Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: SURPRISE (07/25/19)
- TITLE: Family Matters
By Janet Richey
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The personalities fill the confines of our SUV, comfortably at first, until the bird-like bickering begins in the back; minor offenses blown into full blown wars. Two girls and a boy; they are twenty-one, nineteen, and eleven years old. My husband’s eyes are fixed on the road, hands on the wheel at 9 and 3 o’clock. I hand out baggies of Swedish Fish and offer a prayer for safety. And patience.
Two contentious-filled hours later, we pull into the makeshift parking lot. With his left upper arm my husband wipes the sweat trickling towards his eyes, systematically taking the bikes off the rack. We approach the entry point which is nothing but a dirt incline that only a mountain goat could maneuver. Confronted with a plywood sign with peeling sticker letters, I zero in on the words “In Development!” “Closed!” “Use at own Risk!” My family crests the incline before I have a chance to appeal.
Because of the proximity to the parking lot, and the relatively flat terrain, the first mile and a half are deceivingly tame. We spot several folks with hand-carved walking sticks and binoculars. A family of four is racing out of the tunnel. Undeterred, we huddle at the entrance, headlamps on, and enter in a three-two formation.
The coolness is welcome, but we are quickly distracted by whatever is dripping on our heads. The echoing sound of tires over wet crumbling concrete takes over our senses until we realize how easily a person can lose control of the steering. Someone bumps the other and nearly wipes out the entire family. Not mentioning any names.
Readjusting our eyes to the light as we come out of that first tunnel, we stop and take in the apocalyptic scene before us. With greenery forcing its way through every crevice, Nature is stubbornly reclaiming her territory. Still able to make out the median and guardrails, I tilt my head to one side and visualize cars from earlier generations, motoring to their destination. Suddenly, I feel like an intruder.
By car, the four mile gradient to the next tunnel is imperceptible; by bike it is Mount McKinley. Two miles in, we realize how inadequate our water supply is, and rationing begins. The bickering kicks up a notch to savagery.
The second tunnel is longer than the first, and unlike it’s twin, you cannot see any light at the end of the tunnel. By mid-point, in total darkness, save the weakening headlamps, I can sense a shift from discord to cohesiveness as we navigate the unknown together. Emerging with harsh sunlight piercing our eyes, we are triumphant. Middle Child pulls a sweaty cell phone from her waistband and we crowd in for a selfie that embodies everything that I believe our family is. Imperfect, diverse, but bound by love. Even though they won’t admit it.
The return ride through the tunnels is littered with struggles, cat fights and general displays of distasteful human nature, fueled by heat exhaustion. Reaching the car, my husband methodically secures the bikes, while the kids fight each other for water. The last door closes, and my weary kids exclaim in near unison “That was awesome!”
Somewhere between the abandoned turnpike and the cool interior of our smelly Ford Explorer, the pain and bickering were erased, overtaken by yet another moment of unity. I could not have been more surprised, or proud.
Proverbs 22:6 ESV “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Just when I think I am unable to handle one more bad report card, one more eye roll, or one more fight that registers on the on the Richter Scale, God takes our family to the darkness of an abandoned tunnel and says “Hey, I’ve got this.”
Parenting is tough. Each kid is unique, and guiding them to their God-given gifts is a challenge. But by prayer, and the compass of His Word, it’s doable. The passage of time has shown that to me time and time again. Sometimes, we need a little help to see it.
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