The Pass They Chose
On October 31, 1846, eighty-seven westbound settlers arrived at Donner Pass in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Up to this point, their journey had been one successful display after another of self-will, self-determination and self-sacrifice. Inspired by the dream of “all that might be possible” in California, there seemed to be no obstacle thru which they could not pass. Arriving at Donner Pass, the weary settlers found it blocked by an impenetrable barrier of snow and ice.[nextpage]
Sealed in by the storm, they were unable to turn back. The next five months resulted in death, insanity and cannibalism. History records this tragedy as the most horrific event of the pioneer movement.*
Although less dramatic, a more tragic story unfolds each day in the lives of many people. A person finds within himself a growing desire to know God and to know he is right with Him. Inspired by the dream of “all that might be possible” in a relationship with Him, the person begins to make changes in his life in order to live a life more pleasing to Him. He does whatever he can to make more room in his life for God. The desire to know Him goes unmet. The person grows weary. It seems as if the “pass” he has chosen is blocked. No amount of self-effort, self-discipline or self-sacrifice can penetrate the barrier. In time, the unmet desire becomes a dull ache. The dull ache becomes a haunting reminder to the person that he “once tried to know God and failed.” Much like the settlers at Donner Pass, the dream of “all that might be possible” has ended in disaster.
The tragedy is not that the person failed, but that he failed to discover the provision God had already made for him: a “pass” that provided for his safe arrival…an opening thru which he could enter into a relationship with Him. Once a person comes to grips with the true nature and character of God, he realizes any attempt to know Him through self-effort, self-discipline and self-sacrifice is destined to fail. The barriers that separate us from Him cannot be overcome by us. What we cannot do for ourselves, God has done for us. The work His Son performed on the cross removed the barriers so that we might “pass thru”…into His presence and into a relationship with Him. It is only “thru the pass” He has provided through His Son that the desire to know Him is fulfilled and the dream realized.
On July 20, 1846, a life changing decision was made. It was three months before the tragedy at Donner Pass and a group of settlers traveling west from Illinois arrived at the Little Sandy River. The Donner party chose the trail to the left. The other settlers went right. Three months later, the Donner party arrived at Donner Pass and their dream of “all that might be possible” ended in disaster. The other settlers arrived safely in California on October 28, 1846.* Their desires were fulfilled. Their dream was realized. The pass they chose made the difference.