Rattlesnakes and Bartenders

I am hiking by myself for the first time today. The weather forecast for Denver is 81 degrees and sun, and any Coloradan worth her salt won’t pass up such an opportunity to be outside.

I pack up my laptop, lots of water, and other supplies; and I drive about 20 minutes south to Castlewood Canyon. I picked this place for three reasons: proximity to home, flowing water, and shade trees. I did not know I’d have to pay an entrance fee of $7 for the day. Had I known that I might have chosen a different park, but my experience here is already well worth the cash paid.

(Sidenote: Don’t think I’m a cheapskate. Colorado has parks everywhere, and they are impeccably maintained. I am thankful for this and try to take full advantage of it, but I also pay for it in the form of insanely high taxes. For example, it cost David and me $86.50 to register our car for one year in Tennessee; it costs almost $1,000 here. When I nearly cried upon hearing this news at the DMV, the worker’s response was, “At least we have the mountains.” It was cold comfort then, but six months later I’m almost inclined to agree with her.)

I hike about one mile and find a huge flat rock overlooking the canyon. I can’t really see the water from here, but I can hear it and I’m not in danger of dropping my laptop in the river. I’d guess it’s about 71 degrees on my shaded, breezy rock. The only bugs I see are a few harmless ants working hard in front of me. Perfection.

Almost. Why can’t I ever completely enjoy what I’ve been given? What in this scenario can possibly cause me distress? When you enter the park there’s a sign warning of rattlesnakes. I have just about convinced myself there’s a rattlesnake at my 7:00 when 2 guys hike down to my rock. They are loudly talking about bartending school and have almost hiked past before they notice me (and my bright pink backpack).

My initial response is annoyance: On this beautiful peaceful day, how dare you stomp around yelling when it’s obvious there’s a woman working here?

Then I hear my mother’s voice in my head: What are you doing out in the woods by yourself? You don’t know these guys, and you’re holding a laptop. Get your bear spray!

As soon as they notice me, their body language changes. They look really uncomfortable and quickly and quietly hike back up to the trail muttering, “hi,” and, “sorry,” as all us hikers do when we encounter each other.

Then God hits me with His humility stick: Did it occur to you that I put them in your path? I realize that if there were a rattlesnake at my 7:00, then they would have stirred it up. And there was nothing remotely scary about these guys. My fear is gone, so I can settle down on my rock and go back to enjoying His canyon. I’m taking care of you.

God is our shelter and our strength.
When troubles seem near, God is nearer, and He’s ready to help.
So why run and hide?
No fear, no pacing, no biting fingernails.
When the earth spins out of control, we are sure and fearless.
When mountains crumble and the waters run wild, we are sure and fearless.
Even in heavy winds and huge waves,
or as mountains shake, we are sure and fearless.
(Psalm 46:1–13, The Voice)

How many times have I distracted myself from enjoying God’s gifts to me? How many times has fear been that distraction? I want to be “sure and fearless.” God made this cavern for me to enjoy, and I want to honor Him by doing just that.

Oh, look, there’s a bee…

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