Sin is crouching
Jody, my husband, is an avid hiker. He and my two sons, JP and Michael, have logged many miles together hiking on the Appalachian Trail (AT). For years, they have blocked off a week or two each summer to hike the AT with the hopes of one day completing the entire length, 2100 miles of trail! It’s a worthwhile endeavor and they love their time together!
During the summer of 1998, our daughter, Maddy, was to attend an art camp in North Carolina the same week the boys had scheduled their annual trek, and since I would have been left at home alone I was invited to join them. It was a compliment, so I naively accepted, and was thrilled to be a part of their adventure. I packed a small backpack with the minimal necessities (change of undies and socks, toothbrush and a comb) and bought some new white hiking shoes- white, what was I thinking?!?
The section of the trail to be tackled that summer was near the border of NC and TN -the boys had agreed to a shorter trek since I was joining. It was July and very warm the morning we started. The trail was well marked, the scenery was beautiful and I was enjoying the adventure. The boys were well accustomed to hiking and I could see they were in their element. As the day wore on, and one worthy mountain was followed by yet another equally steep mountain, I began to enjoy it less. The sun was getting hotter, my backpack heavier and my attitude, like my fellow sweaty hikers, began to stink. Our goal had been 10 miles for the first day, and as 4:30 pm approached I was ready to call it quits. We stopped for a snack on the top of a lovely mountain. I was cool for the first time since leaving the air- conditioned car at 6:00 am that morning and I begged the boys for us to stay put. My sweet husband had planned for us to make it to a shelter about another mile or so down the mountain, but he looked at my face and knew I was spent. So, against his better judgement, we made camp. We busily set up two tents, started a small campfire, scouted out a water source to refill our water bottles and settled in. As the sun went down, so did the temperature. By the time it was dark, it was so cold we could see our breath. BBRRrrrr! Realizing the mountain top was not an ideal camping spot, but the journey down in the dark too dangerous, we made due and came up with a new plan. We all piled into one tent, with the boys laying between Jody and I for warmth- their warmth. Our meager extra belongings were in use. We had clean socks on our hands and a change of underwear on our heads and we still shivered.
The boys slept happily between Jody and I, while I waited for hypothermia. By the way, here is an interesting tidbit- when it is cold outside and 4 people are breathing out hot CO2 inside a tent- the roof of the tent begins to sweat. So in the midst of the freezing cold, it was beginning to rain in this small tent. Ugh! It was a miserable night.
In the dark I began to question what I was doing up on that mountain, in a tent, with undies on my head. What had I been thinking! I’m not rugged, or even out doorsy, unless you count sunbathing, but I digress. Around midnight, I heard a growl from outside the tent. I am immediately on alert- I reach over and make sure Jody heard it too. He did and he is also awake. We hear the growler walking about our camp, and scratching on the tree my husband had earlier hung our food pack up in. At that moment, I understood the significance of Jody hanging the backpack with our food in it way up in a tree- so the bears couldn’t get it. And in the next moment, I began to question why he left me laying on the ground- vulnerable!
The bear was not pleased that he couldn’t reach the food pack and became louder and louder, scratching at the tree and snorting. About this time my husband looked over at me and said very quietly “don’t move.” Like I could move- I was busy! I was confessing every sin of the day (most of them angry thoughts directed at the leader of this fateful hike). I was praying for the boys safety and readying myself to meet Jesus. Then the bear circled our tent. Slowly huffing and puffing, or snorting, whatever bears do. On the second trip around, the bear took his paw and slashed, well scratched, the part of the tent that my back side was smashed against. The bear gashed the tent and left a scratch on my behind. Thankfully the bear quickly became disinterested and left. I lay there in shock, pain and anger. My first reaction was quickly and quietly stated to Jody “I want a divorce.” No other words were spoken and we both laid there in shock. The boys slept through the whole encounter.
At the first sign of sunlight, Jody and I bounded out of the tent and quickly packed up. As the boys woke, we told them of the nights events. JP quickly summarized that the bear hadn’t liked me and that is why he left me and didn’t eat me – probably on some “fat free diet” he teased. Michael was just mesmerized by the enormous pile of bear poop left by the remnants of the fire. Both boys wanted to continue the trip. Jody knew better. We were leaving. Now, what had taken us 8+ hours to climb the day before, I quickly scampered down in about 2. Along the path down the mountain we ran into fellow hikers who asked if we had seen any bears the previous night, and truthfully, we had not seen any…but we had met one. The mountain top where we had pitched our tents turned out to be the place this bear sleeps and this knowledge was wide spread among the other hikers, just not us.
