Recently, our family went on vacation in the Tennessee mountains. We spent a lot of time just relaxing, but my favorite thing that we did was when we took a hike! We went to a park where we were told we would see ten waterfalls. It was a beautiful day, a little cloudy and cool- a perfect day for a hike with the family. I made sure everyone had a bottle of water and off we went, on an adventure! We decided to walk the trail, which began and ended at a quaint museum and gift shop. We started off on a sidewalk and quickly found our way to the first big stop, which overlooked a beautiful man-made waterfall.
It was stunning and you could hear the strength of the water as it all collected and fell; it made an amazing roaring sound. We took some pictures and stared at it in wonder and then slowly began to wander back onto the path in which we were following. Just moments later there was a fork in the path. One way the path was wider and easier to maneuver, the other way was closer to the water and was a little more tedious. Our group split and some took the easier path and some the harder path.
After several minutes, it was apparent that although the lower path was a little more difficult to maneuver- it was also much more rewarding. We all ended up on the smaller path, close to the water. Of course, on our way to join the others, we had to overcome a few…obstacles. At the bottom of the area where we went down, there was a downed tree. My little guy was taking too long to climb over it and I didn’t want to wait for him or take the chance of having my own difficulties, so I decided to go around the top of the tree limb. I turned to go around and took one step and lost my footing. I literally laid down on my side as the mud under my feet allowed me to almost slide under the limb. I could not get up because I was laughing so hard. I managed to get to my feet as my children were coming to my rescue and brushed off the mud from my side. I had successfully made it down to the lower path.
The views were breathtaking. The kids were enjoying watching the currents of the river and the rapids that were created with the jagged rocks and mountain edges. There were also areas where the waters pooled up and were completely calm and quiet. There were crevices and ledges, and little cliffs to explore. We were loving every minute of it. I found myself slowly making my way to the back of our group, not because I am slow or any less agile, but because the kids kept almost running ahead with excitement. At one point, I found myself almost scaling up the side of a mountain, as I followed the group ahead of me. My two oldest boys both had to help me as I squeezed through a rocky cavernous ledge and a tree, heading straight up. Once I got up to the spot where the others were walking, I noticed that the path had all but disappeared. We were no longer on the path, but were following some tiny trail that actual hikers had made up the side of the mountain. One of my precious teenagers was leading the way and wasn’t even realizing that we were no longer on a true path. It was almost just as hard to climb back down, but we made it back to the trail- laughing the whole way. Within minutes we made it to another fork in the path. This time the choices were to either go back towards the entrance or to continue on one of several other trail options. We picked a trail and kept going. I am pretty sure we picked the hardest and the longest trail. The name was something about a backbone and the trail color was red- that should have told us something. It wasn’t any more difficult than that crazy climb up the mountain, but it was lengthy. It took us close to the river at times and passed more falls and rapids. We saw a fork in the river and amazing rock formations at the water’s edge. We went up what seemed to be a never-ending incline and we walked the thin ridge where we could see the river on both sides, most likely why it was called the backbone. It was truly breathtaking, not just because it was so beautiful but because we were getting winded! What started as a leisurely walk through the woods on a cool day while wearing cute hoodies, ended up being a lengthy, sweaty hike. We came out of the woods looking a mess with our not-so cute hoodies tied around our waists and our empty water bottles in tow. It was as if we had just been stranded and walked for hours in order to survive. Obviously, we made it back to the car, but there was a bit of time that I was thinking- I am getting too old for this! But I am so glad that I went. I am so thankful that I walked with the kids next to the water’s edge where we could really see the beauty of God’s creation. And I am glad that we went the long way where it allowed us to see so much more and come out on the other side feeling determined to finish what we had started.
I can’t help but think about how our journey through the mountains can easily mimic our walk with God. Too many times I am scared to follow God’s prompting to take the more challenging path and I try to stick with the safer, easier path. But when I follow His leading and trust His guidance, He leads me to such beautiful rewards. And just like my impatience with the fallen tree, I often find myself getting impatient as I wait for God to lead me. I sometimes will try to find my own way around and end up falling on my face. There are even times when I start to think that this whole journey seems to be going in a crazy direction and when I stop and analyze the situation, I realize that I am not following God but rather my own desires and made-up schemes. Now don’t get me wrong, I know that this journey is tough, it can be challenging and hard. But when I trust in God to carry me through, He always does. He leads me, He refreshes me, He restores my soul. I will continue to follow Him, no matter how many forks in the path there may be and no matter how challenging it may become. I know that it will be totally worth it in the end because I know that He has plans for me, plans that are for my good, plans for a future and a hope in HIM.