The hill is called Chilhowie and it starts at the Ocoee River and goes up, and up and up. The ascent tests your car’s strength on the hairpin turn-filled road up, and tests your brakes on the way down. On both sides of the road little turnoffs invite you to see out to the four cardinal points, miles upon hundreds of miles of mountains, hills and valleys and rivers and lakes below. I love that road. And every time I get to Cleveland, TN I go up there.
For the view. And for a walk up at the top. Once you get to the top, or close to, there is a little lake and beachfront, created by a dam with a drop inlet (I think that’s what they’re called) feeding a creek below. Long ago folks carved out a path down the mountain along that creek, and where the creek is at its deepest point from the path, a stairway down to the bottom of a beautiful waterfall. Benton Falls they call it.
Being in Nashville for pret’ near two weeks, I had to go back to Chilhowie. And Saturday I did. Halfway down the trail (it’s about two miles down) I came upon 5 people walking together. Two ladies brought up the rear. They struck me because, out there in the woods, they wore long flowing dresses and nice shoes. Two guys walked ahead of them; they too were dressed kind of like they had been to church. The guys were talking church. I smiled and greeted them as I passed but did not enter the conversation – I had these visions of Pilgrim’s Progress somehow. Of Christian and Faithful talking to each other.
And leading the pack was a boy of about 7 years, dragging a stick intentionally making a deep mark in the dirt. I had seen his markings. So I smiled and told him that I had been following his trail for a long time.
That made him look at me, and smile, and instead of letting me pass, he picked up his pace, carefully watching that I follow his lead. I played along until I got a little worried that our game was distancing him from his parents. So I stopped, and said “Don’t get too far ahead of your parents,” pointing back at them. Right then the dad said “Thank you!” and beckoned for his son to rejoin them. Which he did.
I smiled, waved, and kept going down the hill. As I walked away, I thought about how many kids don’t get to hear those words of wisdom – “don’t get too far ahead of your parents.” Oh, that little boy didn’t understand the deeper meaning of that. That kids get into trouble when they get too far ahead of their parents. Physically like on a mountain path, as well as socially and spiritually. Problems happen when we lose sight of our children – literally and figuratively.
I wanted to go back and underscore the thought for that little boy, but I decided to just take the advice personally, and heed the word as it relates to me and my Heavenly Father. If I get too far ahead of Him, I get in trouble. Mine is to follow Jesus, not try to get ahead of Him.
And come to think of it, the line the young man was leaving in the sand had a lesson in it too. Everything we do leaves some kind of marking in the pathway of life. History is lined with your story and mine. What have we left for others to follow, or, if not to follow, at least to see? The witness of our lives is made up of every little increment we have advanced on the path of life. What are we leaving behind as evidence of our faith, our character, our love? The young man in Chilhowie was surprised to learn that someone was paying attention. So might we.
Back from the mountaintop,
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5,6