My wife and I made a big mistake — and I learned a valuable lesson

We should’ve listened to the woman across the counter at the visitor center of Gorges State Park: “You probably shouldn’t take a three-year-old on the hike to Rainbow Falls. It’s a three-mile round trip with steep climbs.”

My wife and I ignored her, figuring that our three-year-old would be the exception. Plus, we had our girls, eight and nine, to help along the way.

Things started out well enough — it was mostly downhill on the way to the waterfall — but then we had a setback: My eight-year-old daughter got badly stung by a wasp. She was done with the hike.

“I literally do not want to keep going one second!” she cried.Waterfall NC

I tried to reassure her with life lessons about how sometimes we have to keep going in the face of adversity. She just kept sobbing and begging me to turn around. Instead, we plowed forward, only to be greeted with a brief storm that left us soaked in a mixture of sweat and rain.

As we kept going, I realized that none of us were wearing hiking shoes. As a result, we were getting mud on our shoes and, in one case, irreparably damaging my daughter’s sneakers.

It should come as no surprise that my three-year-old son eventually wore out and needed to be carried, which is remarkably hard regardless of how you try it. My wife and I passed him back and forth, until finally, by the grace of God, we reached Rainbow Falls and stared at the wonder of it.

The water rushed to the edge of the rocks and cascaded 150 feet into the river below, and if you looked just the right way, you really could see a rainbow. The view was breathtaking — definitely worth the hike. But after about 20 minutes of walking around and snapping some photos, we were done. Time to hike back to the car, return to our rental house, and hang out for the rest of the day, enjoying being together (and dry).

The whole debacle reminded me of the way I’ve often lived my life: trying to get to the destination, searching for the end of the rainbow: graduation, a new job, engagement, marriage, kids, moving to a new city. All the while, I end up overlooking the gifts of grace that sustain me along the way.

In C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, a senior demon named Screwtape writes letters to a junior demon who is responsible for a young man’s damnation. In one of the letters, Screwtape writes about the importance of distracting the young man by preoccupying his mind with thoughts of the future.

Screwtape explains why it’s so essential to God that we live in the present: because it’s “the point at which time touches eternity.” That is, right now is the only place in time where we can connect with God. When we forget that, we will be “perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow’s end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now,” always sacrificing “every real gift which is offered [to us] in the Present.”

What journey are you on today? What’s slowing you down on your way to the destination? Pause. Look around you. Pay attention to those who are on the journey with you: friends, family members, or maybe just encouraging people you meet along the way. Those people are a gift from God.

With that assurance, you can “be content with what you have, for He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). With every storm, sting, and slip in the mud, we can take comfort in knowing that no matter what, we are not alone.

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