journeys: this side of the kingdom.
I feel like my blog posts are about to get all out of order.
I can’t really sleep right now: partially because I just have a lot of stuff on my mind, and also because I’m hungry – so I’m eating PB&J and writing. Problem solved? Not quite.
I needed to get away to take some time to pray about so many things in my life – just refocus myself. I felt I just needed to seek out some very specific answers and I felt that there was something I needed to learn in the Smokey Mountains – I planned on hiking in along the Appalachian Trail to see a certain vista point, but big daddy government knee-capped that by restricting all overnight parking due to this government shutdown deal.
The trail connects with a wide parking lot on the TN/NC boarder. Cell reception had been spotty the entire way up, but I found a few bars and double checked the map – it was not the map I looked at back at home: probably my first mistake, but it showed the trail only left in one direction. I loaded up my pack with my lights and supplies and water. The path way broad, easy to hike with trees that hung over it like in all the movies – this is where the wild things lived – but something felt off. The path felt like it was slopping and the canopy of trees felt too dark and there was a lot of watery sounds below. I followed it for about ten minutes before it narrowed sharply to a small grove of yellow and purple wild flowers with high banked walls. The plants pushed against the path, almost covering it, which isn’t uncommon for the trail (which was obviously there), but it didn’t feel right for a place where people commonly came to visit. I followed my gut and turned around – much to the shock of my pride, because I HATE giving up on things I start – especially adventures.
I dropped off my pack at the car and decided to explore the other side of the parking lot. I found another entrance to a trail that lend into the woods, mark narrower and rougher, and steadily upward. The quote by Tolkien came true, mixed with my ability to chronically put myself in both awkward and dangerous situations: “little by little, one travels far”. I found myself far enough in the woods that it wasn’t worth going back for stuff like light, or tents, or you know – water. The sun began to set behind the heavy clouds on the other side of the mountain and everything started to get dark. I was excited, pressing on – I passed a few people who looked like they were about to die. I think I was frustrated too. Also, the further I walked the more I realized I would be really pinched for time getting back. I walked along the spine of the mountain as the wind roared up both slopes and tossed the trees.
Now, I’m not saying I heard God speak to me, or what I was told was anything other than my own heart – but I’d like to think. Maybe just a little internal monologue.
I took a second look at my watch and looked back the way I came. The message at church that morning had been about taking risks, and I know there is a difference between testing God and taking a risk. I had seen so many amazing things and vistas and old tunnels, but nothing jumped out of me as entirely remarkable: “Why are you afraid?”
“I don’t want to get caught in the mountains after dark.”
“You’re not afraid of the dark.” I started to think about life: choices coming up – hesitations. “Walk a little further.”
I followed the path. It turned sharply upward to a place I felt I should stop. I found a small path leading away from the main trail and walked along it to a place that overlooked range after range of the Smokey Mountains. The path around my feet was covered with wild flowers: purple and yellow, the trees were gold and red with their changing leaves – Matthew 6:27-29 came to mind, about the flowers not worrying about anything.
I need more than rain. I need more than sun. But really, do I lack anything I need? As I walked by I passed under autumn trees that seemed to capture the fading light and the path glowed all the way back. “Come, Thou Fount of every Blessing” as been in my mind over and over. The path I wander from is not a physical path, but the journey of my own expectations – God is opening my dreams, but not how I planned and my expectations had to be exhausted before these doors could open. Why?
Matthew 5-7 has a lot to say about the kingdom of God, and basically it is the opposite of this world. Jesus said “The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed” to reference Daniel when the kingdom of Babylon was a tree that filled the earth, but was cut down. God isn’t about dominating the world, but restoring it; the garden – the mustard tree is the garden tree. It should not surprise us that the values are joy and peace and hope. Hope is not a supplement, but hope is the end. The confidant expectation in His goodness. But do I trust Him? The currency of His love – Sufficiency of His grace?