During the summer of my fourth year of life, my parents went camping way up in the hills...as in the hills that are part of Mt Rainier. The area is pristine and the amenities are few and far between. My father would go hunting in the fall, using old logging roads and hiking trails, and just plain hiking through the woods. He would take a huge army salvage tent and stay up there for a week or two at a time. Some years he'd come home with some meat for the freezer, other years no meat, but he'd also scouted out new places to camp or the perfect Christmas tree! So our family had gone camping to one of the wonderful campgrounds that my father had scoped and had spent a wonderful week camping together. The only part of that camping trip that I remember is being swung around in the hammock by the big kids (wrapped up like a mummy). I was the baby of the family, and at 4 that meant my siblings were 10, 12, 14 and 16. The hammock might have been from another camping trip, but that is the earliest memory of camping that I have.
On the trip home, we were driving past an area that had a large lake, and out past some mud flats there were these cool dome shaped islands, but they were only separated by little streams of water. The older kids thought it would be fun to go play on them, a nice break in the long trip home. My parents agree with them. The kids wanted to take me with them, but my parents were very unsure if that was a prudent thing to do, as it could be dangerous for a 4 year old to be playing around the edge of a lake. But they convince them that they would take great care of me, not to worry. Reluctantly, they agreed. So while they rested in the car, they watched their 5 children walk across the mudflats (the mudflats looked the size of a football field, but I was only 4, so it might have been smaller, but still a ways).
Mark and Beth were holding my hands, and we crossed what was like a small stream that was going around the first "island". We scouted around that mound and from the backside they could see more mounds, and one that looked very interesting, but the kids thought it wouldn't be a good idea for me to cross to the other mound (I don't remember why), so they told me to sit on a stump and wait for them...they made it very clear to me that I was not to move, for any reason. I am sure I promised to obey. So I sat there for a while, watching them make their way to the next mound/island. Then they disappeared over the mound and I was alone, all alone. So I started to take in my surroundings, the lake, the other mounds, the water swirling around the mound I was on.
While watching the water, it began to look like my island was moving....swirling with the water...moving away from the shore. I was sure that my island was floating away into the lake! If I waited any longer the little stream that we waded through to get to this island would be too big to cross! I yelled for the other kids, but they couldn't hear me. I began to panic! I decided that I needed to get off that island right now.
I ran back to the other side and ran right down to the stream that I thought we had crossed...only in my little 4 years old mind, I had not remembered things all that clearly and did not stop to look into the water. Instead of a few inches of water, I was suddenly in over my head. I had this jacket on, a down jacket. It floated up under my arms and held me afloat, but I couldn't do anything. And the water was taking me away from my parents, who I could see now standing outside our car. They were waving their arms, and then my Dad started running down to the mud flats, but he didn't get far....he stopped moving...why oh why wasn't my daddy coming to save me!
From my parents perspective, they suddenly saw me run down and into the water and then all they could see was my head. As you can imagine, they panicked and started yelling for the kids - and then my dad decided he needed to get out there to save me. The only problem was that those mud flats which we children walked across were not able to hold up an adult...my dad sunk up to his knees in the muck...it must have seemed like a nightmare! He couldn't get to me no matter how hard he tried. But then, in God's providence, he used a skill taught to him when he was just a child - he whistled. My dad could whistle louder than anyone I have ever known. He used to whistled to call us kids home and we could hear it inside the homes of our friends, even a block away. There was no way that the kids would hear my father shouting, but they would hear his whistle...his whistle was the only thing that could bring the help that was needed to keep my from drowning.
I heard that whistle...and it wasn't long before my sibling came running back to me and found me drifting towards the lake, with an almost saturated jacket.
Mark pulled me out of the water, and carried me over to the shallow crossing and across that plain of mudflats. Back to my loving parents who wrapped me in a warm towel and their love. They stripped off my wet clothes and dressed me in warm dry clothes. I really don't remember anything else past this, but the rest of this memory is vivid and clear as though it happened yesterday.
God saved my life that day...the days numbered for me to spend on this earth were not finished yet, and no watery grave could thwart the plan of God for my life. God in His sovereignty taught my father to whistle when he was young, He had my father use his whistle to call his children - and his children knew that when Dad whistled, you came running, no matter what, right away.
I had "leaned on my own understanding". Even when I had been told to stay where I was, I did not listen to the wisdom of those older and wiser than me, and I paid the consequences of following my own way. My family suffered much anguish because of my folly.
God is good, God is loving, God is involved, God is in control, God is wise. When I lean on my own understanding, and follow my own way, I can get lost, I can get into deep watery places that I can not get out of on my own. But God will always hunt me down, find me, bring me back, and wrap me in His loving arms. He will use these times to teach, mold, and make me like His Son.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.