Challenging Thought for Today:
He replied, Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. Matthew 17:20 (NIV)
You can’t see forever, but if you are willing to take the half mile hike, straight up the mountain from the parking lot, and then scale a 54-foot observation tower, you can see a 360-degree panoramic view that expands over a 100 miles. At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the highest point in Tennessee, and the third highest mountain peak east of the Mississippi. Even when clouds and air pollution limit viewing distances to twenty miles, the views are still picture worthy.
I don’t remember if it was clear or cloudy the day my husband and I drove up a couple of years ago. I just remember exquisite, breathtaking views from the valley to the top of the mountain. Fall foliage painted scenes no human could create.
It’s a slow drive up because few people can resist the urge to stop and pull their car over to appreciate the many scenic viewing areas on the way. One website called these treasures “scenic pullouts with endless views of ridges and valleys.” I know we stopped at least two or three times before we completed the seven-mile trip to the end of Clingmans Dome Road.
The road ends in a parking lot that signals the beginning of the trail that leads to the observation tower. The trail is pedestrian only. While it is paved, the incline is too steep for bikes and wheelchairs, let alone cars. There are benches for resting along the way and posted signs advise visitors to take advantage of them.
When we arrived at the walk ramp to the tower, we saw a woman who had decided not to venture the final leg. I think the rest of the people in her party seriously considered doing bodily harm to her. As someone pointed out, the trek up the winding ramp of the tower was nothing when compared to the half-mile incline she walked on the way. Anyone who could walk up the ramp to a stadium could easily handle the final lap up to the tower. However, no amount of reasoning swayed her. She patiently waited while others moved past her to the destination, content to bask in their satisfaction on the return trip. While I sympathized with the fact that she had hip surgery some time back, it saddened me that she came so far and missed the whole point of the trip.
So much about that trip reminded me of the spiritual mountains we try to tackle on our own. When we look with our natural eyes at the monumental challenges of our daily life, they often seem unconquerable.
I wonder if we would have as many regrets in life if we move our focus from the mountain to the climb. Mahalia Jackson sang a song, Lord, don’t move the mountain, but give me the strength to climb. Lord, don’t take away my stumbling blocks but lead me on around.” If we’re honest, there are so many times we want God to make it a lot easier for us by removing stumbling blocks and mountains from or paths rather than teaching us the valuable lessons of learning to climb and maneuver around those things of the enemy that would block our path.
I have noticed that when you are at the foot of a mountain and look up, the trees loom overhead as if they are hundreds of feet tall. However, when you get up on the mountain where they are, you will realize they are just plain old trees. They haven’t changed. They are the same trees you see from the valley, but your perspective changes when you see them close up.
So, whatever mountain you are facing today, no matter what situation you find yourself in, prayerfully keep climbing. Don’t be the one who gets so close and then stops. Be the one to go the whole way and see whatever is waiting for you from a new perspective.
I often wonder how the woman who stopped below the observation tower would have felt if she overheard the conversation between two friends who followed us down.
“Man, I’m glad you didn’t tell me how much walking and mountain terrain was going to be involved in this trip,” one of them said to the other. “I would have stayed in the room, but I’m glad I came. Yesterday, I saw black bears in Pigeon Forge, and back there when I looked off that mountain… I saw God.”
Today, I pray that when there are mountains in your life, that God will give you strength to climb them, but keep you mindful of my own times you spent in the valley. Not so that you will look back with regret, but so that you will consider others who may still struggle in the climb. Lift them up in prayer.
Why not take the next step? Instead of asking God to remove every difficult situation from your life, why not ask him to show you where he is in the situation, what you need to learn from it, and how he wants you to overcome it.