One thing I love about Tennessee are the waterfalls. Tucked away in deep valleys and amongst thick forests are some of the most breathtaking waterfalls I’ve ever seen.They spill out over the mountains that hold them, a sign of their power and wonder. It doesn’t matter how many times I see one, they always take my breath away.
Most of these waterfalls can be found by taking the carefully marked and laid out trail, following the signs, and staying safely on the path. But my favorite, well, it’s a bit more dangerous than that.
You start by hiking down a trail to a riverbank. That trail, though muddy and a bit steep at times, is pretty safe and easy to maneuver through. Once you get to the rivers edge, however, the trail stops. Instincts take over, and much like the steady rush of the rivers waters, everyone begins to move upstream. climbing over rocks, wading back and forth across the stream, we have no idea how far we’ve gone and how far we have yet to go.
As you walk you can see people beginning to quit. They set up their picnic, throw down their blankets and resolve that they have gone far enough- the waterfall not being worth the work. But the brave, the determined rest of us, we keep moving on.
There’s a point on this hike that I always anticipate most. I’m walking along, and then I hear it. Faint at first, but still there. It’s the swish and woosh of the falls, and although I can’t see it, I know I’m close. Somehow, my heart always begins to race, excited over the thought that I’m almost there. That the end, the reward, is just around the corner.
You have to walk another half mile or so before the falls comes into view. Another half mile of more river wading, more slippery rock traversing, more guessing which way is the best way to move forward. It’s agonizing at times, knowing your so close, but having no idea just how close you actually are. You turn a corner, and like magic, there it is. So big a beautiful, loud and strong. Suddenly, you forget all the work it took for you to get there because you are in awe of the beauty and magnitude of the what you are seeing. In an instant, the journey becomes totally worth it.
Seasons of wilderness are hard. So often God puts us there with no map and no timeline on what to do. We begin to feel like we are just wandering around, hoping to stumble upon something that is going to tell us where to go and praying that just a few steps away is the freedom and answers we are hoping to find.
A pastor at church this Sunday said something that has been sitting on my heart very heavily the last few days. He said:
We must persist so that we can experience joy.
I know what you’re feeling today. You want to quit. You want to tell God He’s mean and nasty and if He really loved you He’d show you were to go or He’d get you out of this wild place he has you in. Your legs are tired and taking one more step seems like an impossibility. I get it.
But you have to keep walking.
Sisters, persisting when the answers are unclear or the path is uncertain is not a sign of weakness or stupidity- it’s quite courageous. It’s a brave thing to trust and move even when our doubt is strong and our faith is weak. It says we want more. It says we don’t want to settle for good- we want the best. It says we’re a fighter who’s not going down easily.
Sometimes the wild feels endless and those nice flat spots along the way appear to be a great place to stop and stay. But they aren’t. There is so much more that awaits you if you just keep walking.
Maybe you only have the energy to take one little step today. That’s ok. Just keep walking. Keep walking, keep moving, keep pressing and persisting and before long, you’ll see that waterfall and know that the journey, no matter how long or hard was worth every single step.