Written on Sunday, May 6, 2012 by Chris Skates
This was supposed to have been romantic. Instead not much had gone right and we were riding as far apart as we could possibly get without falling out of the car. We were both thinking the same thing, “Isn’t this typical of our lives?” Neither of us had said much but my wife and I were thoroughly annoyed with one another. And yet here we were, returning to the scene of the crime.
We were driving along the Shenandoah Skyline Parkway in Shenandoah National park. Twenty-two years prior we had camped here on our first vacation. My wife was six months pregnant at the time with our daughter. It was a camping vacation, not because we loved camping in a tent, but because we couldn’t afford hotels. That vacation had culminated in a miserable night of a torrential downpour, a soggy bologna sandwich, and a tent invasion perpetrated by what we thought was a bear but turned out to be a raccoon. It took a long time for us to reach the, “we will laugh about this someday stage,” but we eventually did.
Now, we were in Shenandoah once again for the first time since that night. The day was bright and sunny with only a few fluffy white clouds. I was pleasantly surprised that my wife, not an out-doorsy kind of gal, wanted to go for a hike. As we walked we held hands for balance. We did so reluctantly. Finally we reached a beautiful waterfall. However, just as we began to enjoy the view, a menacing rumble of thunder drew our attention skyward. A threatening black cloud was coming over the nearby peak where moments before only blue sky had been.
A soft mountain shower that evoked nostalgic stories of our raccoon adventure rapidly became much more. First, the rain came down harder, and then the lightning began. Lightning would strike seemingly right beside us with horrible claps of thunder following instantly. The deep valley we were in created an echo affect and magnified the intensity.
One particularly terrifying strike elicited a scream from my wife. She began to cry. She was beyond frightened at this point. And in that instant, in that peal of thunder, a spell was broken. Suddenly gone were thoughts of, “Oh great, typical for us, another trip turns to disaster.” Gone was my frustration. As my wife clasped her hands to her mouth, I could see that they were shaking. In that moment reality hit me hard, “This woman is my wife, she gave me my daughter and son and I love her very much.” From that point, my entire focus was to nurture her through this and help us get safely back to the car.
I prayed silently, for it is beyond my power to protect us from that which is so much larger than ourselves. Now I held her hand tighter than before. Unfortunately, with the rain, each step on the trail was steep and slippery. Despite wanting to run madly from the lightning we had to be careful and methodical.
On and on we walked, step after careful step and as we did, I came to a realization. This hike was a metaphor for life. In life’s journey, we only see the steps as we are taking them, some more hazardous or frightening than others, some quite easy. Then, suddenly it seems, we reach a point where we look back and only then realize we have climbed a great mountain.
As a couple, our journey began twenty two years before on that soggy night in a tent and then… step-a few weeks later our daughter was born. Step- we worked hard and bought a house. Step-(this one is really steep and slippery) our son was admitted to Intensive Care with a life threatening respiratory illness. He was only eight weeks old. Step-he runs track now and will enroll in Seminary soon.
Life is like that and our hike was like that, one careful step followed by another. After four hours and with both of us soaked, we finally heard a car. We were within yards of the parkway. It was only after we completed the long treacherous “step-at-a-time” hike that we reached the mountaintop. Only then were we able to look back and see what we had accomplished together.
We turned and took in a breathtaking view. The fog was lifting down in the Shenandoah Valley and though it was still dark and cloudy at our elevation, the sun’s rays were bursting through to bathe the valley below.
And that is where we are now, fellow patriots. Our nation truly is in crisis. We are all, each of us, on a socio-political path that is unfamiliar and treacherous. If we are not careful, the challenges ahead will embitter us. They will drive us to forsake that which is truly important. We must resist this.
Perhaps we have never walked this trail before but we have walked other difficult trails many times. Now, with God’s guiding hand and unyielding diligence and dedication to the principles of liberty and freedom we must walk step by step in the direction that we know is right. Sometime, perhaps soon, we will look back and see clouds lifting, bright sunshine breaking through and we will be amazed at the mountain we have climbed.