Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Spirituality - Our Plumber Angels - Lessons on the Mountain

On a clear November day my wife and I set out to explore real estate in the mountains east of Jackson, Wyoming. We dropped our youngest daughter, then fourteen, with our oldest daughter who was in college a few hours away. It was the Monday before Thanksgiving and we planned on returning Wednesday night to spend the holiday with our daughters.

In our rented SUV and a suitcase of clothes that reflected our Texas lifestyle, we headed out of Jackson and down to Pinedale. I had recently left my corporate job to strike out on my own. Since I traveled with my consulting, we thought we'd find a place to live that we liked, it would be the first home location we had chosen since getting married thirty years before.

At the time our spiritual lives were in some upheaval and we yearned for a new start. Our daughter had been raped, then attempted suicide and we were just finishing some lengthy counseling over the ordeal and were trying to get the train of our lives back on track.

Our first stop in Pinedale revealed a cute little town of a couple thousand nice, friendly people, with moose grazing on the outskirts of town. We looked at one house and when the folks told my wife they went shopping once a month in Salt Lake, some four hours away, that was the end of that. We had a quick lunch in Pinedale and didn't bother to tell our kids we had changed plans. Instead of heading further east and around the mountain back to Jackson we were heading south and west to Star Valley and the town of Afton.

As we headed south towards Rock Springs I could see from the map this was going to be a five hour drive down and around. I happened to see a road on the map about an hour south that headed west and over the mountain and dropped right down into Afton. It went right through the Bridger-Teton National Forest. It was a gorgeous fall day, so I ignored the two dotted map lines that was the outline of the road I'd picked, and we headed up the mountain. My wife immediately said, "I have a bad feeling about this."

Ignoring her feeling I plowed ahead. Three more times she would say, "Ed, I have a bad feeling about this." Four hours later, high in the mountains and deep in the forest we stopped at a 'T' in the road. Before us was two wooden Forest Service signs, with arrows pointing in opposite directions that read – Afton 50 miles – Pinedale 50 miles. While I didn't admit it at the time I knew we were in deep trouble, it was 4 p.m. and about to get dark.

Instead of doing what my wife strongly suggested I plowed ahead towards Afton and one hour later, on a steep incline, we were stuck in three feet of snow. We knew we weren't getting out anytime soon, much less that night. We had no cell phone, a few extra T-shirts, a Hershey bar, two diet sodas and a half tank of gas in our now buried SUV.

Dark surrounded us as my wife quietly wept next to me. We debated our next course of action as she humbled me in prayer. A former atheist turned Christian, I was still struggling with the spiritual side of my life since my daughters problems. I resorted to the macho, Marine Corp side. I was a Marine sniper for two-years in Vietnam and just looked on this as an adventure at first, an adrenaline rush, surely we'd get out of this.

The car was aimed up a small path heading to the top of the mountain. As I sat there in the black of night looking at the star filled sky, a plane went over. It was then it hit me, with my wife finally sleeping in the seat next to me, that we were in deep water and that I alone was not getting us out of this one. I had certainly been stupid enough to ignore my wife's admonitions and get us stuck though.

We would later learn that we were fifty-seven miles from Pinedale and nearly ten-thousand feet up in the forest. We endured the night, cold and lonely and decided to walk to safety at first light. We were in our early fifties and not in great shape. Our clothes were light leather jackets and sneakers for shows. We were not equipped for the walk we were about to endure.

During the night my wife led us in prayer often. It was sometime in the early morning hours when I humbled myself and cried out to my Lord and Savior. I cried out to Him as never before and after some time could feel the warmth of His Spirit wash over me. I knew that somehow we would be rescued.

At first light we were off, heading down the mountain, committing to each other we would somehow walk for twenty-four hours if necessary to see our children. We left the SUV at seven a.m. and it began to snow. We walked patiently, feeling amazingly good, and reached the wooden signs we'd seen the day before. The signs were seven miles from our vehicle. We'd made the trek in about two and a half hours – we knew we had help because we could not walk that fast on flat ground, let alone the snow that was increasing steadily.

We walked and prayed and walked and prayed and my wife grew weaker. I walked and prayed as I walked and the snow was getting deeper and coming down heavy. We stopped on one occasion to pray and it was two p.m. We'd been walking for seven long hours in the snow, the wind was picking up. As we started out again I noticed the light in my wife's eyes wasn't as bright and committed as it had been … I knew we could not make the night.

As I walked trudging in the heavy snow across a high plateau at around seven thousand feet, I prayed as I had never prayed before. I prayed Lord, we have done all that we can. My wife is struggling – we don't want to die. Lord please provide us a miracle and provide it now. By three p.m. the snow was blinding. As I walked, looking ahead I thought I saw a small speck in the snow. What could it be? I was sure it was a mirage. I didn't say anything.

We kept walking and soon a truck appeared. We waved excitedly as if they wouldn't se us, the only two people in miles. The two men inside looked like they were right off a Marlboro commercial. They were plumbers heading to close down a new log house they'd been working on all summer. The man on the passenger side rolled down his window and said, "I hope you two know you have someone walking with you out here today!" Indeed we did. He went on to explain they were supposed to be in and out by ten in the morning but were held up in town by an architect working on the house and the were running late.

We found out that the snow we were enduring was as they said up there the snow that shuts the mountain down. The elk had come down that night and now one would get up there until spring. We had walked seventeen miles when our Plumber Angels rescued us. The Lord had provided us with the miracle we asked for and saved us to see our children. He had rescued me from my own stubbornness and stupidity. He had taught me humility and that indeed He answers our prayers.

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