In the summer of 1986, I and several others made an attempt on Granite Peak in Montana via the Granite Creek drainage. To get to the mountain on this route you face three miles of boulder field that ranges from difficult if you skirt the east side to insane if you attempt to cross it. We left our camp on the south edge of the boulder field in the morning and worked our way across the drainage. Every couple hundred yards I turned around and put my eyes on a massive dark rock. It was my landmark. Our tent was right behind it. I always use landmarks when I hike in the moutains.
Late in the day we realized that climbing Granite Peak was out of the question. We had picked a poor route and had lost too much time boulder hopping. We turned around and I headed directly across the boulder field — making a beeline for the dark rock. Soon darkness fell upon the valley. I kept my eyes glued on the rock as we inched our way back—though it was now more recognized by its outline and general location than its color. I did not want to lose sight of my landmark. For the next four hours we negotiated hundreds of obstacles in the dark, sometimes jumping four foot spans with our packs on, growing more exhausted, thirsty, and hungry with every step. Long after midnight we were finally on the home stretch, less than two hundred yards from our tents. I was ecstatic — bed! Finally!
But it was not to be. Though I had informed my associates that I had been keeping watch on the landmark since we had left, nobody trusted my landmark. The other three agreed that we had camped further down the drainage. I started up the hill, hoping that they would begrudgingly follow me. They didn’t. They turned and headed downhill. I begrudgingly followed them, feeling responsible. I didn’t trust their sense of direction in the dark. We walked over half a mile downhill along the edge of the boulder field looking for our tents, ever walking farther from them. After we had walked almost all the way down to the bottom of the boulder field and the stream, they admitted that we must have camped farther up the ridge line than they remembered. So we turned around and walked back up the hill. More than an hour later, we stumbled wearily into camp, right next to the big, dark rock that had been my landmark all along.
The moral of the story is — use, know, and trust your landmarks. The reason my companions got turned around is that they hadn’t been landmarking. Christians often do the same thing in their pilgrim journey. They head out on their sojourn with a bit of excitement and zeal, but they don’t have well-defined landmarks, so eventually they go astray. To avoid straying, we need to set landmarks—starting with our trust in the Bible as the inerrant Word of God, then moving on to particulars like our moral boundaries, seeking the things of God first, and observing every teaching of Christ in the Bible. How happy the man who recognizes that the Bible’s teachings are landmarks designed to help believers negotiate the trials, tempations, and false ways that confuse and beset them on their wilderness journey. We need God’s landmarks.
John 8:31, “Then Jesus said to the Jews who believed on him, If you abide in my Word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” What a blessing. If we continue in his Word, being disciples like we are supposed to be disciples, then we shall learn truth, and the heavenly gift of truth keeps us from potential troubles and mistakes on our journey.
“Eyes wide open, brain engaged, heart on fire.”
Lee W. Brainard