Alone and frightened, without food and water, the young boy sat cradling his knees. Warming himself with his thin, spring jacket, the only sound he heard was the sound of a distant crow and the chattering of his own teeth. How long had he been there? How far had he come before he realized he was completely lost? He strained to make sense of his thoughts, desperate to remember the point at which he had left the trail and which direction he had taken.
He now wished he had stopped when he reached the deep forest. He knew that upon entering the forest the winding trail could easily vanish out of his sight. His father warned him so often, but he never thought he would ever get lost. He had always thought that that rule was for little kids, or for city kids who were not familiar with outdoors like him. After all, how many times had he walked through the forest with his father? How many times had they hiked to the stream deep within the forest, and spent long afternoons fishing together?
Now all he could do was cry. He was lost and cold, and soon it would be completely dark. “Why did I not stay on the trail?” Maverick scolded himself, “What am I to do now?”
Maverick was just about to scold himself again when he remembered. He remembered the whistle that his father had given him when they first started taking hikes together. His father had told him to blow it if he ever got in trouble or lost. Elated by this memory, and hopeful at the possibility, he reached into his lower leg pocket. He found the small whistle and began to blow frantically.
Within minutes he heard a movement in the bushes behind him, fearing it may be a bear. Maverick jumped to his feet. His face was pale with fright, and he could feel his heart beating so fast that for a moment he thought the entire forest could hear its echoes. Instead of the anticipated hungry bear, however, Maverick stood looking into the eyes of his own father.
A squeal of relief and delight escaped Maverick’s lips as he leapt toward his father. He spent a long time standing there clinging tightly to the tall, dark-haired man who wrapped his arms tightly around him, stroking his hair reassuringly. Finally, Maverick broke the silence. “I am so sorry father! I am so sorry! I did exactly what you told me not to do. I left the trail, just for a moment…I saw something that looked like a clearing…I thought it would be a great spot to make a fort. But when I went to return I could not find my way back, no matter how hard I tried.”
His father bent down and looked at him for a moment. Maverick, relief now bringing him to his senses, started to anticipate a severe reprimand, one he knew he deserved. Instead there was a look in His father’s eye that he did not expect. It was not anger, and it was not frustration. All he could read in those eyes was love. It seemed like forever before his father spoke…and Maverick felt much relief when he did.
“Let’s go home, Maverick. There is dinner on the table at home, and a warm bed for you. You must be tired.”
The next day Maverick stayed very close to his father. He helped him around the farm, fetched things for him, and even cleaned out the horse paddy without complaint. As the day progressed, however, having all but forgotten yesterday’s misadventure, Maverick grew restless and asked his father if he could go and play.
His father smiled and answered softly, “Stay close Maverick. Remember all that I have told you about the path and the forest. There are dangers of which you are not aware. You must simply trust me and remain nearby.” Maverick laughed merrily, and after kissing his dad slipped under the fence he had been leaning on, and ran into the field.
It was not long before Maverick found himself once more on the tiny path that led to the stream, and then to the farthest edge of their land. He really wanted to make that fort, if he could just find that clearing again. He was sure this time he could find his way out–he reasoned he would only make that mistake once. He had learned his lesson.
He stood at the forest edge scanning it for the light which would lead him to the clearing. He stepped off the path, certain he would go straight in and out, and certain that this time, it would be okay. It was not.
When Maverick arrived at the clearing he began to examine the landscape searching for sticks and rocks to start creating his fort. He worked so hard and was so engrossed in his labour that he did not even notice that the sun was setting, and the forest all around him was growing increasingly dark. It was not until he heard the distant sound of a wolf howl that he suddenly realized that he did not know how to find his way out.
The all-too-recent events of yesterday came flooding back, filling Maverick with a deep sense of regret. He searched his pocket frantically for the whistle, which he was very relieved to find once more, and began to whistle fervently. Again, it was not long before he saw a flashlight, leading his father to his son.
This time he said nothing to his father, he simply took his hand and walked back home. He was too ashamed to speak, and too embarrassed to even apologize. The walk back was full of tension. He would simply have to use better markers next time…and bring a flashlight. “Oh what a great fort I am going to make!” he thought to himself as he lay in his bed. “I don’t know why Father doesn’t want me to venture in there, I wasn’t hurt at all. I have this whistle”, he thought as he felt for the whistle which he had placed beside the bed, “and Father can find me anytime if I get lost. Why not venture out, it was so fun? When I get it finished I can invite my friends, and maybe we can sleep there overnight…”
On and on his thoughts trailed, until Maverick, near sleep, decided that first thing in the morning he would head out again.
