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Volume 8, Issue 5: Similitudes

Ranger Bob's Nature Walk

Douglas Wilson

The Scriptures are a vast wilderness area, and good parts of this wilderness no white man has ever seen. The glories of the interior are past reckoning, and it will be many centuries before the details are fully mapped. We do have some good aerial maps, and we have a basic idea of the extent, but beyond the greatest and most obvious features, we are still without detailed knowledge.

Along the periphery of this wilderness, along the south, is a short trail, several miles in length, kept and groomed by a well-meaning and gracious man. We will call him Ranger Bob (although his real name might surprise you). Signs along a nearby freeway direct visitors to the place where they may enjoy the Nature Walk in Christian Maturity.
From this position on the south of the wilderness, some of the more outstanding features of the forest are visible--the mountain range along the north boundary, the stand of redwood just beneath the ridge that runs along the south side, as well as the geysers and hot springs which are nearby over toward the east. In short, the trail kept by Ranger Bob does offer some spectacular vistas, and, for those who pay attention, some genuine knowledge of the great features of the wilderness can be gained through taking the walk along the carefully groomed trail.
Trimmed brown logs, the kind that can be purchased at large retail home and hardware stores, line the paths throughout the nature walk. Fine bark covers the pathways, so that no careless visitor may trip over a root. Every fifty yards or so the visitors stop at a little turnout by the path which always contains some helpful and edifying information. (Most of the time the information is accurate as well.). A log post is set upright in the ground, and then cut away at a forty-five degree angle about three feet from the ground. On that flat surface, Ranger Bob has placed a small piece of wood, painted forest green, with a small bit of painted instruction in white that points out the view, the nature of the tree in front of the visitors, or the composition of the rock over there on the left. If a diligent visitor were to walk the entire trail, and read every sign, the task would probably take him well past lunch.
When the walking tours are over, Ranger Bob meets each group coming out of the small preserve. A small ceremony is held, in which God is thanked for His mercies, and each person is given a certificate of completion. That certificate reads, in part, "Ranger Bob's Nature Walk in Christian Maturity is pleased to announce that Billy Christian has completed all the requirements assigned to him and has been awarded the status of Mountain Man." Billy is then given a coonskin cap. Many are so impressed with this ceremony that they come back and walk the trail repeatedly.
Of course the trail walk is not without its critics. A few hermits here and there live tucked away in ramshackle huts off in the mountains, and they see even less of the view than do the visitors to the south ridge. But because they live there year round, living on grubs and water, they think they are the real mountain men. And we must not forget those who reject the whole idea of wilderness exploration in the first place, and who think that dependence upon this wilderness is misguided from the start. God is too big, they say, to fit inside one religion. They prefer to stay away entirely, exploring the wilderness of their own hearts. This is the true wilderness, they argue. And in a way, they may be right.
Visitors to Ranger Bob's nature walk are urged, in the strongest possible terms, to stay on the path. Horrible things have happened to those who stepped off the path. Some have never been heard from again, others have disappeared into the quicksands of heresy, still others have come back with a puffy case of interpretive poison oak, while not a few have come back to the trail with strange tales of strange creatures. This is particularly true of those wanderers who went off to see the great fossil beds of Revelation. Some come back with wisdom in their eyes, although they do not have Ranger Bob's kind of hat--or shoulder patch.
Of those who left the path and survived, some come back merely to laugh at the coonskin caps. Others appear to be sad, but they don't say much--looking as though they don't know where to start. Still others shake their heads and disappear again. Heaven knows where they go.

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