The SoL lady doesn't have anything to do with people. Once I go into my house, I don't open the door for anyone, for any reason. As out going as I am (and I'm very out going. I once told a woman in a bus station w/pig tails that she looked just like Willie Nelson with a big oh smile on my face. For what it's worth I was 4. I still do it though, just in a much more adult way). It's very difficult for me to allow others into my telephone booth. I know it doesn't make sense. Stop arguing with me in your head and keep reading. And so I was invited to go camping. With strangers!
I refused. As a result of a difficult situation, I've developed this residual symptom of said situation that manifests in extreme panic when I'm surrounded by strangers. The fear is overwhelming. I finally relented on the camping, knowing full well that there was a strong chance I would end up wheezing like Fatty McGhee and shaking uncontrollably if some stranger got too close. But, I did it so that my children could experience the wonders of the wilderness of the Great West.
I was finally able to calm down the second morning of our glorious "try not to pee on your feet but end up soaking your flip flops in your own urine anyway because there are no bathrooms" vacation. And actually allowed myself to be excited about the prospect of relaxing in some nice hot springs. So that's what we did.
On the way back from soaking in boiling sulfur water, we saw a woman on the other side of the river, screaming for help. Come to find out, there was treachery afoot. The river was calm up stream, but as the water moved downstream the current got more out of control. At the point where the woman was standing, there were fallen trees, the current was much too strong and there was no way any person in a tube or raft could make it through this particular spot without being thrown into the freezing water and drowning or risking serious injury.
We were in trouble. I was with my children, another couple, and their son. We had just passed a large group of the people we were camping with who were on their way up to the head of the river to tube downstream with their children. They had just turned our children away after they decided that there wasn't enough room for them. While the wonderful man we were with directed the hysterical woman down the cliff and across the river from us as to how to handle the situation and we decided upon a plan to find the people she had lost in the water, more people were coming through the bad area and falling into the water as we watched, horrified.
We realized that we were very far removed from any sort of emergency help, there was no one to assist us and we had to find the people already lost in the water while simultaneously preventing anyone else from going into the river.
We stood on the cliff above the water and watched empty tubes and life vests that had been ripped off of people by tree branches after they'd been thrown into the water as we searched for anyone we could help, and finally agreed to leave the guy we were with to continue to search for people as we drove Dukes of Haazard style back to the head of the river to stop our friends from the same fate that was now threatening the lives of strangers we were trying to save.
We were too late. Our friends had already gone into the river with their children, and there was no way to stop them from being hurt.
We hauled ass back to the original spot halfway between our camp site and the head of the river where we'd found the screaming woman, and now more people were struggling at the same spot in the water and/or had managed to climb out and were now stranded on the wrong side of the river. All 3 of us turned to look in the direction from where our friends would be coming, and as they came down the river with their babies, all of them were tossed as if they weighed nothing into the freezing water. We stood on that cliff absolutely stunned with a fear that no words can explain as we watched the people that we loved dying in that awful water and there was no way to help them.
I stood next to the woman and her husband, with two forest rangers on one side and a stranger to my right, all watching and doing nothing to try to stop what was happening. I finally figured that there was no reason to remain calm anymore and promptly began screaming at the forest rangers who stood non nonchalantly watching our friends and strangers dying in that water. I begged them to make it stop and to go into the water and save them. I tried to find a way down the side of the cliff but the sand was too soft and I was wearing flip flops and I couldn't get around the rocks and so I screamed at the man standing next to me to do something and he just looked at me and then back at the mamas and daddies and babies and husbands and wives drowning together, trying to stay alive. And finally one of the forest rangers turned to me and calmly said "There's access 500 yards that way if you really want to try to help them. But if they want to live they're going to have to save themselves."
