You Who Know the Way

One of my favorite stories from the Lewis and Clark Expedition took place when they tried to cross the Bitterroot Mountains on the return part of their journey. It was 1806 and it was late June but, incredibly enough, there were ten feet of snow covering everything in sight. The Bitterroot Range is a terrible barrier to be crossing at any time, but with ten feet of snow, it was next to impossible. 

The Lolo Trail—an old Indian trail—was buried in snow and so completely invisible that Capt. Clark's two white guides (George Shannon and George Drouillard) just admitted they couldn't do it—couldn't guide them over! That has to be hard for 'guides' to admit!

But they couldn't stay where they were either. It was late June. There was only Fall and Winter up ahead and already there was not enough grass for their horses where they were staying. They needed to push on. 

There were two burning questions that made that journey look petrifying: how on earth would they ever stay on the trail with all that snow? And would they find grass for their horses, or would they be leaving carcasses along the way? That last question was a tough one: the horses were already malnourished and worn out. Just a day without grass might cause them to stop in their tracks. 

Well, incredibly enough, just when they were making the decision to risk the crossing no matter what, they encountered two teenage boys from the Nez Percé tribe, who were crossing the Bitterroots—are you ready for this—to 'visit some friends'. Capt. Clark pleaded with the boys to serve as guides for the expedition at least to the far side of the Bitterroots. Well, the boys didn't like the idea of a delay, but Capt. Clark offered them some nice things for their troubles and so they reluctantly agreed to do this. 

And so this highly-sophisticated group of government-sponsored scientific experts and military men set out across the Bitterroots with two teenage Indian boys as their leaders: utterly dependent upon them for their navigation and their survival! It was amazing! 

The very first day, the boys insisted that everyone rise early and march fast because the only grass for their horses was a full day away and they'd have to find it before dark. "We set out with our guides," writes Lewis, "who led us up the steep sides of tremendous mountains entirely covered with snow, ascending and descending several loft steep heights. And late in the evening, much to the satisfaction of ourselves and our horses, we arrived at a spot where there was a good spring and an abundance of fine grass." That evening, the boys told Clark that the next grass was a day-and-a-half away. 

Halfway into the journey the next day, Lewis looked up at the mountains and was filled with dread: "We were entirely surrounded by those mountains, from which anyone unacquainted with them would think he could never escape." Their only possible hope now was those teenage kids!

That night the horses slept hungry, and they were looking very gaunt. Clark was getting worried. But the boys had told him that the next grass was a day-and-a-half away, remember? "Do not worry," they assured him, "Tomorrow noon good grass."  The next day, precisely at 11:00 a.m.—sure enough!—there it was! A beautiful pocket of green grass nestled in the snow, just as the boys had promised! 

For six long days and 156 grueling miles, those teenage kids led the way with perfect precision. They never lost that trail even though it was ten feet under snow! From time to time, they would come to a place where the snow had melted and Clark's men would look down in amazement to see that trail, right under their feet! Amazingly, at the end of each day, the perfect spot with the only grass for miles and miles around would be there waiting for them! At one point the expedition came to a beautiful spot at mid-day: with water and grass and plenty of room to camp. Capt. Clark wanted to stop and make camp. The boys said 'no'. That would throw off their distance planning and leave a future grazing spot beyond the horses' reach. And thus, these two "Commanders" of a Presidentially commissioned expedition—along with an entire company of captains, lieutenants, scientists, navigators, cartographers, scouts, and guides—were kept alive and safely delivered to the far side of the Bitterroots by two teenage boys! 

Don't you love it?

You know? It's wonderful to be someone who truly "knows the way", don' t you think? And guess what? I know, for a fact, that I'm writing this article to an entire congregational of them right now! God bless you dear ones! You have found Him, Who is "the Way!" Jn 14:6

The wonderful thing about knowing the way is that status and rank have nothing to do with it. Nor does the achievement, education, pedigree or social class! You can be a Nez Percé teenager and do just fine, while the social elite and accomplished professionals just wander off the trail and perish in the snow! 

Prepare yourselves, dear ones! Be ready to point the Way; to speak up when you must and to let your light "so shine", because this sad world so desperately needs to follow the very Path you take!

I love worshipping with you each week. 

See you Sunday.                              RAS

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