me how to find the North Star (it had to do with the stars of the Big and Little Dippers, as I recall).
                I followed the North Star and soon found a dirt road, so I followed that until I was picked up by park rangers and returned to my family–still just in time for dinner.  I understand also that my brothers were severely disciplined by our dad.

                My thoughts and Views.

Now in retrospect, I am not sure the angles of the stars and the north indications of the North Star would actually have been of that much help to me in the small space of the forest where I had gone missing. I also don’t remember being afraid, and I wasn’t missing very long—not long enough to be famous like that girl that fell into a well or even when Tom Sawyer got lost in the cave.

                But does it matter? I believe God refreshed my memory about the North Star with the result that I believed I was being guided by the star and, so believing, I walked in a straight line until I met the road. It didn’t need to be complicated. God wasn’t done with me yet.