August 17, 1959 in Yellowstone, Montana along Hebgen Lake was as beautiful a day in the mountains as any outdoor enthusiast would expect. A record number of visitors and campers hiked, swam, and mingled in the serene magnificence of nature. No one suspected that beneath shading trees, rolling hills covered with lush grass and meadow flowers a tempest was brewing.
As guests of the Park slept peacefully, a fault deep in the earth rumbled, split, and cracked open. The resulting earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter Scale tore through boulders, mountains, and canyons. Mud, rocks, and trees, were thrown in massive landslides down along the split. Unleashed debris flew into the dammed Madison River, causing angry waters to rise and roil, drowning everything in its path, along with tents, campers and the Hilgard Lodge. The intensity of the earthquake was felt as far away as Washington, North Dakota, and Utah and caused damage in Idaho, Montana and NW Wyoming. Twenty-eight people were killed and an untold number lost in the killing rockslides.
Almost sixty years after the horrific earthquake of 1959, Dan and I rolled leisurely along the hills of Red Canyon, Yellowstone, in our motorhome, marveling at the peaceful landscape and lovely blue waters of the lake and streams beside the road. The only thing obstructing the idyllic scenery were the tops of trees sodden black and bare of branches, sticking up out of waters in Earthquake Lake. Like so many soldiers standing vigil after a lost battle, the treetops huddled together in sporadic groups. These were the last of the lush forest that had once supplied nourishment and shade for wild life and visitors of Hebgen Lake, in Yellowstone Park.
I share the story of the 1959 earthquake as a parallel to the fault within me that cracked open the other day. Like the unexpected quake, the fault resulted in a tempest of fear, anger, and a flood of tears. Once in awhile, camping is not all “glamping”, even when tenting in a 45-foot Class A RV. No matter how big or small the transient vehicle, or how long you’ve been married, the quarters are close after several hundred miles, and a rupture or two is bound to happen along the way.
In all fifty years of marriage, Dan, the consummate Fighter Pilot, has always been the leader, guide, and provider for our family. I quickly learned that my roll in our relationship was to follow his direction, share my perspective after he expresses at length his views, and then to agree. We were married when I was twenty and had known each other less than five months because Dan was to soon to be deployed. But that’s a “military family story” for another time. The point is, in our relationship, I do not give orders.
Suddenly I have found myself to be the line-director of our rig when Dan backs it up into lots only a foot or so wider and longer than our berth. My job is to guide him past sidewalks, bushes, tree stumps, concrete markers, and wood signs, by using hand signals at key points behind and alongside the incoming 45-footer. He wants me to tell him what to do. This is foreign language to me.
A side note is the embarrassment I feel whenever I have to make use of my hands. I have RA, and my wrists and fingers are useless. So to ask me to raise my hands to signal aforementioned Fighter Pilot where to position his craft is like asking him to thread a needle in a wind storm.
We have been doing this RV thing for about seven years now, and until my breakdown, I never got the signaling stuff. In spite of me, Dan has always been able to back in without taking down buildings or telephone lines, but because of my ineptness, the event usually ended in lectures, bad words, and long silences. It has become my most feared barrier. I tried to overcome it with humor by painting pong paddles neon orange with cheery-face flowers on one side to encourage me and help with the signaling. That didn’t work because the paddles turned out to be too heavy.
Did I mention this backing up procedure is always done in front of people passing by, and especially under the scrutiny of sympathizing (or maybe scoffing) women?
They seemed to show up from nowhere.
When I heard the lady (of course) who took us to our assigned slot at the RV Resort in Idaho tell Dan it was a “back in”, my hands began to sweat. Instantly, I knew I was in trouble. I drove our Jeep down the road behind Dan in the RV and waited as he went beyond our slot and stopped when the park guide pumped her arm and pointed her finger to where he was to back in. Not being told I would be needed or what I was to do, I waited in the car and stayed out of the way. When the back end of the rig drew precariously close to the lawn and brick marker on the left side of the slot, I put on the Jeep’s brake and jumped out to help the driver.
The debacle began. Not having been trained on a flight deck, I could not tell what the driver wanted and the driver could not read my hands, which were flapping in every direction. Within a few minutes of torment and frustration, due to his skill, expertise, and experience, Dan backed in perfectly. Why had he needed me?
I froze when he yelled, hung my head when he demonstrated, and walked away when I started to cry. The crack in my heart split wide open as I imagined the eyes from behind RV windows watching the scene. Remorse flooded my soul, as once again I knew I had failed my task.
Pride has a rippling effect. Once given leeway from a leak, it becomes a roaring flood with all sorts of debris tucked back into the subconscious. My rigid pride broke my heart, and an earthquake destroyed my shaky foundation. How quickly we let go of Truth, turn our eyes from Love, and watch as the Enemy wreaks havoc. But, as in the forces of nature, the shifting is watched, even planned. The healing begins.
“And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose…” (Romans 8:28)
Like the resort built out of raging waters on Earthquake Lake and the ominous beauty emanating from the split canyon, a fault beneath the veneer of solid ground exploded to remake an entire landscape. While the stripping away of what appears to be perfection is tragic and painful, the rebuilding is a learning opportunity for firmer ground and new beauty.
Dan sat down and calmly drew a diagram of the places I needed to be when he turns the wheels and backs the RV into a slot.
“I’m depending on you for guidance. What you tell me is what I do.” My husband looked me in the eye. He meant it and knew I could do it. His confidence in me was significant. We are a Team in this new season; we are not thrown apart or patched up. Together we are “made new.”
“Therefore, if any is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old is gone the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)