Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Crossing Repentance Creek
“Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
I can’t begin to tell you how dangerous creek crossings can be in the backcountry in the beginning of April. The risk of hypothermia is great if you fall into a creek, stream, or river. In the fall, winter, or early spring it is very difficult to dry out your gear if it gets wet. The cold doesn’t help either. If you cannot get dry because all of your clothes and your sleeping bag are wet from a plunge in the river, you can find yourself in grave danger.
We were backpacking in the Shenandoah’s backcountry in April on a trail called Jeremy’s Run. This trail crosses Jeremy’s Run Creek upwards of 17 or so times. Getting your feet wet is unavoidable, especially in the spring thaw. The river was flooded on our expedition and new creeks, that are normally not there, were gushing from the mountainside contributing to the flow and the amount of crossings. The instructions were clear, “Unbuckle your backpack belts and safely, cautiously, and slowly cross the creek at a shallow, calm, and clear crossing. Do not try to attempt to keep your feet from getting wet by rock hopping or crossing logs, because you might just fall completely in, just cross at the trail.”
Earlier in the trip we had an incident where one of our group members had taken a fall into Jeremy’s Run Creek. Luckily he had packed his gear correctly. His sleeping bag was at the top of his pack and all of his clothes were in water resistant bags, so he was able to get dry and warm and the incident was not life threatening. This incident caused us all to cross the creek more carefully and our level of respect for the day's challenge grew. We adjusted our vigilance and no further incident occurred that day.
On our last stretch the next day it was the group’s turn to lead us out of the backcountry to our next expedition and the rock climbing portion of our trip. They were to lead themselves out without the leaders help and make their own decisions based on what they had learned. We had safely, all but the one incident, crossed all the creek crossings, except for about five, on Jeremy’s Run. The group began their leading without the help of the trip leader. At the fist creek crossing of their day everything fell apart. Two people in the group crossed the run safely, one of which was the gentleman who fell in the day before. The other two, who were “the more experienced,” we will call them Jamal and Danny to protect the guilty, attempted to trail-blaze up the creek and cross over on some rocks and some debris. They almost fell in several times, still ended up wet, and barely kept their packs out of the water. The risks were great: sprained ankles, hypothermia, if they fell in, and they could have gotten separated from the group by going their own way, not to mention they were contributing to erosion by going off trail by the stream, and were breaking the rules by not following the instructions.
These two guys were attempting to keep their feet dry on the last stretch of trail. They put themselves and the whole group at risk. It also took about 25 minutes to accomplish this chaos, it should have only taken about 5 minutes, and this put us way behind schedule. It wasn’t just at the first crossing that they attempted this. They tried it at the second crossing of the day as well, even after a debriefing about how what they had done was dangerous and unwise. Jamal and Danny were not repentant.
Repentance would have been the two gentlemen learning from their mistakes, and the mistake of their teammate earlier, the young man who fell in the day before. This gentleman had learned from what had happened and crossed extra cautiously after his incident. He followed the instructions. This is what repentance is. It is turning from your old way of doing things and not doing them again. It is learning from your mistakes and obeying. Repentance is going the right way and resisting going your own way. The Strong’s Concordance defines repentance this way: “to change one’s mind, i.e. to repent. Repentance is to change one’s mind for the better, to heartily amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins (or wrong doing).” Repentance is when a person knows that they have done the wrong thing and they can see clearly to turn and do the right thing.
This repentance is what God desires of us all. None of us are free from sin and wrong doing. We are all guilty and need to turn from going our own way in life. For some of us it is small things, for others, it is something major. Jesus did not come for the perfect. He came for the sinner and He calls the sinner to repentance. This is all of us. Jesus says this best in this story from Matthew 9:10-13: “Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.””
May we cross over to the other side of the creek of repentance successfully by His Grace.
Turning from my own selfish ways to Jesus, by His grace, mercy, and power,
Strong, James: The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible : Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order. electronic ed. Ontario : Woodside Bible Fellowship., 1996, S. G3340
The New King James Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1982, S. Mt 9:10-13
The New King James Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1982, S. Lk 13:2-5