That nearest ridge happens to be not so near…
As I ran I knew I’d need as much speed as I could muster, seeing as the Sun has a way of sinking rather quickly once it touches the distant horizon. Once a fair way down the gravel driveway, there are three paths that lead in the direction of the even farther gravel road which in turn leads to the ridge I wanted to reach before the Sun set. Two of them are horribly over-grown this time of year, the third only reaches half the distance the other two reach. Obviously, in my hurry, I was not thinking properly as I took the path which only leads half-way to the gravel road. And once the path ended, I found myself racing right into a thick group of Blackberry bushes. I tore through them vigorously at first, as if nothing in the world could stop me. But then the pain of the thorny vines which tore and bit at my bare arms and legs reached my mind. The thorns scraped at me, laughing, mocking the poor protection my barely-knee-length shorts gave my legs and stabbing right through the thin fabric of my printed T-shirt. I tripped, rolled in the bushes, climbed to my feet and pushed on, slowly at first, then faster. If I was going to catch that sunset, I’d need to push on quickly, I had no time to re-trace my steps. Again I broke through the bushes, crawling, climbing, stumbling. The blood in my head beat loudly in my ears, I gasped pitifully, my heart throbbed. I fell again. I couldn’t get up. I’d miss that sunset. I’d come this far, gotten so scratched, torn, just to miss a sunset and return home sullen faced and depressed.
I grabbed and scrambled and pulled until I reached my feet. I rushed and crashed through the foliage. The evil, cackling, nipping foliage that pulled at my arms and legs and tried to cause me to fall, to trip. I pushed through and reached the gravel road. But that was not even the half-way point of my sprint. I was not even close to a point where I’d be able to see that sunset, let alone get a good photograph. Once on the gravel, I began running as hard as I could. My pathetically weak ankles burned from the tightly laced boots. My side throbbed from exertion while my brow and cheeks felt sticky from sweat. I prayed… it was silly… foolish maybe, but I prayed. “Dear Lord, hold back the sun. Keep it from setting entirely before I reach the ridge. Let me see the fragment of your beauty that the Sunset is. Please.” My legs were sore, so I stopped. I slowed to a walk. There, two, three, four steps ahead of me was the incline. The hill that led to the ridge. So tired, so torn, so broken, yet I had the hill to climb before I reached the summit where I could finally see what I was seeking.
My legs spun on, driving me forward. I had no control, I climbed the hill, running. Around the bend, up the gravel road. And there it was. The very, very tail end of the sunset. The final rays were folding behind the horizon that stretched out before me. The beauty of the sky, clouds edged with fiery orange and pink, it all distracted me of the fact that I had indeed reached the ridge.
I fumbled for my camera, drew it from my pocket (At least I had had the sense to slide into my pocket…) and snapped a picture. Two. Three. Twelve. It was so easy to capture these fleeting seconds, storing them away for viewing later. I had missed the sunset, barely, but I was thankful to see what I had been allowed. It was a beautiful sight.
A parallel comes to mind as I think about the happenings of this evening. When a person accepts the Lord Jesus as their savior, they want to race on ahead, reaching the beauty that is their Lord. But in their excitement and hurry, they sometimes foolishly take the wrong path, where they are met by things of evil. Perhaps they took the right path, though… And are still met with things of evil. These things must be bypassed or shoved aside, they must be battled, fought against, grappled with. The believer cannot give up. And when they think ahead of the beauty that they can reach if they work against the evil that blocks their path, they can persevere and reach the path that leads to the Lord’s glory. Once there they have, no further progress that they can make without Him. They cannot reach what they yearn for. Not without His guidance or help, but He is there for the believer to call out to. He tests them, to see if they are worthy. Can they make the last stretch? Can they climb the final hill?
And if they have been faithful to trust Him. If they have followed after Him with perseverance… they see beauty.
One good thing about these kinds of experiences is that we can warn others not to follow in our footsteps. I’d recommend being a little more practical with these things. Because once the sun had slipped behind the distant hills to its resting place until morning, I realized how chewed up my legs and arms were. Several thick cuts (And many more thinner ones…) were oozing sticky, crimson blood. And since everyone knows that mosquitoes are distant relatives of sharks, the little stinkers were lured in from all over the place, and I was soon being devoured by a new evil. I’d recommend making some kind of clever plan to follow when choosing to photograph a sunset, instead of deciding to up and hasten after it with no arrangement to pursue.
Still… pretty pictures!