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Corps of Discovery

March 6, 2021
Lewis and Clark: The Corps of Discovery Expedition -

Years ago I read a Stephen Ambrose book, Undaunted Courage. It’s a recounting of the Lewis and Clark journey from St. Lewis to the West Coast. It was a captivating read. You probably already know most of the story. These two guys, more than 200 years after their accomplishments and deaths, are the most famous of all American explorers. I’m not sure their contributions could be overstated. Ambrose didn’t think so, either. If you’re still a little quarantined and looking for something to read to pass the isolated hours, or if you’re just ready for a good book, I recommend Undaunted Courage as a worthy read.

Among the many challenges and trials the Corps of Discovery encountered in their expedition, the most discouraging one was discovering that the waters of the Olympic River, which they knew they would be able to float down to the Pacific Ocean, wasn’t “just over there,” like they had assumed. Turns out they were right in their assumption that the Olympic River would take them to the Pacific. The problem was what stood between them and the Olympic River. The Rockey Mountains. Nobody but the Native Americans knew the Rockey Mountains were in the way until the Corps saw them rising on the horizon.

Imagine the emotions Lewis and Clark and their crew must have felt when they realized that after the long, hard months of traversing rugged and unyielding wilderness, thinking that the Olympic could be just around the bend, realized that what was ahead of them was more daunting than what they’d traversed. Way more daunting. Seeing the rugged silhouette of the peaks on the horizon would have done me in. I’d have been thinking about finding a way to build a little cabin there at the edge of the range, on the east side of the eastern slope, chop fire wood, and settle in until spring, so I could head back on the reverse route of how I got there.

Ambrose’s title, Undaunted Courage, is aptly selected. That’s absolutely what it took for the Expedition to press on.

I think a few of us had one of those kind of Corps of Discovery moments on about Feb. 15 or so. Sort of.

We’d pushed through 2020, with all it’s twists and turns and disappointments and frustrations and losses, and when the New Year came, lots of us thought, “OK! Let’s get this lousy year behind us and move on into the Happy New Year! 2021’s got to be a move in a better direction.” So we rang in an optimistic beginning of the New Year. It was going to mark the start better times.

Um. No.

It’s not the same thing, but by the middle of February, a lot of the world was looking out at a Rocky Mountain horizon. The reality dawned that there’s a good chance we’re not just around the corner from better times. Depending on who you get your news from, it’s looking like we may not want to push around the corner, because something as bad as (or worse than!) what we’ve moved through is waiting for us there.

I’m not a very optimistic person, so it could just be me. Something makes me think I’m not the only one who’s wincing at the thought of what might be ahead, though.

Will schools open (as in all day, 5 days a week)? Will we be able to go to baseball games and movies and church? Will we ever not need to wear a surgical mask? Will California open? Will the government keep on doing what they’ve been doing, and keep on not doing what they’re not doing…? Will Mr. Potato Head be left alone, or will he have to reassign himself? Will the vaccine work? In other words, will the world go back to some kind of Normal?

If you’re on social media, you know you can find 3 or 4 answers (different answers) for these questions. And you don’t have to poke around long to find them. It’s frustrating and confusing to me.

It raises what is the most important question for me: “Who do I trust?”

And that brings me to the point I want to make.

When things are uncertain, trust is more important than at any other time. Who you trust, and why you trust them comes gets really important then. On one level, when things are running smoothly, and we’re happily getting life the way we’ve ordered it, trust isn’t very hard. It’s almost optional. When life’s running this way, we get lulled into believing we can make it just by trusting our own good will and wit.

But we got a pretty strong wake-up call over 2020 (and so far in 2021) that life isn’t certain. Our own good will and wit won’t do the job.

The lock may be coming off of the world sometime in 2021. It could be soon, but the indicators leave me a little discouraged with that view. If it happens, I’ll be a happy camper, but I’m not counting on it. There are too many forces at work on this, so if somebody tells me a solid date, I’ll believe it when I see it.

In the mean time, my challenge is to figure out what to do about the Rocky Mountains ahead of me. I’ve got a couple of ideas.

First of all, I need to remind myself that even if it doesn’t feel like it, God is in control. Yeah, yeah. God is in control. Got it. That’s a really good Sunday School answer. But what about all this chaos and what feels like a falling sky? Exactly. This is exactly when I most need to remind myself that all this nuttiness and confusion isn’t just random and by chance in a universe that just moves along with no real meaning and no master. There really is a God Who is Sovereign Master over all of it. There really is One Who is in control, even if it doesn’t look or feel like it. I have to bring myself back to this reality often. A simple way to do this is to say out loud, “You’re in control.” Take a deep breath and say it again.

Your brain gets “programmed” by repetition, so repeating the words, “God, You are in control,” out loud to yourself is a great practice.

Second, I have to make some effort to live (behave) as if I actually believed this. This is the hard part. I have to answer this question: what would I do if I really believed God is in control? DO is the operative word. How would my behavior be effected by my belief? That’s kind of the bottom line question of the Christian life, isn’t it? A good follow-up question is, “What would that look like?”

It’s not really rocket science. Like Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery, perseverance is the key. These two things just might help you put your trust in the One Who’s got it all under control.

From → Marriage

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