As I looked at some old vacation photographs, I was reminded of how hot it was that week, even for the Great Smoky Mountains. I had on shorts in the picture, and with my skinny legs, that was a rare occurrence!
In the photo, some of us were sitting on a concrete bench, trying to catch our breath on our way up to Clingmans’ Dome, the highest point in the Smokies. There’s a 16-mile drive through the forest from Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to Newfound Gap, then another seven miles to the Dome. The temperature from the Gap to the Dome usually drops about 20 to 30 degrees, but on that blistering July day, the heat seemed to actually rise. And not until we reached the Dome parking area were we made aware of the quarter-mile uphill walk to the observation tower—at a 45-degree angle!
The Check Up
It was then that God decided to give me a check up from the neck up, a real-time life lesson. We were about halfway up the trail, and boy, was I complaining! “This is a National Park; surely they have the money to install some easier way to get up this hill!” I griped. “I don’t understand why they don’t have a tram to shuttle people up and down this mountain. At the very least they might offer golf carts for fat people like me. I’d be happy to pay for a ride to the top!”
Then God stepped in.
It came from behind us. Someone was laughing. No, two people were laughing, and they were laughing hysterically!
What in the name of pinecones could be so funny on this mountain? I wondered. Nothing about this was funny to me. And not only were they laughing, they were making all kinds of strange noises! Squeaking sounds, like wheels turning; and stomping sounds, like a soldier marching in combat boots.
Loving Every Minute
I turned around just in time to see a tall, lanky country boy taking long strides and almost running up the path in a pair of cowboy boots! He was pushing a wheelchair and laughing at his wife, who was having the ride of her life as they headed for the Dome.
“Excuse me sir, excuse me Ma’am,” I heard him say politely, “We’re coming through.” Then she laughed even harder.
I might add that she was no frail little thing, either, so his work was cut out for him—and he was loving every minute of it! She laughed, and he laughed, as they headed for the top of the world.
Looking for a Hole
At first, everyone on the path stood there, shocked; then they began to laugh and rejoice with the couple. I laughed a little, too—then looked for a hole to climb into and hide!
How many people around us heard me griping and complaining? I wondered. And what do I really have to nitpick over? My wife is healthy and walking by my side.
Why wasn’t he complaining? Maybe because they were too busy enjoying life to concern themselves with unimportant things. Maybe they were too much in love with each other that day to be thinking about anything else.
Perhaps that the man got up every day, looked at her, and said, “Thank God you’re alive!”
Perhaps she answered, “Thank God that I have you!” and they both laughed.
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8.
Pastor Hal Steenson