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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Tantalizing Traps

Tantalizing Traps
          After nearly two weeks of recent sub-zero temperatures my wife and I decided that this past weekend we would take advantage of the slightly warmer weather and sunshine, bust out of our hibernation and take our dogs out along the river for a snowshoeing adventure.  I’ve written some about my dogs and their personalities in a previous POST, and this remains true when we are out snowshoeing as well as when I take them for a run.
          Everything started out great and we were all having a wonderful time enjoying the fresh air, “partially warm” sunshine, and the beautiful scenery along the river where we had decided to spend the afternoon.  After the Holidays and all of the excess sweets and goodies which had been consumed, the activity and exertion of trudging through the path of deep snow was just what my body needed.
          With the snow covering the path and making it somewhat more difficult to discern, along with the fact that I felt out of shape and needed to catch my breath, we paused periodically to take in the view and make sure we were on the heading the right direction.  The path meandered along the river on one side, with trees and fallen logs strewn along the other.
           Our dogs were enjoying themselves, with our energetic Abby tending to bound ahead, forging her own trail, which zig-zagged back and forth from the icy river bottoms to out in the trees and obstacles on either side of the trail.  While our floppy Bassett hound Missy, whose short legs tended to make snow-breaking difficult, tended to hang pretty close to us and follow in the tracks our snow shoes left behind for easier travel.
          Dogs sometimes have a problem, that when their nose starts working, their brain shuts off.  I remember as I saw them run down to the partially frozen over and still flowing river, that I commented to my wife that I hoped they didn’t fall through the fragile ice, which was full of the game tracks left behind by some lighter birds or smaller animals which had scurried about its surface sometime before.  I wasn’t only worried about the dogs slipping in and getting cold or swept downstream, but also about the possibility that if they did, I might have to leave the safety of the trail and plunge in to get them out, which would pretty much ruin an otherwise wonderful day.

          Focusing along the enticing sights and magnificence of the river on one side, I had failed pay attention so much to the trees and fallen logs along the other side of the trail.  As I stopped to take out my phone for a few pictures, as a pair of Bald Eagles soared over our heads, the air was suddenly pierced by the agonizing and terrified howls of pain of our dog Abby, who had run off into the trees outside the path.
          I could hear her thrashing about behind some fallen logs, and immediately became concerned she had become entangled in a fight with some slumbering badger or other wild creature which was obviously getting the better of her, as her cries were that of helplessness and terror.  My wife was ahead of me and ran ahead screaming in fright, as I was trying to grab my walking poles as a means of defense if I had to fight off some wild creature.
          By the time I looked up, my wife was also rolling around on the ground behind the logs and screaming for help, I my heart pounded in fright as I ran to try to protect them!
          As I came upon the scene, I realized that our dog, in her bounding search for excitement off the edges of the path, had stepped in a wild game trap, which had been placed by some trapper.  This steel trap was secured to one of the fallen logs by a thick steel chain.

My wife was trying to hold her still, and in the confusion and pain, and not understanding that she was trying to help, our dog had bitten her on the hand.  As I instructed my wife to hold our dog as still as possible, I was able to brush away the loose snow and find the release levers for the trap, and with some effort, push them down to release the spring and allow our dogs foot to finally come free.
Slightly bloodied, sore and subdued, our dog hunkered down alongside us on the path, licking her wounds as my wife comforted her, assessed her own bruised and bitten hand, and our hearts all tried to regain a normal rhythm.  In nervousness I began to look around, suddenly alert and apprehensive, and quickly discovered that at least two more traps were set nearby, cleverly and expertly hidden along both sides of the path beneath a slight covering of snow, but with the menacing steel teeth of their jaws visible in their concealed position.

Worried that our dogs might accidentally step into the closest one to where we were standing I used a stick to trigger the trap, and despite knowing what would happen, still jumped as the metal jaws snapped tight and held fast to the stick so securely that I could not pull it free.  My wife then wisely advised me, that rather that searching about and trying to remove the threat of any other unseen traps and risking getting caught unawares in one ourselves, that it would be best to stay on the path we already knew was safe, and retrace our steps back towards home.
In the end, our dog was luckily alright, with only a bruised and slightly bloodied paw, which she is now walking around on without any limp.  And my wife, who was luckily wearing a glove, had only some bruising and soreness from being accidentally bitten in the confusion of the moment.
I couldn’t’ help but come away from the adventure with a sense of pondering about the lessons that could be learned from the experience.
(Now I want to make sure, and have it clearly understood, that I am in no way condemning the trapper who laid those snares along the river way.  I support anyone’s legal right to hunt, fish or trap as they please – but am just using the true story to prove a point.)
Much like is described in the Book of Mormon, Lehi’s vision describes a safe path which leads to a “Tree of Life”, which is beset by distractions, a river on one side, mists of darkness which lead to pitfalls and snares of wickedness.  The only way to safely arrive at the desired destination is to hold fast to a rod of iron which runs along the pathway.

Such is true for both our snowshoe hike and our daily walk through life.  There is a safe path which is designated for us to travel through life.  It is contained in the Commandments, Holy Scriptures teachings of the prophets, and the guidance of the Holy Ghost, all of which are there to help us see more clearly the path which leads safely through the traps and snares of the adversary.

Often times, because we are mortal, and easily distracted by the enticements of life and what is constantly before us outside the safety of the path, we wander in “exploration” and find, after it is too late, that we or someone we love is caught in a trap from which we cannot free ourselves.  We have all likely personally experienced or at least know someone who has suffered from the effects of drug addiction, pornography, alcoholism, smoking, or a countless list of other destructive behaviors.
If we have loved ones going through such difficulties, or are experiencing them ourselves, we must realize that there are those around us who love us, and like my wife will reach out with steadying and supportive arms to try and keep us from harm.  Without knowing, those ensnared may react defensively, not realizing they are trying to help.  But those who love us will always be there.
But despite all of that, there is one thing that is absolutely necessary to truly become free from the trappings of life – someone who knows how to truly understand the situation, and has the ability and power to release the trap and fully set us free.  And for that, there is literally only ONE being who can do that for us – our Savior Jesus Christ.

He will not violate our agency, and will let us experience life, but he has set a straight and narrow path before us that is safe and free from danger, as long as we stay on the trail.  He knows that there are traps about us, which are dressed up and may look more exciting than the consistency of the path, and that is why He came and atoned for our sins and mistakes, so that he knows how to release the traps in which we become helplessly entangled, if we will but call out to Him sincerely for His divine help and assistance.

I should also make it clear, that just stopping sinful behavior doesn’t free us from the trapping of sin. My dog could have sat still in the same place indefinitely, without any further wandering into unsafe areas, but she still would have been caught by the trap until I set her free.  The same is true for us and our sins.  We cannot simply stop the behavior and expect to be free.  We must turn to the Lord who recognized where the trappings of our lives lie, and fully release us from them to be free once again.

This world is so very troubled and confused, with morals and ethics which are as unstable as shifting sand.  Thank God for his stable and sure footed pathway, which can lead us safely through, and for our divine Deliverer, who is able to set us free and return us to solid and safe ground once again when we have gone astray!