So yesterday Building429 had a day off in Albuquerque, NM. My wife and I are kind of on a rampage trying to find cool and out of the way things to do for our family, so sitting around a shopping area was out of the question. Not to mention that my wife is a full on Cross Fit girl and wants to get exercise any time she possible can… which generally means that like it or not, we’re gonna do something outdoorsy. The first three days of our tour with the Newsboys had been full of adventure (the bus broke down and we had to go on a wild goose chase to try to make the shows) so we had our minds set that we were going to make our off day count. What ended up happening was scary, fun, exciting, and in the end, filled with God’s presence.
Cortni had heard about this tram that you could ride to the top of the Sandia Mountain… and we really wanted to make it happen. 2nd longest lift in the world up to an elevation of about 10,000 feet seemed cool enough to us. We brought our winter clothes because we figure it would be cold at the top of the mountain, but we had no idea how cold. 16 degrees without counting the windchill coming off of 30-40mph wind gusts….. so it was literally below zero when the wind blew. When we were on the way up the tram the lady who was pointing out spectacular scenery all around us drew our attention to a tiny rock cabin at the very top of the mountain that had been built for the workers when they were building the attractions so that wouldn’t have to be flown by helicopter down from the mountain every day after work. She went on to say it was a 1 hour hike each way, and that seemed like something cool to consider, until we stepped out of the tram at the top. The wind was flying around us and it felt like we might get blown off the mountain at any second. The cool thing about the tram ride is that is leads you to ski slopes and a restaurant, so we figured agh, lets get some food at least for lunch and then head back down.
We sat down to eat a lunch and Cortni said …. “let’s try to make it to the cabin”. Now mind you there is frozen snow everywhere… not the kind you would ski on, no, the kind that you avoid skiing on cause it’s like concrete…. and I was about to argue, when I figured we’ll just try a little bit of it and see how it goes. So we finished our lunch bundled the kids up and headed out into the freezing temperatures to find the cabin.
All was well at first….. the kids found walking sticks and we were avoiding all of the shaded ares where the snow was frozen on the tiny little path, but after about 1/4 a mile it became apparent that this wasn’t going to be easy. There was a tiny little path with a HUGE incline covered by frozen snow…. (remember we’re literally walking the edge of the peak of a mountain). I found my way up it and turned around to instruct my son and daughter what to do to get to the top….. and looked at Cortni like “are we really trying to do this with OUR kids“?? She looked at me as if to say “WE’RE MAKING MEMORIES, SO LET’S GO” and I decided to push on.
Hazards were everywhere, and of course my son being the boy that he is, began doing what every boy does when its 0 degrees on the side of a mountain with dangerous cliffs and inclines all around….. goofing off. He decided he was on his own adventure and didn’t really want to listen to me at all. I get it… I was the same kid, but man it was frustrating. He’d jump right in the middle of an ice patch and slide for fun, he’d throw his walking stick like a spear and then have to climb up a small ridge to get it. As dad I was constantly calling out to him, “don’t do that, focus on walking the path, THAT’S ICE, YOU’RE GONNA FALL“, but it didn’t matter… he was having his fun. Of course he was lolly gagging and it was slowing us WAY down… and the trail wasn’t marked very well so it was taking longer than I wanted it to, after all it was below freezing up there. We finally made our way to the final ascent and then came the complaints… “dad how much longer, I can’t breathe, I’m tired” to which my response was of course, “if you’d stop jacking around and walk we’d already be there“. Man do I sound like a parent huh? HAHA.
Regardless of all that, we made it to the top of our Everest…. I can’t tell you what an accomplishment it was, because there were some crazy intense climbs on that path, through ice. We got to the top and we were all so excited about the view, but the wind was unbelievable and so it was time to make a quick descent. Before we left I pointed out the Restaurant now a thousand feet below us and what seemed like forever away down the ridge line… and the kids both grumbled because they knew how hard getting back was going to be.
The descent started out fine, everything was going well but of course Avery, being Avery, decided he would make it a bit more of an adventure by jumping from boulder to boulder, and seeing how far he could jump between the patches of ice. He would try to slide down inclines for fun….. and I was the ever present dad “No, Avery stop it…. you’re gonna get hurt… please…….” and then it happened.
He jumped from a snow drift down to the path and when he landed, and time slowed down as Cortni and I watched both of his feet fly straight up in the air…. the first thing to hit the ice was the back of his head. Cortni and I gasped, and I jumped down as fast as I could to grab him in case he lost control. He had his huge coat on and both eyes closed and I jumped down onto the path and threw my arms around him. Any parent knows that your first job when you’re children get hurt is to talk them out of believing that it’s bad and so I started whispering urgently into his ear: “You’re ok son, you’re fine, I know it hurts, don’t worry…. I’m right here…. Don’t worry I’m right here….. you’re safe… daddy’s got you…. son listen to me, I’ve got you….. I’VE GOT YOU…. YOU’RE OK…. I’VE GOT YOU.”
