The Death-Eyed, Saber-Toothed, Alabama Swamp Beast;…An Epiphany

We found numerous deer tracks, and a set of rabbit tracks. We even found some paw prints that with the help of two adolescent boys’ imaginations, were talked into being cougar tracks. The woods we were exploring did border a swamp, so it didn’t seem too far-fetched.

Were we hunting? Nehhh. It was Easter Sunday, and after scrambling out of our church clothes and in to our having fun clothes, the whole family had driven out to a secluded spot back in the woods for a picnic and Easter egg hunt. I was in junior high school, and was lucky enough to have my best friend Kim along for the day. Kim and I went to school together, where Kim played football, baseball, and basketball for our Tabor Tigers. It wouldn’t be too long before he and I started thinking about high school, but today was all about being boys and having fun in the woods.

While the picnic was being spread out, and Easter eggs hidden, Kim and I decided to go see if we could find some bear tracks. The chances of us finding bear tracks in these particular woods were in the “fat” category of chances. Well fat or not, it was a chance, and that was all we needed to believe. So with a reminder not to be gone too long from my mom, and a word of caution from my dad to be careful, we were off.

Daddy really didn’t need to worry about us. Kim and I both had some experience in the woods;….we both had been in boy scouts;…and we had both seen every episode of Daniel Boone on television (4PM weekdays after school). Priceless knowledge if we ran into any indians, or needed to split something with an ax. Yes, we set out to look for animal tracks, but we were boys, so we spent most of the time picking up stuff and throwing it at other stuff. Don’t try to make sense of it. It just happens. Pick something up, throw it at something else. Repeat.

We we enjoying our search, but of course lost track of time. Having found no bear tracks, we were heading back to the picnic, when we came upon a stand of tall swamp grass. Kim and I both thought we heard something moving, but the grass was too thick and tall to see anything. We both froze and went silent in hopes that a deer might step out in to the open. The rustling became more pronounced and obvious, but whatever it wa,s remained hidden.

Then there was a low growl. This instantly changed our mood. We were pretty sure that deer didn’t growl. Was it a wild dog, or a bobcat? Or was it worse? Had we stumbled onto something dangerous? A wild hog or even a real bear? We began to factor in our fear levels, to determine what animal might be menacing us from the tall grass. It went something like this. If we are pretty scared, we convince ourselves it’s a dog. If we’re really scared, then it’s probably a cougar. If terrified, then it’s a bear.

Without a warning a ferocious roar exploded into the air around us, and the tall grass shook violently from a warning charge in our direction. There was no mistake. According to our current fear levels, Kim and I had stumbled upon a Death-Eyed Saber-Toothed Alabama Swamp Beast. At least an eleven footer. Probably poisonous.

Now as faithful viewers, Kim and I could tell you that not once had Daniel Boone and Mingo ever run in to a Death-Eyed Saber-Toothed Alabama Swamp Beast on the show. To say that we were unprepared for this situation, was an understatement.

I quickly turned to Kim and screamed for him to, ” Go for Daddy.”,…..But Kim wasn’t there anymore. Kim wasn’t ANYWHERE anymore. The only hint I could find as to what happened, was a lingering cloud of dead skin flakes shaped like Kim in the spot where he was standing only a moment ago, and a smoke trail. I can only conclude that Kim knew that one of us had to go for help. He must have determined that being the fastest, he would take on that burden himself. I’m sure he wanted to talk it over with me but figured I would never let him risk himself that way. So selflessly, and without a word, Kim slipped away to run for help. A hero really.

God was that boy fast. I mean really fast. Why if he would have been running in the right direction………

All alone now, I turned to face the danger in the tall grass.

It was at that point that something unexpected happened. It wasn’t something physical, but rather something that happened in my mind. I was overwhelmed with what I can only describe as a clear understanding. It wasn’t “what” I understood that got to me so much. It was what it felt like to, understand. It was a full and complete understanding. I was having a realization. Which brings us to our subject for today………

The Epiphany

  The dictionary says that an epiphany is a moment of sudden, and intuitive understanding: a flash of insight. It says nothing about their size or shape. Nothing about why or how you get ’em. I’m facing the final moments of my life  before being eaten by a Death-Eyed Saber-Toothed Alabama Swamp Beast, and wouldn’t you know it, I think I’m coming down with an epiphany.

I can’t run.

  No, that’s my epiphany. I realized that I can’t run. I know it doesn’t sound like much as far as epiphanies go, but it really was one for me. It wasn’t that there was no place to run. There was. There were plenty of unobstructed directions for me to run as hard and as fast as I wanted to run. The reality was though, that I was on crutches and braces. That beast, any beast, would catch me without so much as an effort. I couldn’t run, and I couldn’t hide. These were not going to be options in my life.

  It may have been a small epiphany, but I knew God was speaking to me. He was telling me something about the rest of my life. I was going to face a lot of swamp beasts in my future. I needed to know that I couldn’t run from them. No matter how scary they may be, or no matter how vulnerable I might feel;…..you can’t run from it Jay. If it eats ya, it eats ya.

  I set my feet as firmly as I could, and drove my crutches into the dirt for maximum stability, and awaited whatever was coming out of that grass. I was too far away for him to hear, but I called as loud as I could for daddy one more time anyway, just in case. When I did, the growling stopped, the grass parted, and daddy came rushing out from the tall grass with regret in his eyes. He wanted to scare us, but had no intention of scaring us that much. I started laughing in wonderful relief. It took daddy a little longer. Once he knew I was fine, and swore never to scare anyone again, he laughed too. I think it was worse on him than it was on me.

  My dad still feels a twinge about scaring me and Kim that Easter, but it remains one of my favorite life stories. It was the epiphany. Not so much what it was, but more the astonishment that I had an epiphany at all. I learned what it was like to realize something. To hear God, and accept a truth. This had immeasurable value to me.

  If I asked a thousand people how they ended up with such successful, fulfilling, loving, nurturing, peaceful-souled lives;…..they would all tell me a different story, with very different paths. But one thing that they ALL will have in common, is that somewhere in the telling of that story you will hear the words, “….but then I realized…”.

  If I were to ask a thousand people how they ended up with broken, empty, bitter, unfulfilled and pointless lives;…..they too would tell me different stories with different paths taken. But at some point in the telling of each of their stories, you will hear the words, “…ya know, I just never realized…”.

Did you realize that?

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