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A Lesson from the Forest Reserve
OLIVE JENNINGS ORBISON


         In the recent days of stress and anxiety the attention of the Christian Scientist and in fact of every Christian was called again to the thought of protection, protection in battle, on the seas, in the air, and even in the quiet fastnesses of the home, protection from various phases of evil, which at times have seemed almost overwhelming. Never before has humanity been so awake to the need of something higher, outside and above itself, to appeal to for safety and comfort. To the lay mind this sure turning has been surprising and a bit disconcerting, and a great struggle to meet this desire is going on, but the Christian Scientist knows it is a marvelous spiritual awakening, which, if rightly directed, can revolutionize the thought of the whole world.

         Although during the conflict I had no near relatives serving in the battle zone, from the first the mental side of the struggle claimed attention. I knew it was my duty constantly to work and pray for the protection and victory of those serving, and I am particularly grateful for an experience through which I passed shortly after the United States entered the war [World War I], and which, helping me to know how lovingly God stands ready to protect and save from any trouble which may assail, gave my work for others a surer foundation.

         A trip in a small automobile had been planned and was being carried out. The party consisted of two, my husband and myself. We had had several adventures and had overcome minor difficulties. One day it was found necessary to make a very long detour in order to reach a certain city included in our itinerary. This detour led five thousand feet up into the mountains and across one of the large Government forest reserves, without so much as a postal station or a farmhouse the whole of the way, a distance of over one hundred miles. No apprehension was felt, however. The weather was perfect, and after a thorough examination of the car an early start was made. In a short time the last post office was left behind, and the road began to wind up and up into the mountains. When at last the top of the mountain was reached, the road had become a mere wagon track, leading through great pine forests. We enjoyed to the utmost the wonderful views. Dry needles cracked under our tires, the air was like incense, and the sky a beautiful blue bowl. We knew that there were wild animals all about us, but we were not disturbed, the car was making fair progress, and I remember as we rolled along I was humming to myself a song from our Hymnal, "He that has God his guardian made."

         At about two o'clock in the afternoon, when nearly half of our journey still lay before us, we came out upon a wide, open plateau several miles in circumference, encircled by the pine forests. Suddenly there was a crashing sound, the machine trembled, ran a short distance, and stopped. Examination showed that the high grass between the ruts in the road had concealed a sharp pointed rock, and this hidden surface had ripped asunder the pan of the car, caught the oil pump and clipped it neatly off, draining the engine and leaving the car a wreck.

         So suddenly had the accident occurred, and so appalling did it seem, we were almost unable to grasp its significance. One moment we were rolling smoothly along enchanted with our surroundings; the next, staring at each other across a useless car. We found ourselves with but scanty provisions, marooned forty miles from civilization, in a lonely forest infested with wild animals. I quickly perceived that the work was mine, for my husband, with a greater knowledge of our difficulties added to the responsibility of my welfare, seemed overcome. Something had to be done speedily; night comes quickly in the mountains. There was a wordless cry to God for help, no formulated plea, just a heartfelt reaching for Him, answered almost immediately by the conviction that tremendous though the problem seemed, we would still be shown the way out.

         I expressed this to my husband, and after a few moments it was decided that one must stay and one must seek help, trusting to God to guide. I remained with the car, on the forlorn hope that someone might pass, forlorn because the road was not used for days and sometimes weeks at a time, and he started for the forest a mile or so away. As I watched his form grow smaller and smaller in the distance and finally disappear, my heart fairly stood still; terrible pictures of fear came crowding thick and fast into my imagination. I walked up and down the road, striving to remain calm, and repeating over and over the words, "Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need," from "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (p. 494). With this went a fervent petition to God to protect us and show us the way. After what seemed a very long time I heard a faraway shout, and in the distance I saw a tiny automobile bumping and rolling over the meadows and coming toward me. In it sat my husband and a forest ranger.

         My husband said that without material evidence to guide him, after leaving me he stumbled almost blindly along. No sense of where he was going or what he was going to do entered his thought; he just went as if impelled. As he entered the forest a faint trail caught his eye. Following this he threaded his way through the pines, and to his utter amazement he suddenly came upon a clearing where, gathered in a small circle, were the tents of half a dozen forest rangers, fire fighters. The men were as surprised as he was and hurried to our rescue, expressing themselves in no uncertain terms as to what might have happened had we broken down anywhere but in just exactly the spot we did, for this was the only camp in the whole reserve, two thousand and seven hundred square miles, and the only possible place which held help for us. The head ranger remarked to me, "What beats me is, how did he ever happen to walk in the right direction, when he could so easily have missed us." Needless to say, we were taken in and cared for by these kindly men. Among them was a practical automobile man, and he sat for hours patching up our car, and so successfully that it eventually carried us home. We stayed two days with them while oil was procured for our engine, and found it a most delightful visit as we listened to their tales of forest fires, great storms, and difficulties overcome, and we parted from them with regret.

         One said to me as I related this experience: "But why did you have an accident in such a remote place? Why were you not protected through the whole trip?" The answer seemed very simple to me. As long as we are struggling with mortal thought, we must inevitably pass through some of its experiences, but it rests with ourselves whether they shall leave us as they found us. Daniel found the protecting power of Love closer than were the lions; so with us, God's care was never absent from us, even though at the time of the accident all material evidences were to the contrary. As we allowed Him to control the situation, however, and started trustingly to find help, it was manifested to us in a way we could never have dreamed of, and the whole incident was turned into a beautiful lesson. It is easily imagined what would have happened if we had supinely believed and yielded to the suggestions which presented themselves to us.

         Along the same line of thought we find that our Leader says on page 66 of Science and Health, "Trials are proofs of God's care;" and again on page 410, "Every trial of our faith in God makes us stronger." It is for each individual Christian Scientist to discover that a trial of faith can prove God's protecting care; for it is only as one rises above the trial that the care is revealed and the proof established in consciousness. In the light of later events, the lesson of the forest reserve was a necessary and precious one, and not for worlds would we part with an experience which brought with it such definite, strengthening, and glorious results.

 

"A Lesson from the Forest Reserve" by Olive Jennings Orbison
Christian Science Sentinel, September 20, 1919
 

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