There we were on the top side of a 1 hour climb at 10,000 feet in freezing temperature with my son laying in the middle of an ice path. As a father everything goes through your mind…. Concussion, no I’ve fallen like that before… maybe he’s ok, I guess I’m going to carry him down… what about those steep inclines… I barely made it up by myself… Lord let him be ok. After a few minutes of sitting on ice he had calmed down enough to move so I carried him over to a fallen tree and sat him down and looked him over. He was fine… no concussion, and that’s when I got serious. “Son, we’ve got a long way to go and I’m going to get you down this mountain…. but it’s time for you to stop jacking around and DO EXACTLY WHAT I SAY…. DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?” Through his little water eyes he whispered, “Yes Sir” and we gathered up ourselves. Cortni and Haven, now sure that Avery wasn’t in fact going to die, gathered themselves and we started back down the mountain. But this time it was different. Avery was holding my hand. In fact he wouldn’t let go… at all. That’s when I realized what an amazing teaching moment God had given me…. so I jumped in.
I said “Avery, do you know that God has rules too? You know that the bible has rules that we’re supposed to follow… just like the rules that daddy had on this path. Some people don’t like the rules, they want to do whatever pleases them, but there are some very dangerous things out there that most people just don’t see. For instance…. you never thought that you might get hurt did you??” Avery’s shaky voice mumbled “No Sir“. “Did you know, son, that the reason I kept telling you to hurry up and stay close is because there are bears out here“? Avery looked up as though what I did shook him a bit. “That’s right son, you might’ve missed the signs, but they said stay together, do not feed the bears, avoid them if possible. I wanted you close so I could keep you safe. God is just like that son, the rules are not to take away our fun, they are to keep us safe.”
Like any child would, Avery had few questions…”Dad if God wants us to keep the rules why doesn’t he just make us keep the rules… he’s God right?” “Avery“, I whispered, “Why are you holding my hand?? Because I’m making you or because you want to?” He said, “I want to daddy.” “And God wants you to want to hold his hand too. Do you think you’re daddy wanted you to fall like you did???” “No” ” When you fell where was you’re daddy, son?” I could hear his answer through his tears as he though about what I had done when he fell….
“You ran and held me close”…..
“That’s right son, and that’s what God does every time we fall. Love isn’t love if it’s just because you have to… you wouldn’t be enjoying holding my hand if I made you hold it, but because you want to hold my hand I AM SO HAPPY. Just like God is. ”
Avery’s little heart was so soft as he was holding back his tears. That’s when he did something I never expected…. he confessed. “Daddy, I did something really bad a long time ago and I need to tell you about it” “Ok son, go ahead” ” One time, when I was at a friends house I said that I thought Satan was C… C… COO….”
He was full on crying when he let it out….” I SAID I THOUGHT SATAN WAS COOOOOOL DADDY…. I feel so bad… I didn’t know better I promise” My heart broke for him because he felt so bad, so I stopped him in his tracks and looked into his eyes….. “Son, I LOVE YOU SO MUCH… I’m so proud of you… and do you know what’s so awesome…… The Holy Spirit is alive in you!!! It tells us to confess our sins and that we will be saved, and do you know what else…. the bible says if you will confess your sins that God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.” Then I pointed out to the right and asked him to look out over the valley to east… we could literally see 100 miles to the next mountain range…. then I pointed out to the west, over Albuquerque toward Arizona… another 100 miles to the next range….. and said “The bible says that He casts our sins as far away as the east is from the west” Avery looked up at me with astonishment in his eyes and said…..“That’s a looooooong way”. My reply??? “So forget it… it’s over. I love you so much son…. So does God….” and with that we finally made it back to the tram station.
This morning I woke up and my beautiful wife told me to check out the reading for the day….. day 4 of the tour leads us to Proverbs 4… and so I did:
“Listen my sons to a father’s instructions
pay attention and gain understanding.
I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching.
When I was a boy in my fathers’s house, still tender,
and an only child of my mother,
he taught me and said, “Lay hold of my words
with all your heart; keep my commands and
you will live.
Get wisdom, get understanding;
do not forget my words or swerve from them.
Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you;
love her, and she will watch over you.
Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom.
Though it cost all you have
Esteem her, and she will exalt you;
embrace her, and she will honor you.
She will set a garland of grace on your head
and present you with a crown of splendor.
Listen, my son, accept what I say,
and the years of your life will be many.
I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you
along straight paths.
When you walk, your steps will not
be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble….”
God loves you… he wants you to want him… and he wants you safe in his arms. Sometimes the only way for us to run into his arms is calamity. Does he want us to fall???? Heck NO…… but God always makes something beautiful out of something that hurts. I dare say that if we lived by his “rules” we’d make it to the top of many an amazing mountain safely, but that is not the way we as humans learn. We learn by failure… and God loves us so much that He’s willing to let us do what we want…. He’s willing to let us fall…. and let us HATE Him for letting us fall… if it means there’s even the slightest chance that we will run into His arms freely. He’s willing to allow this because love isn’t love its forced…. If Avery doesn’t want to hold my hand…. I don’t want him to hold my hand….. But man it was so AWESOME when my 9 year old son decided he wanted me. And so God waits for you…. waiting for the day when you’ll want to hold His hand, talk with Him, walk with Him, and find out how much He really does desperately love YOU.