Earlier this week I was blessed with having a little time to visit my folks in the Carolinas. I wanted to share a very special time that had I had with our Lord during that trip.
One of the side benefits of visiting my folks is that they live in the Blue Ridge Mountains. During the weeks leading up to my visit, I was excited about seeing my family and was also looking forward to taking a little bit of time to hike the Looking Glass Rock Trail in Pisgah National Forest. For those who have not been blessed with visiting Looking Glass Rock, it is a huge monolithic rock that sticks up over 1,700-feet from the forest floor. It is what I consider to be the Jewel of Pisgah National Forest.
The morning after my arrival I woke with the excitement of my morning hike. I ate breakfast with my mom and dad and headed out for the forest with the intentions of being back by noon, telling my mother that I would see her for lunch. I had hiked Looking Glass Rock Trail about 5-years ago and remembered that it was a fairly strenuous uphill trek, and I remembered it only being a couple of miles long.
On my way to the trail I calculated that if I spent an hour climbing the 2-mile ascent it would put me at the top at about 10:00, giving a 20 or 30 minutes to enjoy the view, and with a 45-minute return trip I would be back at the truck by 11:30 with time to spare, giving me 30 minutes to get back to my folks house for lunch – Piece of Cake!
Well, when I got to the trailhead, I learned that the trail was actually 3 miles long, all up hill. I almost decided to choose a different trail considering my time constraints, but something would not let me shrink from the challenge. On Florida flatland trails, 3 miles in one hour is not much of a personal challenge, but a 3-mile 1,700-hundred foot climb is something altogether different. I looked at the map on the trailhead kiosk and looked down at the clock on my phone and remember saying to myself, just before I commenced on my trek of insanity, “You got this!”
I scrambled to the top of the rock as fast as my body would take me, taking a few breaks here there just long enough to keep my heart from pounding out of my chest. One saving grace to this little trip was that it was only 25-degrees (Fahrenheit), but I still managed to soak a t-shirt, a long sleeved thermal shirt, sweatshirt and a jacket completely through. As anyone who has spent any time hiking in the mountains is well aware of from the beginning of this story, I had little chance of making it to the top in one hour, but I did make it in an hour and a half and my legs are still sore as I am writing this 3-days later.
I took a few pictures with my cell phone. It was an absolutely beautiful day, and I felt compelled to take 5 or 10-minits to sit and pray before heading back. As I was headed toward the truck, I had this overwhelming sense of urgency to get back. It wasn’t a sense that something was wrong, but a rather a sense that I needed to keep my word to my mother and father of being back in time for lunch. I found myself almost running at times. I wouldn’t doubt if some of the people passed who were coming up the trail may have been wondering why I was in such a hurry?
I was laughing to myself, “Here you are Bill, 51-years old and still having trouble getting home on time.” It brought me back to my teenage years, when I would stay out past my curfew, knowing all the way home that I would be in trouble and that there would be consequences. Typically I would lose my driving privileges or be grounded to the house for a week or two.
The reason for my hurry was something altogether different, however. I wasn’t anxious about getting back because I was afraid of being in trouble or somehow disappointing my parents; I was in a hurry to get back because I love my parents and I didn’t want to miss spending time with them. I enjoyed my time on the trail, but I wasn’t there to spend time in the woods. I was there to spend time with my parents.
As I get older, I am finding that there is nothing more important to me than spending time with the ones that I love. As I am sure many can relate, I am finding myself wanting to spend more time with my folks.
As a child, much of my concern in dealing with my parents was staying out of trouble and wanting to make them proud. Now I don’t view my parents as disciplinarians but as two people that I love more than I can express and honor them out of that love, not out of a fear of being trouble or somehow disappointing them.
My relationship with the Lord has changed in the same way. When I was younger, I viewed our Father in Heaven in as someone who I needed to please to keep out of the hot seat of Hell. Hell was very much the focus. I needed to straighten my life out and accept Jesus so I could go to Heaven.
Now that I am older I find chuckling to myself at how things have changed. I very seldom even think of Hell. I no longer spend time in prayer because I am worried that God will be mad at me if I don’t pray or out of a sense of obligation. I spend time with God because I want to spend time with the One I love more than anyone.
As we grow in the love of our Lord, Hell loses it grip on us, not because it has become any less serious, but because as we grow in the knowledge and understand of who God is we begin to understand that Hell has absolutely no place in our lives. We no longer strive to stay away from sin for fear of punishment, but because we no longer want there ever to be anything that will separate us from our Greatest Love.