by Sherma Webbe Clarke @sdwc8181
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Proverbs 3:5-6
What is your favorite thing to do when you travel to someplace new? Is it meeting people? Enjoying nature? Sightseeing? May I claim all of the above?
While on a trip to North Carolina, my husband and I visited the Smoky Mountains for the first time. With miles of trails to accommodate every activity level, the mountains offered a peaceful break from the busyness that often distracts us from God's creation. One morning, we decided on a short, leisurely path of about two miles to the Kephart Shelter.
Here's what the visitor information said: “The hike to the Kephart Shelter at the end of the Kephart Prong Trail begins by crossing a footbridge over the (Oh-kon-a-luf-tee) Oconaluftee River.”
The wide, sturdy footbridge was the perfect beginning for a scenic trail. We stopped to take pictures and admire the varieties of green and the sun’s rays cutting through the trees.
The next bridge was narrower than the first but broad enough for us to cross it while walking shoulder to shoulder. It stretched over a stream and was supported by rocks and logs. It had a thin log railing on one side.
The last bridge was a moss-covered log, suitable for one person at a time placing one foot in front of the other.
For balance, the bridge provided an awkwardly positioned log railing, slightly tilted. Not the easiest way to cross a stream of rushing water. Images of Nik Wallenda’s tightrope walk over Niagara Falls crossed my mind. I have to admit, I hesitated. It almost looked safer to wade across the stream than take a chance on that bridge.
We walked and watched out for the shelter. A couple of times we considered turning back. We met others who had. “We couldn't find it,” they told us on their retreat to the Visitors’ Center. I enjoyed walking among the trees, snapping photographs, and occasionally chatting with others along the trail, but where was the Kephart Shelter?
More from disappointment than fatigue, I sat on a rock to rest before suggesting we turn back. I struggled with that idea and continued a few more steps around a bend in the path. Nothing. Then a few more steps. Still nothing. Then it seemed as if a small voice whispered, “Look around this corner.” That's when I saw a sliver that might be something manmade. Finally, we found it. A shelter in the middle of nowhere.
Whenever I remember that I had considered turning back because it didn’t seem we were going to reach the shelter, I think about what it means to have faith and to trust in God. Even when the bridge looks like a moss-covered log with a tilted railing and we become unsure about reaching our destination, we can hold onto our faith in God’s leading. We can find security in His promise to be our refuge: You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word (Psalm 119:114). And His word, the Bible, is our roadmap and trail guide. When God puts you on a path, keep following as He leads, even if you think you’ve walked long enough.
How does God encourage you to keep going when you can’t see the see the goal? How can you encourage others when they are thinking about turning back?
Thanks to Ricardo Clarke for the use of his photographs.
SHERMA WEBBE CLARKE is a contemporary fiction writer and a 2017 ACFW First Impressions Finalist. Her inspirational writing has been included in Christian devotional books: Grace Notes and Blessed. She loves to take her husband by the hand to explore nearby and far-flung areas of the globe. This wanderlust has its perks. She credits many of her story ideas to these adventures. Quiet, early-morning walks along the railroad trails on her home island of Bermuda provide inspiration when she is homebound.