I went to a conference a few weeks ago, and one of the speakers told an amazing (and hilarious) story about his getting lost on a trail near his hometown. After a nice long walk in the late afternoon, he found himself in a bit of a pickle. The sun was going down, the temperature was going down, and he realized he was lost. He seemed to have taken a wrong turn at a fork in the trail, and didn’t know how to get back to the trailhead.
So he did the smart thing, which was call for help. But he didn’t call 911. He called the non-emergency number for the police department, and asked if they could just send a patrol car to the parking lot to sound their siren. That was all he needed was that sound, and then he’d know which way the parking let was. He told her it wasn’t an emergency, he just needed a little help.
But the officer responded, “Sir, it’s getting dark, it’s getting cold, and you don’t know where you are. This is an emergency.”
He told the story so delightfully, and we his audience knew that since he was sitting there in front of us, it had a happy ending. But I was struck with that sentence. He thought he was only in a little bit of trouble, but he didn’t have a full grasp of the danger. The police certainly have had to rescue plenty of people who thought they were only in a “little bit” of trouble. It also sounds like the same words one might hear from an alcoholic or a drug addict who does not yet see the scope of their problem.
I have a friend whose son was arrested for drug possession, the very first time he ever used drugs. And that was an answer to my friend’s longtime prayer for all of her kids: that if they ever committed a crime, they would get caught. And it’s a good prayer for all of us: “Lord, if I’m wandering down a path that’s not of You, please stop me.” ‘Cause the sooner He stops us, the gentler the redirection will feel.