Posted: under Christianity, National Parks.
Tags: 2 Corinthians 5, Andrea Lankford, Isaiah 61, Kurt Repanshek, Matthew 10:16, National Parks Traveler, Psalm 73, Ranger Confidential, Romans 3:23, wise as serpents and innocent as doves
May 3, 2010
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:26
My favorite website about the national parks—aside from the National Park Service site, of course—is National Parks Traveler. A few weeks ago, founder and Editor-in Chief Kurt Repanshek wrote a review of a new book, Ranger Confidential: Living, Working and Dying in the National Parks, by former ranger Andrea Lankford.
The image of park rangers, as Mr. Repanshek notes, is as “fit and polite, beaming dazzling smiles, displaying knowledge that knows no bounds, armed with nerves of steel, and with dashing personalities” (undoubtedly, the spiffy uniforms and distinctive hat add to this illusion). This ideal, however, contrasts with many accounts in the book: “Ms. Lankford tells us of highly placed rangers who, when angered, throw tantrums, throw safety helmets, kick medical kits, smack fellow rangers in the head with paddles…[of] sexual harassment within the ranks [and] pitiful housing conditions for both rangers and concessions employees, of park employees killed on the job, of suicides in the parks.”
Amazon describes Ranger Confidential as a “graphic and yet surprisingly funny account of her and others’ extraordinary careers. Lankford unveils a world in which park rangers struggle to maintain their idealism in the face of death, disillusionment, and the loss of a comrade killed while holding that thin green line between protecting the park from the people, the people from the park, and the people from each other.”
Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised to find that park rangers have their faults and foibles; after all, they’re people just like us. The fact is, everyone stumbles and falls (Romans 3:23). None of us lives up to our ideals all the time, Christians included.
But sometimes we Christians forget that. We fall prey to the lie that we always have to be happy, act perfectly, and look like we have it all together in order to represent God properly. The struggle to maintain Christian idealism in the face of the hard facts of life—to be, as Jesus puts it, “shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16)—is one of the biggest challenges of living God’s way, I find. Being honest about how we find strength and help in the midst of temptations and trials is the best example of showing that God is real, loving and active in human affairs.
Mr. Repanshek concludes his review by saying, “What should be made of Ranger Confidential and the image of the Park Service it casts? In one respect, perhaps it should be realized that for an agency with some 20,000 employees, many who naturally are hard-charging and living on the edge, and whose budget is controlled not only by Congress but by political appointees, perfection cannot exist, no matter how idealistic the Park Service is viewed. And yet, despite the hardships and the inequities that exist in the agency, there is something to be said about wearing the gray and the green, as Ms. Lankford seems to imply in her closing words.”
Perfection doesn’t exist in the Christian life either, at least this side of heaven. And yet, despite the hardships and inequities that exist here on earth, there is something to be said about the uniform we wear as God’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20): “I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10).
Comments (2) May 05 2010