Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Up near Bar Harbor, Maine, is a little natural wonder called Bubble Rock. Supposedly, this magnificent rock balances on a precarious ledge, baffling geologists and physicists across the nation. Bubble Rock wasn’t the sole purpose of our trip to Maine that summer—we’d just picked a state to camp in. Bubble Rock was merely the attraction of the day. My parents, my brother Jerry, and I packed water bottles and granola bars, tied on our sneakers, and piled in the car to see this natural wonder.

Upon arrival, we parked the car and looked for the trailhead. We soon found a well-beaten path with plenty of people on it heading to and from our destination. Off to the side, however, we saw a family including a very pregnant woman walking back from a rocky path. My dad, always up for an adventure, decided to deviate from the trail and take an alternate route. My mom, however, protested.

“The map is five feet in front of us,” Mom insisted. “If you’ll just glance at it, we could know for sure where to go.”

“The trail we want is just ahead,” Dad replied gesturing to our right. “I don’t need a map to tell me that!”

“It doesn’t look like an actual trail,” my brother piped up. “I don’t know if it’ll be that easy.”

“Aw, come on,” Dad replied. “If that pregnant lady could do it, we can. Let’s go.”

This would surely end in disaster, I thought.  I had little faith in our sense of direction and thought we should take the time to read the map. I quickened my pace hoping to glance at the map myself, but Dad called out, and I was forced to follow. But my eyes still lingered down the main trail, trying to interpret the lines as we walked away. But alas, I did not have the eyesight of a superhero.

We strolled through the woods on the side trail at first with ease. Eventually, the trees dispersed and ahead lay a field of boulders. As we slowly began to pick our way through the maze, the rocky slope became a brisk uphill walk that left us panting for breath. Soon our hands were needed to help us climb. This, I thought, was not the path we were meant to take. My mind wandered back to the map we overlooked. I wished even more that I had read it.

After another half-hour of scrambling from rock to rock, I realized that I could not reach the ledges above and below me. I looked down for the first time and froze.

All thoughts of irony vanished as I stared at the action-figure people and matchbox cars below me. Suddenly, I realized I was much higher than I ever wanted to be. I did not care about the exquisite view; only about the precariousness of my position. If we had only read the map before beginning our hike, I would not be clinging for my life to this rock.

When I finally tore my eyes from the ground, I croaked out: “I-I can’t reach.”

“I’ll pull you up,” my dad replied, reaching down to me.

But it was still a long time until my fingers relinquished their grasp on the cliff and reached up to him.

The rest of the climb went more smoothly. When we finally reached the top of the mountain, it took a long time for us to breathe easily again. Though my parents marveled at the spectacle of Bubble Rock, I was too happy to be on solid ground to enjoy it. It wasn’t really all that spectacular anyway. Honestly, I’ve seen better looking rocks in my backyard. But I never forgot the lesson I learned from that family trip.

Always read the map. Even if you think you know where you’re going. It’s the careless pride of confidence that can sometimes put you in the most precarious situations.

I think it’s the same in our spiritual life. Oftentimes, we get over confident and decide that we can do without the road map (A.K.A. the Bible) and do this whole journey thing on our own. After all, if some other person can do it, then so can we. But it doesn’t work like that. It’s a struggle.

Fortunately, our Father is there to pull us up out of those rock-and-a-hard-place moments.  His patience never ceases as He reaches down to help us yet again. He sets our feet on a solid rock and points us in the right direction. And—just as we found at Bubble Rock—heading down the right path is so much easier than the path we choose for ourselves.

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