There are times hiking I take my eyes off the trail to look ahead for a moment. Sometimes I am delighted to see the path turns downward, but most of the times the path ahead is an ascent. Sometimes I see what appears to be an insurmountable obstacle. When I reach this "obstacle" though, most of the times there is a path, unseen from a distance, which allows me to walk right beside the obstacle with ease.
This was not the case this time. Actually, we encountered two obstacles on our recent hike and they were within a short distance of each other.
We were hiking along a beautiful path surrounded by trees with new spring growth. Every now and then a mountain vista would open up from the foliage. The trail was hard, but negotiable. Then we came to a spot where sheer rock face was to our left and a steep precipice to our right. In front of us water cascaded out of the rock and tumbled below on the side of the mountain. Two logs had been placed across this creek. Thankfully, the wonderful volunteers who maintain the trail had placed some metal grating on the logs so they wouldn't be slippery. Still, it was a tense moment putting all our weight, plus the weight of our packs, on these small, wet logs.
We crossed the "bridge" easily and I felt a congratulatory pride in our accomplishment. Then a few feet later we met the next obstacle.
The trail, usually only a foot or so wide, began to diminish and then disappear. In its place a ledge of rock began to jut out from the mountain, rising to a height of about four feet. The rock face was still to our left and the precipice to our right. It was obvious we were meant to climb up on this rock ledge, which we did. I did so holding on to the rock face as best as I could. Then to my amazement, the ledge abruptly disappeared and the sodden trail reappeared -- four feet lower. The only way to go forward was to jump from this ledge to the path below.
I imagine the many young thru-hikers we met on the trail made this jump without a single thought, but age brings both wisdom and caution. Not wanting to shift my center of gravity, I slipped my pack off and jumped. Glen followed, choosing to leave his pack on. We both made it safely down to the trail, but the margin of error was tiny. One misstep and we would have been making a quick descent down the mountain in a way we definitely did not want to do.
As we continued on, this ledge was in the back of my mind. You see, we had planned an "out and back" hike, meaning we would have to face this ledge again, but this time from the other direction. I wasn't sure exactly how we were going to manage that, and frankly, I didn't want to face it again.
This is often how things can go in our Christian lives. We take our eyes off the path the Lord has placed before us and we gaze wonderingly into the future. Rarely does that future paint a rosy picture. More often than not, we envision something through which our enemy can tempt us to fear. . . "What if this happens?" "What will happen to me if this person is no longer in my life?" Imaging the future brings dread and dread breeds fear.
These thoughts and these fears can be very real. To some they present insurmountable obstacles to peace and joy. The truth of the matter is that as Christians there is never a moment, never an obstacle we must face alone. He is with us, He is within us and He is waiting for us to trust Him to strengthen and enable us to do His will in the face of the obstacle.
Sometimes He provides a safe place for our feet along the obstacle. Sometimes He removes the obstacle. Sometimes He removes us from the obstacle.
This is what happened with our rock ledge. Later on along the path we found a trail leading back to the Virginia Creeper trail. We had walked part of this the day before and found it to be a beautiful and refreshing trail. We knew we no longer had time to reach our planned destination (because of a washed out bridge, a detour, and a wrong turn) so we finished our hike on the Virginia Creeper Trail.
The Lord strengthened us to cross the wet bridge. He enabled us to jump from the rock ledge, but He took us out of climbing onto that ledge a second time.
Trusting the Lord as we walk along our path of the Christian life leads us to find the "peace of God, which passeth all understanding" and "joy unspeakable and full of glory."
Let us not fear the path ahead, or look at it with dread. Our Lord is with us, He is within us and there can be no obstacle insurmountable to the One who flung the worlds into being with His word. He is the One who sustains all creation by the "power of His might."
"For it is God which worketh in you
both to will and to do of His good pleasure." Philipians 2:13