I’m writing this from the beautiful mountain wilderness of southern Utah where a friend and I just hiked much of Zion National Park and spent our last few nights under the sweet hospitality of a gem of a couple we were lucky to find on Airbnb.
The landscape is gorgeous here, and for someone who has grown up her whole life in the upper Midwest, I can’t help but be in awe of the sprawling red rock formations in all their striated wonder. It literally looks like what I’d imagine Mars to look like – only better because there’s an atmosphere.
Yesterday my friend and I hiked all day. We started the morning with Angel’s Landing, a terrifying trail over five miles with switchbacks and chains and cliffs. We did not make it to the end but were satisfied with where our adventure ended, and so turned down the peak in order to start yet another trail. After our picnic lunch of banana chips, jerky and Clif bars in the Grotto, we headed up Kayenta Trail to the Emerald Pools.
My friend and I are quick hikers. Wanting to see as much of the park as possible, we moved along at a clipping pace on the paved trail that wrapped around the red rocks and through the desert forest of cactus, juniper and sagebrush. About halfway to our destination we came to an impasse of slower hikers, quickly getting boxed in by hikers behind. We all sort of fell into pace and trodded on, everyone on a common mission to reach the pools.
A little toe-head boy, no more than five years old, hiked behind me along with his mom. He carried his own hiking stick and wore little water shoes and was asking very inquisitively how dirt is made and where it comes from. His mom fielded his questions with ease and it was clear he respected her insightful answers. Our group hiked on, in step with one another, every step closer to the majestic pools.
One thing I love about hiking is the comradeship that develops between hikers on the same trail and the conversations you find yourself in, whether with others you’ve just met, or yourself. My little buddy behind me was no exception, for after he and his mom finished their discussion on the origin of dirt, he said something that came at my soul that I will always remember.
“Why do people hike so fast? They are missing all the beauty around them.”
…from the mouth of babes…
Wise beyond his years, this little 4 year old’s words resounded amongst the trees and the rocks hitting my heart with repeated pings of truth.
I’m a planner. I like excel sheets, schedules and time tables. I also do everything fast. Talking, walking, thinking – everything.
I’m incredibly annoyed by slowness of any kind. Those people who cut in front of you going half your pace while you’re walking through a crowded area and don’t even notice you? I don’t like (hate) those people!
And I do not like to wait, or be slow or slow things.
But sometimes, being slow allows you to relish, to actually take in all that surrounds you and appreciate it for what it is … not wishing for it to be different or giving into the anxiety that can be “what’s next.” Slowness is not hurried and it’s not contrived.
It simply is just slow.
There is nothing wrong with slow… (which pains me to even type because it goes against every ounce of my being.)
As soon as this little boy made that statement I knew that it was meant for so much more than just our group’s hurried steps on a dirt trail in the middle of Utah. This little boy stated a truth for life – a truth I believe God has for you and for me.
The spring is here, a new season. Soon it will be summer, then fall and winter, only to be spring again. Each season has little pockets of beauty waiting to be realized. And each season, I believe, we speed right by those pockets because we’re focused too narrowly on the what we hope the next one (season, event, relationship, career, opportunity) has for us.
As Solomon writes to us in Ecclesiastes:
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him. Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account.”
Solomon knew that human wisdom, doing and planning could only take him (and us) so far. It is God who reigns and who in his perfect timing provides a season for everything.
When we rush and busy ourselves with the hope of what is next instead of focusing on what is in front of us we miss what gifts God has given us in the present.
In the words of that blonde little hiker: we miss the beauty all around us when we walk too fast.
Lest we not forget the beauty all around us, even in our darkest days. For no matter what, we are promised that God is near in His love and peace and comfort. Each season and situation in which we find ourselves comes with the potential of life waiting to be seen.
Are you like me, hurrying ahead? Or are you like that little boy who understood, as Solomon did, that there is a time for everything under heaven to be appreciated for its beauty?
May you see the beauty that surrounds you today and take time to appreciate it for what it is in the moment.