Thursday, June 3, 2010

Mountaintop Experience at the Bottom of a Canyon

My best friend and I, both amateur photographers, went to Blackwater Falls State Park in West Virginia this past Memorial Day weekend to snap some shots of the beautiful scenery there. We went to an overlook situated on the rim of a canyon on Saturday afternoon to get pictures of the Upper Pendleton Waterfall also located in the park. As we maneuvered around the rim to get a better shot of the falls, we ran into a sign that pointed to what appeared to be a path. The sign said that we should not attempt going any further unless we were in good physical condition. Neither one of us is actually in “good” physical condition. I’m asthmatic and a little out of shape and she’s a (insert mumble here)-year old with a knee replacement and a bad foot.

We may have turned around except that we saw two elderly women walking down the path ahead of us and decided that if they could do it, so could we. We decided that we would go as far in on the path as we could in hopes of capturing that awesome photo we came to get. Well, the two ladies turned around shortly after getting to the first set of rocks they would need to climb down to continue on. The rocks didn’t look impassable, so we decided to keep going. We came around the rocks just fine and continued on what my friend described as a goat path. Every fifteen feet or so, someone had tied a small piece of yellow plastic tape. We weaved back and forth on the vertical canyon wall being careful where we stepped, hanging onto tree branches and exposed roots and each other, and climbing over many boulders as we followed the hidden path not knowing what we would find. We could hear the rushing water of the river getting closer and that spurred us on.

Finally we broke through the forest to discover the most extraordinary sight I’d ever seen. A waterfall was right there in front of us surrounded by the beauty of undisturbed nature. We put our hands in the water letting it stream over our arms as it rushed to the river at our feet. I made my way to a large rock that protruded from the bank out into the river about twenty yards from the falls. As I stood on the rock, the mist from the waterfall soaked into my skin and I raised my hands and shouted for joy as I reveled in the glory of the moment. The God I love and serve, the God who loves me, created this magnificent place and led me to it. Because we had started so late in the afternoon, we were only able to enjoy our little “paradise found” for a short while. After all, we did have to climb back up the canyon wall before it got dark. As we took our pictures, we realized that the skyline was almost completely covered by trees. The only way to see these particular falls was to follow the precarious path that led us here. We knew that we were among the small percentage of visitors to the park who would ever see this special place.

When I think about what God would have me learn from this, I see so many faith lessons in the story. As I travel the path that God lays before me, I can be confident that nothing is impossible with God’s help. I may not be good enough or strong enough or wise enough, but he is. He more than makes up for my shortcomings. When I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10) We are never alone on the journey. God provides a Partner – One who is there to lead the way, to pick me up when I fall, to steady me when I lose my balance. He has gone on ahead of me and marked the way for me to follow. If I seek him, God will draw me toward himself like the rushing of the river drew me ever downward toward the falls. Sometimes God allows my spiritual sense to be keenly aware of his presence and it is glorious. There is no place as magnificent as standing firmly on the Rock of my salvation, Jesus Christ. Words can’t describe it just as the picture of the falls in this blog doesn’t begin to reflect the beauty of those hidden falls at the bottom of that canyon. Never the less, it’s an experience I am compelled to share. I just have to trust that the God who brought me to such a place, the God who opens my heart to his presence, will use what I’ve shared for his purpose and glory.

Next week, I will tell you about the trip back up the canyon wall and what we found out when we got to the top.

About the pictures:
Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia (Middle Pendleton Falls)

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