A few years back, my family enjoyed a wonderful vacation in the Oregon dunes. In addition to relaxing on the beautiful, beach-like sand dunes, we also had opportunity to find excitement on them when we took part in a giant dune buggy tour of the dunes area. As we raced up one side of the dunes and down the other, our guide pointed out the beauty of the area around us, how expansive the dunes area was, and how popular a vacation spot was his own back yard.
It certainly was a popular spot! As we made our way around in our giant buggy (a converted school bus) all around us, smaller four-wheeled vehicles zipped around. Young and old, guys and girls… people were just out having a great time in God’s county, enjoying His creation. And it was good. I think everyone on our buggy was wide-eyed with big-toothed smiles that morning. Our driver (I’ll call him Chuck), who was in his early seventies, had a rapier-wit and an abundance of charm, and showed more caution with his big rig than did all the handlers of the mighty mites around us. While others sped around at breakneck speeds, we sort of coasted over the dunes. At one point we crested and then dove down the face of a giant, sloping dune… and then we saw her.
At first, it looked as though she was only just experiencing a little trouble with her four-runner. But as we got closer, we realized that she was in trouble, and not her vehicle. Drawing nearer, we could hear the high pitched screams that indicated fear, panic and distress. Our mood abruptly changed as our driver accelerated toward her, slowing down at the last possible second as myself and a fellow passenger jumped off of the giant buggy to run to her aid.
After coming over the top of a seemingly innocent dune, she had begun to accelerate to make the next crest when the bottom dropped out from underneath her and her vehicle landed on top of her. When we found her, her ATV lay upright on all four wheels with the rear tire pinning her at her right knee. After we pulled the machine off of her and told her not to move, she stopped screaming and began groaning from the pain of a fractured ankle.
Just moments later, her husband, who appeared to be an experienced four-wheel enthusiast, arrived on the scene, leaping off of his four-runner to come to his wife’s aid. Requesting everyone there not to touch her or move her, he then pulled her helmet off in a hurried fashion (yikes!) and commenced to yell at her for her stupidity in not recognizing the danger of the dunes (double yikes!).
As she apologized for what she did to the four-runner and to his vacation, our tour driver offered to call for an ambulance and tried to offer other assistance. The rest of us just stood there watching the exchange. My heart went out to this woman. I am fairly certain that her intentions were not to find herself in the predicament she was in. She just wanted to have an enjoyable time…. you know, fun.
I could see in Chuck’s eyes that this exchange was causing him to think as well. After we emergency personnel arrived, we continued with our tour. Chuck was more silent for the next section of the tour, no longer conversing with us passengers. I wondered what he was thinking. I did not have to wait too long.
Our next stop was a “plain” of smaller dunes, which we overlooked from the back side. From this vantage point, the terrain appeared as a foreboding set of jagged teeth, row upon row for about 500 yards. Chuck explained that this particular section of dunes changes every year when the winter wind and rain wash the old dunes away, and the spring winds blow in to create new ones. He told us to take a good look at the rolling dunes and keep a picture of them in our minds. “I have something to show you,” he said.
Our next stop was at the opposite end of the expanse of dunes, looking at them now from the front side. To our surprise, they looked completely different, almost flat, inviting… safe. Our guide explained that the illusion we saw before us causes multiple injuries every year to experienced and non-experienced four-wheel operators alike. “There isn’t much difference between not knowing what you’re doing and being over-confident in your abilities,” Chuck told the man seated in front of me. “That’s why you always move with caution. You never know when you might just drive off the end of the world.”
For me, I realized that what Chuck was saying went far beyond the wisdom of sand dune navigation deeper into the realm of spiritual navigation. Seasons change, and the sands of time blow in different directions from year to year. As we age, and grow in the Lord, it is in His wisdom that we should grow, not the world’s, and most certainly not our own.
Stop now and read Proverbs 3:5-8. Re-read it. Think on it for 5-10 minutes and then come back to this article.
What are the spiritual dunes in your life? How often do you rely on your own abilities to navigate them, rather than leaning upon the Lord? Is your attitude to shun evil, or to accept it as an everyday part of life? Are God’s priorities your priorities?
We have an Enemy who waits patiently for us to cool into complacency.
The world’s wisdom, we must remember, is not going to be successful in producing strong biblically- based morality in our children, our teens, or ourselves, not matter how good the intentions may be or how smooth the terrain may seem to us from the front-side of the dunes. While many of us may be successfully navigating through the spiritual dunes, we do not do it under our own power. Our youth need us to help them navigate, not come rushing back when they’ve had a wipe out and criticize them for their inability to see the pitfalls. That’s what discipling is all about.
It means, as Chuck said, we must have the proper perspective, always move with caution and, as the Lord says, always move with humility. There is a lot of sand out there, people, and just as many opportunities to “drive off the end of the world.”
Author: Pastor Kevin Lane