On Your Own

sparkleberry swamp, sc

Have you ever been totally lost in unfamiliar territory and in need of help to find your way? I certainly have and my family lovingly refers to the previously undiscovered routes I take them on while trying to find my way as, “Tours by Goldie”—Goldie being my nickname for the moments of blonde dizziness I occasionally experience.

As a chronic sufferer of “hamster syndrome”, i.e. knowing only one way to and from a place, I have great compassion for the directionally challenged and experienced a feeling of sincere empathy when a friend of ours shared his story of being lost in the Sparkleberry Swamp of upper Lake Marion, SC.

I know, it’s hard to imagine anyone ever being lost in a place with such a fairy-tale friendly name as, Sparkleberry Swamp. You would naturally imagine it to be the magical domain of friendly alligators, rainbow fish and white-winged egrets gliding among the cypress trees… wouldn’t you? Maybe not—especially if you happen to be an avid bass fisherman as my friend is.

His first trip into the swamp was with a guide who quietly wove his boat, fitted with a nine-h.p. motor, through the cypress trees until they came to a clearing perfect for fishing.  It was a wonderful day of catch and release and my friend longed to repeat the adventure.

Confident of his ability to navigate the swamp on his own, he later set out solo and soon was as hopelessly lost as Hansel, minus Gretel and her bread crumbs, in the not so sparkly shadows of the swamp’s murky water. The labyrinth of look-alike cypress trees had him motoring in circles for hours.  As the sun began to set, frustration turned to foreboding. At last he prayed and asked God to help him find his way back. He was thrilled a short time later to hear the familiar “put-put-put” of another angler’s John Boat.

That was until he saw the large, rough looking man captaining the boat.  He thought he might have heard the strings of a banjo playing in the breeze as the menacing looking character slowly pulled alongside and offered the terse greeting of, “Hey, Buddy, you lost?” “You gotta be kidding me, Lord” my friend thought, “This is who You sent to help me?” His passing thought of replying, “Nah, I’m fine,” quickly took flight as the eyes of an alligator, spaced nearly a foot apart, surfaced just beyond his bow.

Of course it was a happy ending—what else would it be in Sparkleberry Swamp?  The man who offered his help was a professional football player who had grown up on Lake Marion and knew the swamp as well as his backyard pond.  He had my friend out of the woods in less than twenty minutes and on his way home again long before dark.

My friend’s story reminds me of  times when I have forfeited the gift of God’s peace trying to make my way through the “swamps” of life on my own, waiting far too long to pray and seek God’s guidance.

It also reminds me that, when we pray, God doesn’t always send us exactly what we expected, packaged exactly the way we thought it would be… But He always sends us just what we need, at just the right time, in just the right way. Our job is to recognize the difference and be thankful.

We all experience setbacks in our lives, but God has promised to always be with us, to help us bounce back from adversity and, ultimately, see us through to victory—either in this life or in the life to come.

Don’t wait to pray.  Pray then wait and “confidently expect the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for and confidently expect the Lord.”  Psalm 27:1AMP

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