Funny what a glance at an old picture can do…
In the corner of my office, in a dust-covered picture frame, is picture of a sunset. It’s a picture I took over 25 years ago. If you looked at it you might think “Oh, nice sunset,” and then quickly forget it. I never will.
I went to college in east Tennessee half a lifetime ago. Milligan College had a hiking club, and I loved (ok, still love) hiking, so I didn’t just join the “Milligan Ramblers,”I dove in. I remember many wonderful weekends hiking to waterfalls and over ridge tops.
One weekend the club decided to do an overnight trip. On Friday we got our gear together and drove out to the campsite where we would start our hike the following day. We drove up into the mountains near Erwin, Tennessee to a spot near the top of one of the ridges and alongside the Appalachian Trail. The campsite was just downhill from the ridge top. We arrived just before dusk, and as such, were busy hurriedly setting up camp before the sun went down, oblivious to anything but tents, tarps, stakes, sleeping bags and everything else that made sleeping on the ground if not comfortable, at least somewhat bearable.
Oblivious. How we spend much of our lives. How many times do we get caught up with details, with stuff that really doesn’t matter? Distractions from the real reason we were set here. Distractions from God the Father, maker of all beautiful, all creation.
I’m not sure what aroused us. Maybe someone had gone looking for firewood and had noticed. Someone mentioned the sunset. I looked up and saw a faint glow beyond the ridge top a couple hundred feet up the hill. I think my heart must have started beating a little faster. A tent stake fell from one hand and a hammer from the other. I hurriedly grabbed my camera and started for the top, maybe a little less oblivious to my surroundings than before. The further I went the more colored the sky became, the more my feet pulled me faster, the faster my heart beat. I was not alone, others in the party also sensing something special in the air.
The last 50 feet was a flat out run. When I reached the top, spread out before me was one blue ridge after another, disappearing into the hazy distance. The sky was a brilliant color somewhere between pink and orange, low hanging clouds reflecting the light. And stillness. Everyone was quiet, stunned by the beauty, the awesome beauty. The locals had rightly named the spot “Beauty Spot”. Maybe they were a little less oblivious of life than a 19 year old.
Those last steps to the top were just a few steps in the hike that is my life. But God made those steps special. They were a few steps closer to Him, to who He really is. He’s always there, of course. Maybe his majesty isn’t always revealed in so much color. Dew drops on spider webs have a majesty all their own. Even teardrops can be majestic if they lead us closer to the Father.
I wish I could say all my steps have been in the right direction, that I was always searching out the “Beauty Spot” that is our God. But they haven’t been. I’ve gone the wrong way at times, lost in the woods. I’ve needed help to find my way back. I’ve needed a saviour. God’s love is seen in His creation, of that there is no doubt. But even more amazing is the love he showed us from his own spot of beauty. It was a ridge top too. He took it step by step- only He already knew what was waiting for Him on top. The color there was red, blood red. The Saviour’s life’s blood spilled for us. The beauty of that spot will never cease to amaze me. That beauty will never fade.
The sunset in the mountains above Erwin did eventually fade into darkness. We sat in silence and took in every color, then laid back as the stars started dancing in the night, our minds less cluttered by thoughts of setting camp and more filled with the reason for the camping. We were a few steps closer to God, and, at least for a while, more aware of beauty.
Today my office is cluttered, and less than beautiful. I don’t often notice my picture of “Beauty Spot,” too caught up in paper work and staff meetings. Too caught up in oblivion. But when I do see it, I mean really take it in, I am reminded of the eternal beauty that awaits me, fashioned by the maker of mountains. I picked up the picture, dusted off the frame, and set it back in the corner it has occupied so long. And thanked my Father for colors somewhere between pink and orange.