Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Fast or Slow - How Do You Travel?

Recently my husband and I decided to travel to the Smoky Mountains for a long weekend. Although it is absolutely one of our most favorite places to be, it had been five years since we made that drive. Back surgery, moving, changing jobs, knee surgery, new grandchildren to visit....the list is full of reasons why we were away for five years. As soon as we drove into the foothills west of Townsend, we felt as though we had just been away for a few months and not years. After checking into our motel we headed over Wears Valley to Pigeon Forge to eat supper at The Applewood Restaurant - one of those 'must do's' for us when we are in the area. As soon as our tummies were full we headed back to Townsend so we could get a drive through Cades Cove in before dark. And that is when our travel speed finally changed. All day long we were focused on the destination and nothing would deter us from getting there. Pit stop? Well, let's just say it was a contest to see who could get in and out of the restroom faster when we stopped at the rest area! But when we got into the cove....

No longer were we rushing to a destination. We were savoring the view as we drove. Stopping to watch deer, wild turkey, and even a couple of black bears. Stopping to just simply gaze at the beauty of the cove, mountains, and sky. The following day we decided to walk a new (for us) trail near the Tremont Institute. The Middle Prong trail follows the stream from whence it takes its name. It is an easy trail to hike with numerous places to walk down to the stream, find a nice big rock to sit on and simply enjoy the peaceful sound of flowing water. We passed few hikers on this trail. It seemed most people, as usual, had chosen the more popular trails. We felt like we had won a big prize! (We love being alone or nearly alone on the trail. Put us on a crowded trail and we are likely going to head back to the car to find a less traveled path.)

I noticed something about the other hikers we passed that day. Some were on a mission, it seemed. A mission to get to the end of the trail, perhaps. Or maybe it was the mission to walk as far and fast as they could to burn the most calories or to build endurance. Others, like Larry and me, were taking the scenic route. Pausing to enjoy the scenery, to experience God's creation.

At one point, as I sat on a rock listening to the sound of a small cascading waterfall and watching the numerous butterflies that seemed to be following the flow of water, I simply thanked God for His beauty. For the gift He gave me that day to be able to be there, in that spot, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. And you know what He brought to my mind? My life journey can be spent like those I observed hiking. I can stay so focused on the destination, seemingly in a hurry to get there, and consume myself with being busy. Focusing on what I am doing for the Lord...walking, walking, walking. OR, I can choose to break away from the super highway or smooth trail, and instead wander down a different path to view the scenery from a different viewpoint. To pause and simply enjoy His presence for awhile. To allow Him to lead me down a scenic path or perhaps, to lead me on a difficult and strenuous trail to a mountain top experience that could not be gained without the treacherous climb.

When I hike, there are times when I have to walk faster and take few breaks because I have a lot of trail to cover in a limited amount of time. That is when I must keep my focus on the goal, mindful of my progress (or lack of), and keep pushing ahead, knowing that the reward at the end of the trail is worth the effort. I enjoy both the challenge and reward. However, I also crave those slower hikes with no specific destination in mind and no hard & fast time limit. Those are the times I can take time to stop to explore a side road, to rest awhile and enjoy the view/sounds around me, to worship the Creator and be refreshed by His presence.

When I consider my life journey's traveling style, I know I must sometimes choose the slow route. Granted, there are going to be times when fast is necessary. But a continual fast speed will end up robbing me of many experiences to be had only by slowing down to hear God speak, to see Him at work, to feel His presence.

and not feel guilty when doing it!

What is your traveling style?


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