In that moment I walked over to the woman I had just met that I'd just shared a relaxing moment in the hot springs with, and I held her hand and we cried as we watched our friend hold on to her little son for dear life in water that did not care that it was killing a beautiful soul and her child. I heard her husband scream her name as he watched his wife struggle and he too attempted to pull himself and their other child from that awful water and it was too much. I immediately thought of this name, "El Gibbor", the Hebrew name meaning "Mighty God." The God that calms the seas and tenderly plucks the abandoned and still bloody newborn from the field. I thought "Where are you?" He made this. He made this water, he knew this moment would come to be from the beginning of creation. He laid the bed of silt loam that I futilely tried to traverse to save these people and he made the cliff with his own hand that was now damning our efforts to stop the injury and death that we could only watch. He knew. He was, and is. This was him and I was so frustrated and I silently called his name because I knew no other remedy and my own strength was worthless and it was surreal to hear these calm voices tell us that there was no way to save these people and all of us watching were thrust into a nonsensical moment where the onlookers around were willing watch these people struggle to stay alive and do absolutely nothing. He made this, and only he could make it stop.
We finally found the last person in our party of friends, miles from where we she'd begun in the water upstream, walking, exhausted, barefoot and sobbing. We drove her to a place where we thought we could get down the cliff and managed to do so and we found our friends, alive. Somehow. And she ran to her husband's arms and the mama and the baby looked as if someone had beaten them to a pulp but they were walking. Somehow.
And we all went back to our camp.
I sat at the edge of our camp site and looked down at that water that I had come to hate. And I was quiet. And I thanked the mighty God that was there but wasn't, and who had infuriated me even as I desperately called his name to save these people. And then I realized. Had my children been allowed to go with these people, they would have most certainly died. There were only enough adults to save the children who had gone into the water. There were not enough hands to save my babies.
That mama and her baby were thrown under a tangled root system of a tree that was growing half in and half out of the water. It was the perfect place for her to grab and hold on for dear life. Her son was 4 years old, and had the wherewithal to hold his breath even as he was shoved under the mighty, moving water. He did not swallow a drop. No pneumonia. And he was allowed to be pulled just far enough from his mama that the tree roots did not break or bruise him. His brother had no help. Daddy was thrown one direction, and mama and the little one were thrown the other. This boy had the presence of mind to jump and hold on to another tree for dear life until someone could pull him from the water.
At each turn, that Mighty God that I felt had put handcuffs on me and the others who were trying to save these people, had done just that. He tied our hands and forced us to watch the same hand that created this chaos, tenderly orchestrate safety for people who had no business being safe after they'd been repeatedly forced into deep, raging water that should have killed them.
I was amazed. Amazed that He had saved my babies from death. Amazed that every person that went into that water somehow made it out alive. Amazed that He allowed me to see that the same God that made Heaven and Earth would find us in that isolated place and jump in for the save at the very last minute. So that I could see that He's here. I struggle with being alone as my husband is 6,000 miles away supporting this war. I struggle with a lot of things that have never gone away. These things talk to me all day, and through the night in my dreams. I struggle with understanding the God who says that He is personal and who's love is called tender. But that I've never felt.
I saw, as I sat watching that same water, order. I saw a plan. I saw love that shows up in ways that don't feel good, but that manifest in glorious hope anyway. I saw mercy and I saw these people who now looked as if someone had beaten them to within inches of their lives who had no idea that they were loved with a love bigger than anything I could ever express here.
God is here. He is ever present. It is said that our help cometh from the Lord. The Lord which made Heaven and Earth. He is our keeper and our strength. He does not suffer our feet to be moved, nor does He slumber. The sun shall not smite us by day, nor the moon by night, He will preserve our souls, even forever more. He will preserve us from all evil, and He will preserve our comings and goings, from this time forth and again, even, forever more.
He did that. There was order in the chaos. There was a plan in the helpless horror that we allowed to consume us because we couldn't see the hand of the Almighty moving in our favor, even as we denied Him an intimate place in our lives.
I was humbled by the living eyes of those people that He saved, knowing that they were His only thought in those dark moments.
And I was given a lot to consider that day.
I'm glad I went camping.