I know about slippery slopes. That whole logical argument of how you start down a path and soon you find yourself sliding out of control. I’ve been warned about them. I’ve been told I’ve been on them. I’ve thought I’ve been on them. I might be on one right now. Well, I guess it’s always a matter of opinion, slippery slopes are. Easy enough for the person on stable ground to diagnose someone who isn’t. Easy enough in hindsight to often times figure out where you went wrong.
It was easy enough for me to point that out to my dog the other day, when I noticed that he was going down a rather steep crevice towards the rushing waters of a river we were hiking up. For some reason or another that dog decided that he wanted to get to the water. Maybe it was because my son and I were scrambling over the rocks to get closer to the edge of the riverbank to look upstream and see a waterfall and he thought “Hey this looks like a good spot!” Maybe he thought we were going to throw a stick for him and he better get down to the water. Maybe he just didn’t think. Which is quite likely the case.
Any which way it was, I found myself shouting at Kodiak as I noticed he was partially down a very steep wedge of rock that was basically a slide ending up in a deep pool of water just out of the raging rapids below. He figured it out as he braced himself and tried to turn around. His claws scratching desperately at the smooth rock as he plied his brakes. Unfortunately he couldn’t gain any traction and was too far down for me to help him without endangering myself. Slippery slope indeed!
Like a wad of laundry in a laundry chute he slid the about seven or so feet down and plunged into the frigid blue water. My son was shouting and I was shouting at him and the dog. Kodiak panicked and paddled towards where he came down, clawing frantically at the steep rock wall, ten feet below us. Then he wheeled and swam upstream toward another equally steep wall and tried to claw his way up that. It was hopeless and he tried another option and then another, snorting and whining the whole time.
My son was shouting at his dog and I yelled at him to make sure he wouldn’t do something stupid and get too close to the bank, as just beside the quiet pool of water Kodiak was swimming in, was foaming white water. I looked everywhere for a spot that Kodiak could possibly get out and the only spot was downstream around the bluff we were standing on. It would require him swimming out into the rapids and going with them around the rocky bluff and then cutting back towards some quiet water where there was a shallow place for him to get up.
I had to get him to listen to me and I wasn’t sure if he would in his panicky state. Kodiak has not had very much experience with rough waters and rivers. He prefers still waters and I can’t remember if I had ever had him in a fast river—just ponds and lakes and sluggish creeks. This was a raging mountain stream that a few years earlier had taken the lives of a dog and his master who had tried to rescue him. That of course was further downstream and over a waterfall, but still I had to make sure my son or myself wasn’t going be in danger trying to get the fool dog out.
So I went back over to where he was swimming around and I called to him and at first he didn’t listen but then he must have realized he wasn’t getting out his way so he looked up at me, high above him on the solid rocks and I was telling him to go out into the wild water. And he did. He bravely swam out into the wild water and it snatched him and carried him fast downstream and I was hopping over the rocks to get to the other side where I wanted him to come up and I was calling him towards me. Slowly he detached himself from the strong current that threatened to carry him fast downstream through stronger rapids, and swam heartily towards me, snorting and huffing. He gained a shallow spot and then dropping into calm water before busting out of the river onto the rocks beside me shaking the water off his coat in a wide arc.
My son was cheering as Kodiak danced up out of the ravine, shaking and flopping and racing around all excited to be out of his predicament. And I joined them scolding and praising the dog at the same time.
This moment reminded me of the time when Jesus talked about being the Good Shepherd in John 10. He said His sheep recognize His voice and listen to Him. And I thought about how often we humans put ourselves in predicaments, where one way or another we’ve slid down a slippery slope so to speak and we find ourselves unable to get out. We exhaust every avenue and find we are stalled, treading, unsure, panicky . . . And then He calls and we listen. Sometimes in our panic and shock we cannot hear at first, but eventually we hear His voice. And He’s telling us to go out into the wild waters and He’s telling us to go where it’s unsafe, and He’s telling us to leave the quiet little pool that has us trapped.
If we are wise—or maybe because we have no other choice, or maybe because we KNOW Him and choose to trust Him—we obey. We head out into the wild waters that threaten to overturn us, but we make it through and we come up to the place where the Master would have us come up. Then there is praise and scolding and the relief of being on solid ground again and hopefully a lesson learned or two.
I told my son a while after we had calmed down some, “This is why you listen to your mom.” Pointing out that I had told him to not run at the riverbank because Kodiak might jump in the water thinking we were going to throw a stick for him.
“Yeah I know.” He said as he hugged his wet dog, “I was so scared and angry at him at the same time, Mom.”
And I told him that why when he doesn’t listen to me, he scares me and that’s what makes me angry with him sometimes. That I wasn’t just here to keep him from having fun, I was here to make sure he was safe and help him make wise choices, so he didn’t end up in a predicament like Kodiak. When he got old enough he should be able to make his own choices and see danger, but even if he did get in a predicament I would be there to help and so would God, he just had to remember to listen.
I’m hoping that not only my dog has learned a lesson from that slippery slope, but that my son may have too. I know I sure have!