Pastors Need Friends Born for Adversity

When beloved congregants turned on me, who could I trust for advice?

Not too many years ago I got lost in the woods near Linville, a small village high in the North Carolina mountains. I had been the Sunday speaker for summertime worship at the Wee Kirk and stayed over for a day to relax. Midafternoon my dog, Wrangler, and I went for a walk in the woods. I’d walked there before and thought I knew the path pretty well; it wound a short distance around and back to a small lake. But as the sun began to set, it became clear that we were terribly lost.

My cell phone was close to powering down, so I realized I better call for help before the charge was totally gone. So I called the nearby Eseeola Lodge hoping I could reach the manager.

“Where do you think you are?” he asked. “Describe it.” I tried to tell him the best I could.

“I think I know where you are,” he said, then told me to go another direction. Confused in the woods and hills I had been headed 180 degrees wrong.

Relieved, I set off again. Wrangler and I walked for a good 45 minutes along trails I did not recognize. As evening closed in, every minute seemed longer. I was still unsure I was going the right way, but I trusted that someone who knew the woods had set me right. Then came a final turn and I saw a security guard waiting with a pickup to take me back to my car.

Lines in a poem by David Wagoner take me back vividly to that lost afternoon.

You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows

Where you are. You must let it find you.

There have been several other seasons in my life in which I found myself feeling lost in a dark wood spiritually and in need of help to find my way back home. Some of these times have come when I have made a wrong turn and deliberately gone in a direction I knew was not …

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