I have told this story on numerous occasions and I love the laughter and the follow up question “can we see the scar?” But as I think back on this crazy trip I can’t stop from looking at it more deeply- so bear with me - there are things that desire to hurt you! This thing, for the purpose of this blog, is sin. Sin is always crouching at the door, desiring to crush you! (Genesis 4:7) This is nothing new. Sin has existed since the beginning of time, from that simple bite of an apple in the garden between the first husband and wife, sin made its entrance. We see it evidenced everyday if we are looking. Divorce is a painful reality of this sin. Christian marriages are not immune from sin, but I would suggest under even a greater attack. The divorce rate in marriages between Christians and those who are not, is not as different, as you might hope. I get it. I understand why Satan dislikes marriage. He wants to snuff out the light that shines when two Christians, joined by the covenant of marriage, are holding hands and chasing after Jesus. Satan can’t compete with that. He has to break that up, so don’t be naive. He is seeking whom he may devour, for his own preservation. (1 Peter 5:8) Friends, beware! Keep the doors of your heart, like your house, secure. Make this a matter of priority. I have two tried and true suggestions that I hope will help, keep reading.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23) One of the best ways to guard your heart and keep it free from sin is with a steady diet of God’s word. This is not to be an additional item for your lengthy to do list, but I pray a true desire of yours to learn more about God intertwined naturally into your life. Find ways to weave the Bible or the pursuit of Christ into a daily routine, or a natural rhythm of your life. Jody and I often talk about what we are studying in His word, or a new thought gleaned from our individual study, when we walk our dog each morning. It is a great time for us to start the day encouraging each other’s walk and fleshing out a spiritual truth. It’s not structured but a natural conversation that flows from an earnest desire to know more about God and to also be involved in each other’s pursuit of faith. This can also happen over dinner, over the telephone on the commute to work or home from work. It can happen as a part of a bed time ritual, the sky is the limit. But as couples, we must pursue God together. Meditate together on a verse or two each day. Post it on your bathroom mirror or the refrigerator. Let it simmer and draw the two of you together and closer to God. So that when sin crouches outside your tent, or huffs and puffs his way around it, you will be safe! And when sin, like that bear, lands a blow, you will be better able to recover, and forgive each other.
Secondly, devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful (Colossians 4:2). Couples- Pray together! Praying together as a couple is powerful. Not only is it a promise, that where two are gathered together in His name He will be there (Matthew 18:20) , but because it is an intimate activity. It allows the person, whom your sins affect the most, insight into your heart. It should be as natural as breathing, or talking to your spouse. Many couples are happy praying before a meal, or before taking communion, or when they are in need, but not as a part of their regular day. Some say it is too awkward or embarrassing, but what they are saying is there are parts of their heart they don’t want revealed to their spouse. Fellowship with God together through prayer is needed to strengthen the walls of your marriage and guard your collective heart. Jody and I have separate prayer routines each morning. I pray in my study- using a journal to keep up with prayers and mark off those as they are answered to encourage my faith. I skip around, praying as the spirit leads. Jody, being an engineer, has a more elaborate 3 bucket prayer approach. Praying for some things everyday (bucket #1), prayers for others (bucket #2) and special requests (bucket #3). AND we also pray together. It is as natural for us to talk as we get dressed for work each morning as it is for us to pray aloud. So our bathroom/dressing area is a make shift prayer closet. As Jody prays, I know what things are on his mind, so I can lift them up during the day and as I pray, he can know my deepest concerns. The prayers flow like conversation, with the periodic break to request a new can of shave cream for the shower or a discussion of what we are having for breakfast. It weaves our hearts together in such a way, that the sin crouching outside the tent realizes it doesn’t stand a chance. I’m not sure what will work in your marriage, but I am confident that if you or your spouse are dedicated to finding a time to pray together- it will happen! Make it the topic of discussion tonight at dinner.
Given a steady diet of bible study and prayer time, when sin takes a swipe at you, you will respond with grace and love. You’re heart will be secure and resist temptation. And you’ll pack up and run away from the danger, hands clasped together. And if your husband suggests a hike, fake a headache!