He got up early, before his father had come in for breakfast, gathered some snacks and a small lunch in a brown paper bag, and ran out the door. Before long he was back again at the clearing, working madly, creating doors and floor panels, mostly from the sticks and fallen trees that were scattered about. He sat down proudly and began to eat his lunch, planning what he would do the next day, and how he would bring canvas and old cedar shakes, and maybe some nails. He was so captivated by his own thoughts that he did not hear, nor did he see, the black bear coming toward the clearing.
The animal had smelled Maverick’s sandwich and was bent on inviting himself for lunch. Maverick did not realize that his unwanted lunch guest would take more than just his sandwich. It happened so fast that Maverick really had no chance to avoid the bear. Seeing the boy and the sandwich the hungry bear ran towards Maverick, knocking him over, and clawing at him in an attempt to remove his lunch. Stepping over Maverick with his large sharp claws before running off with the paper bag in his mouth, the bear disappeared into the thick of the forest as fast as he had come. What was left behind was an unconscious and bloodied Maverick, the scattered remains of a tuna sandwich, and a broken fort.
He did not know how long he lay there, but when he woke up his head was throbbing, and he was covered in his own blood. He could not move very fast, but he managed to get to his feet, and slowly inched his way toward the markers that he had laid out. It seemed like hours before he was back in his own yard, faint and in increasing pain. The last thing he remembered before the darkness clouded his awareness was his father’s concerned face, and the voice, “Oh my son, why did you not obey me? Why did you not listen?”
It was many days before Maverick was well enough to even sit up and realize he was in a hospital room. But when he was able, His father, who had been sitting with him night and day while Maverick lay unconscious, moved closer to him and began to feed him small amounts of soup. “I am glad you came back, Maverick. I am glad you were able to come back. If that bear had been any closer to your neck, you would have bled to death.” His father looked away, deep in thought.
Maverick realized how horrible he had been to his father and as he studied his face now, he realized that his disobedience could have cost him his life…it almost had. He had thought he knew better, but all the while his father was merely protecting him, and telling him the truth. “I am sorry, Father,” Maverick started, in a hoarse whisper because of the many days of silence. “I thought more of my fort than I did of your warnings…or of you. I didn’t think you knew. I thought…I thought…I am so sorry!”
His father, now looking back at his young son, leaned over him and kissed him gently. ”You are forgiven, son” he whispered as he brushed away the hair from Maverick’s forehead. “Eat up, and get strong again”. He paused, then added “and then I will take you home”.
The story of Maverick is the story of our lives. It reminds us of our constant temptation to disobey, and our constant desire to do things on our own. Like Maverick, we wander off the path. Also like Maverick we often assume that the consequences of our actions are insignificant. We wrongly and irreverently dismiss our own trail-blazing as expected and trivial, assuming that the whistle in our pocket is like a get-out-of-jail-free card that we can place down when we willingly get ourselves into trouble.
Yes, we have a God Who, like Maverick’s father, accepts and forgives us when we are sorry and confess. We are also called, however, to repent, turn back, and to choose His way. We could avoid so much pain if we would only trust in the One who redeemed us, walk with the One Who created us, and cling tightly to the One Who leads us down the path that leads to life.
True repentance involves a complete overhaul; a complete surrender to the will of the Father. It includes denial of self and a renewal of our minds. True repentance allows the flow of new life through the Spirit, and plentiful fruit in our lives. True repentance accepts fully that our Heavenly Father KNOWS what is best for each of our lives, and allows Christ to place the guard-rails around it.
Today, as we ponder these things, let us admit that like Maverick our wanderlust takes us far away from the safety of our loving Father, and that our disobedience, no matter how trivial we pretend it to be, was what sent Christ to the cross to suffer and die for us in the first place. Let us repent in sackcloth and ashes, not merely because the bears are hungry, but because He is Glorious, True, Holy and Magnificent. Let us remember that no matter what we tell ourselves, His way is best and we can trust Him. Let us obey Him, abiding in His power because with an immeasurable love He commanded it.
( Proverbs 2:13, Galatians 5:16, James 4:7 & 17, James 1:14 -15, Psalm 119:11, Romans 12:2, 1 John 2:1, Romans 6:2, Luke 13:24, 1 John 1:8, Psalm 91, 2 John 1:9-11, Matthew 6:10, 1 Thess. 4:3a, Romans 13:13-14, James 4:8, 1 Corinthians 10:9-12, Hebrews 10:26, Galatians 6:9, Luke 22:46, Psalm 1:1-2, Titus 2:11-12, John 8:11, Hebrews 11:1, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, etc. etc.)