Was I missing out? Perched on the concrete ledge of the switchback, I gazed over the expanse of green grass against the clear blue sky and the shallow riverbed glistening in the brilliant sunshine. The river mesmerized as it curved and then stretched out, basking in the sun for miles.
Only moments before, I made the tough decision to stop. I didn’t want to disappoint my family, but I recognized it was simply too risky.
Vacationing in Big Bend National Park, I was elated to share it with my husband. As empty nesters, we were thrilled our adult daughter joined us. She’s our only child, athletic and adventurous. She spent hours researching the trails in anticipation of this week together.
Santa Elena Canyon, a highlight of Big Bend, is rated excellent for its beauty and ease for all skill levels. As my inbox filled with her research, our daughter honed in on a 1.3-mile trail as the family hike we’d conquer. Despite back issues, I was confident.
But I hadn’t considered the incline. I started the trail filled with grit and determination. To ease my hike, I used my daughter’s hiking stick for balance, and my family carried my water in their backpacks. I was out of shape with chronic back issues, but this was the easiest trail in the park, so we were determined to do it!
The cemented trail began a slow incline. Zig-zagged above that glistening riverbed, planners included a handrail. We conquered one switchback at a time. We turned to ascend another, and the handrail ended. I glanced upward to evaluate the trail ahead, analyzing it against my tightening back and ragged breath.
I looked down, dizzy with no handrail to steady myself. Determined to avoid disappointing my family, I made it up one more switchback.
Then I stopped.
For twenty-six years I had been my daughter’s biggest cheerleader, encouraging her to trust God’s adventurous plans. She did, and God led her to the Himalayan mountains and South Asia, sharing the good news of our Savior.
But now the roles reversed. She reminded me of when I stepped into a canoe at a retreat where I knew no one and immediately flipped the canoe carrying a newfound friend, bursting into laughter and experiencing the freedom of stepping out in Christ. She lovingly reminded me I was the one who taught her to trust God.
I understood every word. Having faith. Stepping out. Believing Christ would carry me. But I understood my limitations. I was a danger to myself and to everyone on the trail. As I struggled, I asked her to gaze below at the craggy side of the canyon. I reminded her the water’s buoyancy had protected me from injury when I flipped that canoe, but here was real danger if I lost my balance.
My precious girl did not want me to miss out, but we reached a consensus. Finding a safe and comfortable ledge, I perched along the switchback. My husband, daughter, and her friend proceeded on.
As they hiked upward and out of sight, my heart sank as I overheard their laughter, followed by awe-filled wonder as they reached a spectacular overlook.
Was I missing out?
From my perspective, the lush grass waved, and the glistening rocks and water below winked at me. Across the riverbed, colorful layers of the smooth canyon wall rose to meet the bright yellow sun.
Awestruck by the majesty and glory of God’s creation, I became the cheerleader of the trail. I encouraged passing hikers to keep going, to experience all that God had in store for them. A mother and son stopped to catch their breath. I cheered them on and assured them the view was worth it. Moments later they reached the overlook and joyfully yelled back down, “It was worth it!”
My husband made about two-thirds of the trail, then he trekked back down. He sat and wrapped his arm around me. Together, we absorbed God’s splendor from my vantage point. My daughter and her friend? They reached the trail destination and marveled at the significance and beauty of God’s creation, smack dab in the middle of two magnificent canyon walls erupting to the skies in two different countries.
That night around our campfire, we shared our highlights. We all experienced God in the beauty of the canyon that day, but from three different vantage points.
Yet, none of us missed out.
And I was struck by this: Regardless of our abilities and limitations, we all have something to give. Sometimes there’s an ebb and flow in giving, even role reversal, just as I experienced on that trail. One minute the encourager, the next minute, recipient. Then back to encourager.
As we laughed around the campfire, we all discovered something else.
My family worried that I had missed out that day, but here’s the truth. We each experience God’s creation from a different vantage point. Regardless, we experience the full majesty of God. And from those respective vantage points in life, we learn from God’s creation, just as the psalmist says:
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands . . .
They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
Psalm 19:1-4 (NIV)
We each experience God’s creation from a different vantage point. -@mommabard: Click To Tweet