So, our sons went together to purchase their Mom and Dad a cruise package to Alaska, and presented it to us as a Christmas present. Over the years in our home, I had at times talked about wanting to go to Alaska and stand on a glacier. It was a dream I thought never would happen.
But, as the boys initiated the consideration, plans came together rather smoothly. Terry and I decided to drive southern routes cross-country to specifically see the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Ron, Holly, and Justus drove northern cross-country routes just to see certain large cities. We met at a motel outside of Seattle, Washington, two days before setting sail on the Emerald Princess bound for Alaska.
We boarded the ship June 24th. The boys paid for Terry and me to have a berth with a view, which was a nice bonus. The ship’s first point for debarking was at Ketchikan, Alaska, where us cruisers got a lengthy stop to visit the shops and restaurants of that town.
The next leg of our journey brought us to an area known as “Tracy Arm.” The deep waterway for the ship slithered between tall snow-capped mountains on either side. The scenery was most inspirational. Most of the people watching on deck were interested in spying out wildlife along the shoreline. But, it was there that the falls captured my attention most. Numerous falls cascaded thousands of feet from the mountainsides into the ocean. Little did I realize two falls were ahead that would literally be particularly breath taking for both Terry and I.
The next stop was in Juneau. After much walking, Terry had shopped all she could with Ron and Holly. She was going back to the ship, she said. But, when crossing the street, she tripped over a lip in the pavement, and fell hard.
She described it as falling on her chest and stomach with such impact that it knocked the breath out of her. As she lay there trying to recover, 20 people gathered around to offer assistance. A shop worker rushed out to take a picture to present as evidence of the unsafe pedestrian situation. Terry was very embarrassed, although she tried to laugh about it. This fall stoved her up seriously for several days. Nonetheless, fall number one.
Skagway was our next stop. Glacier day had finally arrived for me. I was pumped big time. Getting off the ship, Ron and I met with our excursion group, and shuttled out to a nearby heliport. From there it was a 20-minute helicopter flight to the Meade Glacier. I raised my arms and jiggy-danced victoriously as I stepped out onto my lifetime dream.
I lagged behind our group as we were being escorted around a small area, amazed at how rocky it was on that big chunk of ice. Suddenly, I saw ice and rocks coming fast toward my face. I braced for impact. I had inadvertently tripped over a large stone, and fell hard. I busted my face on the surface, and bled profusely from the nose. The sharp rock shards cut the palms of my hands in several places, which resulted in bleeding. My left knee bumped hard. Fall number two.
Truly, the Alaskan waterfalls were breath taking, but those two Branch falls were more so perhaps.
But, our two falls stirred in me a profound perspective, because we all have certain falls, particularly of the moral and spiritual sort. We fall to temptation. We fall into sin. We fall out of fellowship with God. We fall into disfavor with others. The Scripture says that sometimes we fall into mischief.
Sometimes these falls are hurtful. It is hard to get through life without taking a fall now and then. Each of us has our moral and spiritual weak points, and the devil knows where to turn the screw in each of us. He knows where to put those stumbling stones or sneaky areas.
But, if you fall morally or spiritually, GET UP again with God. God says that though a righteous man falls, “…he shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord upholds him with His hand.” God is full of forgiveness. He is willing to help. He can lift us back onto our feet.
In the mean time, our son, Keithen, put his parents’ falls into perspective. He said, “The old saying is that you can tell you are old when you fall if a lot of people gather around you to help you up. You are considered young if you fall and no one pays you any attention.
Noteworthy is that my glacier group did not even offer a hand when I fell.
Pastor Ron Branch lives in Mason County and is pastor of Hope Baptist Church, Middleport, Ohio.