Our family was hiking the Chimney Tops Trail in the Smokey Mountain National Park. This trail requires a two mile arduous ascent to reach the mountaintop. Because of the intensity of the climb, hikers stop and rest along the way. As we passed one couple who had stopped, I overheard one of them instructing the other raising his hands above his head to demonstrate some type of exercise recovery technique. My interest peaked, and thinking I too could learn something, I wanted to turn around and see what they were doing. But there was no way I could. To take my eyes off of the trail ahead of me would have been dangerous and only inviting injury. The trail was steep with sharp rocks jutting up and outward. Exposed tree roots, uneven terrain, and overgrown vegetation all required focus and energy with each step. As it dawned on me that I couldn’t turn around, Philippians 3:13-14 flew through my mind, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
At that moment, I realized how many times we “turn around” in life and endanger ourselves. I wondered how many times we lose focus and waste precious energy on things that are meaningless, things that may distract and destroy. Whether it be in our thinking — rehashing failures, second guessing decisions, closed-mindedness to new ways of doing things — our inability to let go, or we let pride, control, or temptation distract us from staying focused and moving forward on the trail. It is wisdom to learn from our mistakes and take those lessons with us as we continue moving toward growth and deeper relationship with Christ. “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him” (2 Corinthians 2:14). With Christ living in us, He’s leading us forward in triumphal procession- it’s the only way He’s going.