On my first journey from back home to North Carolina, I traveled the winding Cherohala Skyway that led through the Appalachian Mountains. The trip took twice as long as the interstate way. But I had no timetable, no marks to hit at certain points on my watch—I would not have met any such deadline.
The slow crawl gave me opportunity to look back in the rearview at the way I had come, to see the progress I was making. In one of those glances backward, I caught sight of the little ones, my three daughters, in the backseat, noses pressed to the window, eyes looking expectedly up and out, mouths open in the wonder of it all. The slow path gave time to soak in the wondrous landscape, the valleys and the peaks, to see this June morning in new ways. In a world that bursts with marvels, the slowness with which the van moved along gave my girls the time to drink it all in and tuck away memories for later. I took a deep breath, seizing the day’s
glories rather than counting the minutes lost in time.
This is my 23rd June in North Carolina, and the mountains still fascinate and, at times, frustrate me. To come upon a mountain trail, I cannot help but imagine the end-game, reaching the summit, moving quickly and measuring each step for accuracy and
determine the impact on the task at hand—to arrive at the top, to stand at the ridge and look back with exhilaration at where I’ve come, to take in the long view and breathe deeply at the accomplishment. But for much of the way forward, the mountain itself is hidden in the twists and turns of the path, and to go upward, the trail leads downward at odd moments. Sometimes the path I follow is grassy and wide, and I meet other hikers with smiles and friendly small chats.
Just as often, the narrow path leads over rocky and uneven ground, shrubs and saplings crowding the trail so that all attention must be on placing my feet correctly, and when I meet others here, one must give way because two cannot go at the same time. Eyes cast down-ward, we pass with no comment, purposeful and solitary.
Upon becoming a Carolinian, I had people ask frequently, “Mountain or beach?” I grew up along the Gulf Coast in Texas and Louisiana, and I love fresh seafood, particularly shrimp, so my default answer, of course, was “Beach!” The salt air really is healing, and walks in the sand, listening to waves crash all around me, never grows old. But over the years, the mountains have worked their magic.
In the high country, the outcome of trails remains hidden, and one follows the markers to the top and only then comes the revelation. Standing at the crest, all becomes clear and the journey makes sense only in retrospect. There is a measure of trust as one travels the paths and reaches the destination. At the beach, I walk as far as I want, and then I retrace my steps back to the beginning. Not so in the mountains; I can choose several paths back down, discovering new sights and sounds along the way.
The landscape shifts, and I never grow tired of the newness it offers. On the way up, my feet want to arrive; at the top, my eyes want to imbibe. And then, no matter how long I stay there, I must go back down. These are thinly disguised metaphors, right? I’m writing about beaches and mountains, and I’m discussing life, mine and yours. There are trials and tribulations, both at the beach and in the mountains. This world is replete with detours that can lead away from the One who calls us His own.
But Isaiah 43:2-3 reminds me of our Lord’s watchcare: “When you go through the deep waters, I will be with you.” I read in Psalm 121:1-2, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, From whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, Which made heaven and earth.” On Sundays, I sing the hymns of our faith with the choir and rejoice in the Master of the sea, the Lord of the mountaintop. In all my Carolina years, the varying landscapes have captured my imagination and focused my attention on the Author and Finisher of my faith. I rejoice that I do not have to choose between mountain and beach—both are nearby and accessible, the salt breezes of the coast and the zephyr swirls of the hills.
Thanks be to God.
Written by Jim Edminson, Editor of Charity & Children