It was about 5 pm at Silers Bald Shelter in the Smoky Mountains National Park, and the clouds which had sprinkled us with chilling rain for the past two days were just beginning to dissolve–just a bit.
Just enough to allow the air temperature to sink even lower than it had been last night.
It was a selfish time of day.
It was a time of day when each man was absorbed in making the speediest possible bedtime preparations. I and the remaining pack of Appalachian Trail through-hikers were scurrying about in our pre-bedtime rush, doing our best to cook dinner, insulate anything that might freeze overnight, and scurry into our down sleeping bags before the true night chill set in. It was at this moment that two children walked into camp.
Children are an usual sight on the Appalachian Trail, so the sight of the two–a boy and a girl– was enough to instantly snatch our attention. They greeted us with the relaxed air of people assured that they are in the right place at the right time.
“Our parents are behind us. They’re slow.” said the girl.
Sure enough, the parents did indeed drag into camp some minutes later, backs bent under lumpy Osprey packs, faces tight with stress. The father ducked into the shelter immediately, and raised a small ruckus as he fought to gain inside sleeping space for his group of four. He set up, cooked dinner, made plans.
He was the first one to shiver out of his sleeping bag the next day and face the frost-rimmed morning.
That was the first encounter I’ve had with fathers on the trail, but I’ve had many since. It’s always the same story.
They are always hiking at the back of their group, muscles straining under behemoth packs, beads of sweat glistening on their foreheads… a striking contrast to their children frolicking down the path ahead of them like young antelopes.
This picture expresses my hike with Jesus perfectly.
I never had to be the protector… that was my Dad’s job.
I never had to make perfect travel plans…. my Father had them written out already.
I never had to worry about the weather… the Creator of the Universe always shielded me from the worst of the storms.
Can’t you see how, just like the littles in this snapshot, I really was given full liberty to scamper down the trail in utmost lighthearted freedom? The only difference between these cherubs and myself was that MY Father was unseen, and He never subtly complained about the weight of His load to other adults.
I’m a bona fide AT through-hiker now, having over 2,000 miles under my now-muscular feet. I just arrived in my hometown three days ago and I’m already overwhelmed by the congratulations that have been poured over me.
Why is everyone congratulating me on a job well done? I appreciate it, very much. I won’t deny that I worked hard.
But we all know who carried the heaviest load.
All I really had to do was scamper along beside Him and bask in His strength, wisdom and beauty. One step at a time, and then He’d announce the next plans.