On a recent family vacation we all trekked up the hike of Clingmans Dome in the Smokey Mountain National Park. Perhaps some of you have made that hike to the highest point of the Great Smokey Mountains where, if you are fortunate enough, you can witness the swirling mists that give the area its famous name.
The hike is about 2/3’s of a mile long… and I admit… that SEEMS like a pretty easy distance to traverse. 2/3’s of a mile is just a quick walk around the block, right? Well, if you think so then you have never hiked up to Clingmans Dome. While the hiking distance might be only 3200 feet or so… you actually climb almost 500 feet in elevation as you do it. 500 feet is almost half the height of the Empire State Building. Translation… that trail is STEEP!
I was about 10 years younger the last time I hiked that thing… and this time… whew… it was a challenge. A 6600 feet elevation doesn’t help when it comes to breathing either. But, hey, both Lauri and I made it! And the view was worth it! It had rained earlier in the day and the Smokey Mountain mist was in its full glory. I do admit that I miss the days when my kids were young enough to actually believe me when I told them that mist was actually smoke from all the moonshiners fires… And I also will admit that I enjoyed the hike down much more than the hike up. I saw quite a few people on their way up that looked like there was no way they were going to make it…. Please tell me that I didn’t have that same look on my way up!
Yep. Hiking that trail is hard — but the views at the end make it all worth while. As I stood in the observatory looking out over the peaks of those mountains covered in drifting mists; I took some time marveling at the beauty of God’s creation. The blessings of God are never-ending.
You know, sometimes life can feel a bit like a hike up to Clingmans Dome — difficult. While the blessings of God are new every morning, Christians are not promised a life of ease in a broken world. In fact, how we navigate challenge often provides the deepest faith growth in our lives, as well as granting us opportunity to bring glory to God.
Jesus wanted us to understand the sacrifice that would be required of us as his followers when he said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24 Jesus never promised a life of ease for his followers, in fact, he promised just the opposite. To deny ourselves… to carry our own cross to the death of ourselves… that requires great conviction and a serious commitment to faith growth. We must sacrifice our will and desires and replace them with God’s. Let’s not ever be guilty of pretending that is an easy road to walk.
But there will come a day when the cross-carrying and self-denial will be worth it as we gaze upon the face of Jesus while we exalt him in that first worship service of Heaven. The difficulties we faced in life… the battles we fought against our old nature… all of those experiences will fade as we celebrate Jesus for eternity and we will know… the view makes it all worth it.