Crossing a Creek on a Slippery Log

In some woods near where I live, I saw some boys out playing. A tree by a ditch bank had fallen across a creek. It wasn’t a very large tree, maybe five or six inches in diameter. The boys had cut the limbs off of it so that it made a little pathway across the creek. I thought how dangerous, foolish and dumb that was to be walking across that log from one side of the creek to the other. It was out in the woods some 20 to 30 yards, and I started to go out there where they were and explain to them that what they were doing could be pretty dangerous. Especially when the log got wet they could slip and fall in the creek.

I guess I could have pretended to be OSHA and demanded that they put up signs reporting on the number of people who had been hurt crossing a log, the number that had fallen off in a creek, or had just fallen and bruised or scratched something. But I chose to walk away because of all of the boyhood memories that came to mind of logs that I had crossed over and especially the ones that I had crossed over that were rain soaked that resulted in bruises, cuts and wet clothes. I had a slight tinge of guilt because I wondered if the next day I would hear about some boy with a broken arm or one that had gashed his head because he had slipped off of a log. I walked away remembering what great learning experiences that my buddies and I had received from crossing over a log that was too small and the pain that came.

Walking a slippery log can be a powerful teacher. Sadly, that is the only way some boys and a few girls ever learn. I thought of the great word that the Apostle Paul gave to all of us when he said, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Gal. 6:1). I was reminded that everyone can slip and fall. The deacon, the preacher, the Sunday School teacher, the greeter, the singer, and the Sunday School time ringer can all in their own unique way from time to time take the risky path, slip and fall. It is impossible to stop everybody from doing dumb things and making tragic mistakes. You cannot stop boys from walking over slippery logs. Often when they do it and are successful they become emboldened to do it again and again. They do not realize the risk and the possibilities get higher and higher. It is that way with the human dilemma of sinfulness. Clearly, we can and do slip off of our moral standing before God.

While Paul was mindful that everyone can be overtaken in a fault, he was also mindful and instructive that we should be willing to do what we can to help someone up and out and rescue them. As I walked along, I could still hear the boys playing so I was ready, willing and able to rush back over to the woods and respond if I heard a painful cry to see if I could help someone get up and maybe even out of the creek. You may not be a paramedic or a first responder, but when it comes to stepping forward to help someone when they have royally messed up or fallen off of the slippery logs of life, you and I are called of God to do what we can to help them up and restore such a one.

Now if they fall off, break something, or bloody their nose and you help them and then two or three days later they insist on playing on the log again and again, there comes a point where helping becomes impossible. It is probably at that stage of caring that it becomes most difficult for so many people and maybe for all of us to know when you have done all that you can do. I have seen that happen so many times in families and even with friends. A mom or dad may be trying to help a child or the children are trying to help a mom or dad, and they came to the place where they can do no more. At that point, I believe that God can give you peace. You may not feel good about the situation in someone’s life, but you can feel at peace with God and with your own efforts to help. You can leave the person and the situation in the caring hands of a mighty God.

A final thought about crossing a creek on a slippery log came to me as I reflected on those boys. I realized that I was not tempted in the least little measure to try to cross the creek on that log. What in the world had happened to me? When I was eight, 10, 15 or even a young adult, you could have just turned me loose, let me balance myself and I would have tried to get across that creek. Apparently, maturity has set in because I just did not feel obligated to go out there and try to cross the creek. Sometimes it is hard to define maturity, but in this case it was a mixture of falls, bruises, instructions from my parents and slips on logs myself that had convinced me that it was pointless and even dumb to enter into such an activity.

I suppose that my mom and dad, who have both been gone for decades, would probably be proud that finally some of their care, teaching and love along with a mixture of my own dumb mistakes and restoration afterward had finally sunk into my brain and my soul. In fact, for the rest of my journey in life I doubt that I will ever feel the compelling need to walk across a creek on a slippery log. In addition, because of God’s instructions and His searching of my heart, there are other places that I do not walk either.

Jim Futral
Executive Director-Treasurer