I am home again.
After wrapping an incredible six-week Christmas tour via national television on December 23rd, I spent one night in my own bed. I awoke the next morning, sprawled as far sideways across the sheets as possible. Bleary-eyed, I glanced at the clock and realized I had slept for 13 hours straight. I chuckled to myself, and was grateful to have slept, deeply.
It wasn’t but a day before I was on the road again. This time, it was for a week-long, desert camping trip.
I was invited and warmly welcomed by Joy, Micah and a troupe of their loyal, down-to-earth, yet adventurous friends. We did nothing but eat, drink, play cards, and giggle and groan at bad Lifetime movies.
We also sped across miles of sand dunes in really fast cars.
It’s the most exciting feeling, riding in a souped-up dune buggy. Most of these guys have been off-roading for years. They all know which lines in the sand to follow; what gear the rail must be in to accelerate into a wheelie going downhill on a dune, and they can even shift, mid-air, with nothing but the back tires gripping into the soft, unpredictable sand.
I want to ride in the fastest car with the craziest driver. And I do.
As a passenger, I scream with delight (sometimes terror), clap my hands and chew the sand that instantly sticks in my teeth.
It takes experience and wisdom to maneuver the dunes, but more than that, it takes absolutely no fear. The minute a driver second-guesses is the most dangerous moment for everyone. Sometimes the sand peaks into the most daunting, steep mountain, and you cannot see what’s on the other side. The minute you peer over the crest, you may find a gentle, easy edge, or a sharp cliff that can immediately turn into a plummeting hole.
Once you find a deep, soft bowl, however, safety abounds. You can go as fast as your heart desires, drift across the sand into sharp turns and truly trust your wheels, driver and leader — because you can see exactly where you are going.
I’ve camped out at Glamis with Joy, Micah and their friends once before. It was November 2011, and my first time duning. I immediately jumped onto a quad (ATV) and charged towards the dunes, alone. After all, I’m a damn fine driver, if I do say so, myself, and I like to ride with the big boys. At first, it was easy and fun. I have some experience riding, so I confidently took off. It only took one large dune for me to realize I didn’t know what I was doing. Instead of charging uphill and over the steep peak with no fear, I let off the gas. It was then I was in the most danger, for the quad was too heavy; the sand, unsteady. I began to slip backwards down the hill, towards the hole.
I panicked. I was sliding out of control. I needed to make a decision, and fast. Not moving forward was the most perilous situation of all.
Luckily, with the help of a burst of adrenaline, I gassed it and kept the quad from sliding any further. Instead, my wheels became lodged in the sand, halfway down the side of the precarious dune. The engine roared with authority, but my wheels simply spun in place, spewing sand.
Son of a suckass! I’m not going forward, but at least I’m not speeding backward. I’m stuck.
There wasn’t anything I could do but wait, and hope someone would find me.
After several minutes, I heard the sound of a motorcycle in the distance. “No Shirt Mike” (that’s what we called him) appeared, rushing to my rescue. He was relieved to find me unscathed (“Where the hell did you go? You just took off!”), laughed and congratulated me for my fearlessness (really?!). He gently coached me out of the mess I had created for myself, and instructed me to follow him for the rest of my ride.
I was embarrassed, but safe.
I had been so excited to charge by myself, I forgot the rules. No one should dune alone. You always need a leader. Preferably one who is experienced and trustworthy, yet fearless enough to be the one who tackles the sand first.
The best leader is one who knows the lines in the sand. One who carves out your path.
Once I agreed to follow No Shirt Mike, the rest was absolutely exhilarating. The hills that appeared insurmountable ended up being easy to tackle. It’s amazing how such tiny granules form the steep slopes and shaded — sometimes disguised — valleys in the desert. By following my leader, I gained confidence, skill and the ability to conquer the ever-changing lines in the sand.
2013 is newly upon us, and I have a confession to make.
My fear stems not from the peaks I am unable to traverse, rather, it is rooted in the knowledge that I can actually tackle anything.
This, of course, is only and ever due to the God of the universe, through whom I can do anything, because He gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)
He’s gently lead me up wild, joyful slopes and through desperate, dark valleys. He’s comforted me. He’s taken care of me. He’s never once abandoned me, even when I doubted; even when I screamed, threw tantrums, made mistakes and declared I was angry with Him.
For the record, I think God understands our anger. I can’t stay angry with Him for long, however. He’s just too good to me. He is good, all the time.
Life is still — and always will be — hard. There are already major mountains to begin climbing. I don’t know how I’m going to pay rent next month. I don’t know what I am going to do for work. I don’t even know where I’m going to live.
The sand is shifting, once again. But I am not plummeting downhill. I’m not even stuck.
I have a Leader. He rescued me a long time ago. I will trust Him. I will go where He leads. It may not be easy or safe, but He knows every line in the sand. He knows the best and most adventurous route; the one that makes for the wildest — and most fulfilling — ride.
After all, He designed it.