Wright Words: Icy mountain road teaches the best answer to prayer is often ‘no’

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 7 2014 5:00 a.m. MST

This icicle-decorated road sign in Front Royal, Va., should have been warning enough that the steep Old Cave Road wasn't going to be beaten.

Jason Wright

Like many Americans of all faiths and backgrounds, I like to pray often. You probably do, too. We pray at church, over meals, at bedtime, before road trips and when life presents a need that only heaven can meet.

There is power in prayer, and I believe that if we only ask, our Creator is often just waiting to say "yes."

Except when he isn’t.

This past Sunday I had the pleasure of attending church at the Front Royal Virginia Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’d been told by several LDS Church members of a woman in the area who enjoys my columns and had long wanted to meet me. But the weekend’s sloppy weather and a husband with chronic health problems made a trip to church that day unreasonable.

I’ve been fortunate to meet many of my readers at firesides, school assemblies, book signings or other events around the country. But the print and online reach of the Deseret News is far greater than my arm, and, despite my best efforts, I’ll never shake hands with everyone I’d like to.

So, when I’m that close to someone who makes my job possible, how could I pass up the chance to meet him or her? After church, I asked for the address and directions and set out to find my new pal, Sally Atkins.

I’ll admit, I was a bit concerned that the area had been under a freezing rain warning all morning and that when I got to my car, icicles hung from my mirrors.

I'll also admit that concern turned to worry a few miles later when I saw the steep road I’d need to climb. But the ice on the road sign double-dog dared me to continue, even though I was driving one of the least winter-worthy cars ever manufactured.

Always up for an adventure, I took the turn onto the narrow road I’d been told would eventually end at Sally and Gilbert Atkins’ property. I began sliding almost immediately and backed down the hill for another run with a little more speed. I made it 10 yards higher up the hill, but again the tires spun and the car slid back.

I tried again, this time from a slightly different angle and in new tracks. I aimed for the leftover crunchy snow from a recent storm, but the results were no different.

I couldn’t help but laugh. I would have had more traction in a toboggan.

Smiling from my sandwich of misfortune and overconfidence, and sitting smack in the middle of the road, I did what most of us would have done — I prayed. If the Lord wanted me to visit Sally Atkins, surely he could safely get me up the hill.

Naturally, I expected a "yes." Why not?

Feeling at ease, I took another attempt that ended precisely as the others. So I took another, this time stabbing the gas in short bursts and wriggling the wheel back and forth. I climbed a few inches farther, perhaps, before the tires begged me to stop.

I thought, "Huh, so that’s a ‘no’ then?"

I backed my way down the road, spun around — insert proper use of literally — and held my breath as the car skated like Apolo Anton Ohno down to the main road below. I was fortunate to catch enough traction to avoid diving down an embankment into the woods. It probably wouldn’t have killed me, but it surely would have left a mark.

Safely off the road in the only flat spot available, I wondered why climbing the mountain hadn’t been easier. What was I missing? Was there something I couldn’t see?

Curious, I stepped out of the car and looked up the hill. "I’ve come so far," I thought. "And whether Sally wants to meet me or not, I’d sure like to meet her."

So, obviously, I went in my suit and loafers.

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