When I was 8 years old I was a Cub Scout. I still have my little blue Cub Scout hat and yellow bandana. Being a Cub Scout was a big deal for me because it was the first time I was able to wear a uniform. Kids with uniforms feel important and big.
My mom and dad were asked to help locate a suitable park for our group – called a Cub Scout Pack – to have a picnic. We left our home in Los Gatos, California and drove out to Stevens Creek Park in San Jose. It must have been a week day because the park was deserted. Mom and dad sat down on one of the benches and my brother and I took off to explore.
Dad always told us to never run on trails. I am sure I logged that somewhere in the back of my yet-to-be-developed young brain. Dad’s words of wisdom would make sense in about an hour.
Once out of sight of our parents my brother and I put it in overdrive. As the older brother of 8 years, I assumed the lead over my 6 year old little brother. We tore down trails in our black high-top tennis shoes and created two mobile dust clouds as we crisscrossed the park.
I remember coming to one section of the trail that was cut into a very steep mountain side. Not a good place to continue to run – but we did anyway. The trail was now only about two feet wide, with the steep mountain side climbing above the trail to my left. The edge of the trail to my right was just as steep as the mountain side, continuing for about 10 more feet down past the trail’s edge and then it went vertical and became the edge of a cliff that was suspended 80 feet or so above the rocks below.
I am not sure how it happened but my foot slipped and over the edge I went, sliding down the very steep trail edge. When I slipped I landed on my stomach and I was sliding down the slope backwards. At the very edge of the cliff was a little twig-like plant clinging to life. This little twig, all 6 inches of it, caught me in the crotch and stopped me.
I didn’t dare breath. My little brother was taking one long last look at his older brother before the twig gave way and he met Jesus prematurely. With a whisper I said, “Go get dad!” Off my little brother ran to get help.
As I hung there, with my legs hanging over the cliff and my fingernails dug into the dirt, I had a lot of time to think. But at age 8 there wasn’t much to think about. I just waited and prayed that my twig would continue to be strong.
In about 10 minutes I heard my dad running down the trail. It is OK to run when your son is hanging on for dear life. I saw dad come around the turn in the trail and in one leap he dove over the side of the trail, hanging onto a branch along the trail and swinging over the edge. He planted his boot into the hillside and grabbed me by the pants. Dad pulled me up off the edge of the cliff and literally tossed me back onto the trail. I was alive!
Dad never did lecture me or punish me. The trail and the cliff and the impending possibility of death spoke volumes to me. This was one of my first “self-taught moments.” I could tell dad was happy to have his boy alive.
That day as a Cub Scout was over fifty years ago. I can still see some of the images of that experience in my mind. The most beautiful thing about that day was seeing my dad arrive on the scene and saving me. That is what dads are supposed to do.
Each of us are born into this world hanging over the edge of a cliff. We were born with what the theologians call “a sin nature.” We are birthed onto the cliff edge as a result of having our ancestors in the Garden fall off the trail. No matter how great a family we have, and no matter what good things we have done, we arrive into this world on the cliff. We need to be rescued. Only the God can get us to a safe place.
The way off the cliff is to realize how hopeless we are without God and call for him to come and get us. Church people call this “salvation” or being “born again.”
We will all take a last breath some day. That last breath will be followed by a fall. Some will fall into eternity without God and forever be separated from Him. Others will fall into the hands of a loving and rescuing Father to live forever in His presence.
Today I am traveling the trails of my culture looking for people who are hanging on the cliff edge. Like my little brother did – I want to run and get the Father and bring Him back for the rescue.