I was recently fortunate enough to be able to take a short vacation to the Smoky Mountains. I had not been in this area for over 20 years, but during my visit I suddenly realized how much I had missed it. The beauty and the scenery and the activities are second to none.
As we began our journey on this particular vacation, we traveled through small towns and seldom used highways; not at all what I am used to with the crowds and traffic of Atlanta. Once you’re out of the big city limits, it’s almost as if you’re in a different world altogether. After a few hours driving, we finally arrived at the entrance to the Smoky Mountain Parkway. Our goal was to drive across the parkway and arrive on the other side of the mountains in the towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Our family was looking forward to the many restaurants and things to do that awaited us on the other side. Unfortunately, the roads over the parkway were unlike any that I was used to. I had not driven these roads for many years and had forgotten how challenging they were. The roads were curvy and hilly and treacherous. In some places, the road was a complete horseshoe turn coming back in the opposite direction I just came. There were blind curves and tunnels. Many times, I was forced to dodge tree limbs and branches that had fallen on the road and I had to occasionally swerve to miss rocks that hold rolled from the mountainside. In fact, I was so focused on the obstacles in my path that I couldn’t focus on the majesty of the surroundings. God’s handy work was all around me, but I only focused on what was directly in my path.
As I drove higher and higher across the mountains, I began to notice changes in the surroundings. I would pass lookout points where I could see far away mountain ridges, over the treetops, for miles and miles. I could see rolling hills with beautiful mountainside homes. It was absolutely breathtaking. There were water falls streaming down the mountainside, partially frozen along the way. Occasionally, we encountered signs warning us of wildlife that we may encounter, although we never saw any bears or deer. Unlike earlier when I focused on the obstacles on the road, I was now becoming captivated by the scenery and the beauty of God’s handy-work. In fact, there were a couple of occasions when I was so in awe of the beautiful scenery and majesty of what I saw, I swerved slightly out of my driving lane and had to quickly get back on track. By this point I was so focused on the beauty of what surrounded me that I couldn’t focus on the journey at hand.
As my driving continued, I began to witness a light mist blanket the mountaintops throughout the region, slowly thickening into a smothering fog. There are not many things scarier to me that trying to drive across a mountain covered in fog. As I struggled along, it suddenly occurred to me that my trek across the mountain had taken me on a personal journey ranging from dodging tree limbs and boulders, to enjoying beautiful mountaintop views, to trying to navigate through thick fog without running off the mountain road. My slow journey through the fog had now become dangerous. The only thing I could do was totally concentrate on the white line on the right side of the road that indicated the border of the road. I couldn’t see in front of me; I couldn’t see to the left of me. I could barely read the yellow road signs indicating the curves of the road ahead. I could only keep my focus on the white line on the side of the road and drive as slowly and carefully as possible. As long as I stayed within this boundary, I knew that I would be safe. After what seemed like an eternity, we finally drove below the fog line and arrived at our destination in Pigeon Forge.
As Christians, our perspective in life can change dramatically and quickly, depending on many circumstances. Throughout all we do, God wants us to be totally focused on him. HE wants us to look to Him for each step along our journey, whatever that might be. Sometimes, we struggle so much in life, it seems like all we do is dodge “tree limbs” and “boulders” in our paths. It seems sometimes that life just throws obstacle after obstacle in our way. When we stay focused on the obstacles, the obstacles consume us to the point that we fail to see the beauty around us. Sadly, I can’t say that I honestly remember anything about the early part of my travels along the parkway except the fact that I was dodging obstacles along the way. Staying focused on your goal and your journey will allow God to give you the wisdom, strength, and abilities necessary to overcome whatever life throws your way.
Equally as dangerous in our Christian life, is focusing too much on any success we may achieve. Perhaps you’re beyond dodging the “boulders” and “tree limbs” in your life and you’ve reached a mild degree of success. Success can sometimes be a detriment in our lives because our tendency is to take our eyes off God when we believe we’re doing pretty well on our own. When we do so well in life, our human nature tells us (falsely) that there is not as great a need to rely on God. If you’re at this stage in life, it’s so critical that you don’t lose focus of what brought you to that point. Don’t focus so much on success or the success of others that you “swerve” off your successful path and lose sight of what is really important in life. On that foggy day on the mountaintops, there was a good reason that I wasn’t able to glance too far down the parkway road. Doing so would have changed my focus and bearings and lead me to disaster. By placing my entire focus on the very next few feet in my journey, I was able to arrive successfully at my destination.
The successful path, although not necessarily the easiest path, is to stay focused on God’s next steps for your life, whatever those might be. During my life, I’ve spent many days dwelling on obstacles that were standing in my way, instead of God’s answers. I’ve also dwelt too much on success instead of remembering what’s truly important. Staying focused on God always helps you maintain the correct balance.