by Timothy W. Tron, Oct. 2020
It was no surprise. The forecast had been for 100% rain for the next twenty-four hours. The pitter-patter of raindrops in the darkness on my bedroom window as I awoke confirmed what had already been known – today’s long run would be a test of faith and perseverance. All through the drive up the mountain in those predawn minutes there was ample time to ponder what one was doing out in this weather. The windshield wipers struggled to keep up with the downpour while the car fought to find traction through the countless areas of standing water on the roadway. There was no doubt that this would not be one of those morning where the butterflies flitted about through the dancing rays of sunbeams peeking over the mountain as the sun slowly rose in the morning sky.
As my car pulled into the parking lot of Moses Cone Manor Memorial Park, my suspicions were confirmed – I was either the only insane person here or the only one committed to my beliefs enough to endure this dreadful weather. Golden Sycamore and Poplar leaves covered the pavement to the point, it was nearly impossible to discern where the marked spaces to park were located. Even in the torrential downpour, there was a melancholy beauty in that gray light of dawn. Turning of the engine, the sound of raindrops on the roof of the car seemed to lessen. The storm had finally lightened up and was now a residual heavy mist – “God was surely smiling down on me,” my thoughts reflected as the car door shut behind me and I made my way down to the start of the trail. “Think of yourself as a little boy again splashing your way through the puddles,” my heart mused.
All was fine with that until the trail came to the underpass beneath the Blueridge Parkway. There before me ran a small river several inches deep that flowed beneath the stone archway above. Like a window into some distant time, I ran toward the light. Passing beneath the roadway above that would wind through countless forest of color and beauty, my path was merely to find a way up and down an ancient carriage trail – it’s peak landing upon the summit of Rich Mountain. Almost beyond the tiny river, my last footstep went up to my ankle in water as the splash fully emersed my lower body in a very awakening spray of bone, chilling coldness.
Later that same morning, unbeknownst to me, our preacher would talk about what motivates people. He used an illustration of Michael Jordan as shown in the documentary, “The Last Dance.” Jordan would find insignificant incidents in his life that others wouldn’t know to bring forth an ire in his mind that he would then use to drive me to greater heights. Likewise, the Apostle Paul used his detriments in life not to dissuade him from his ministry, but rather, to find silver linings in even the most horrific circumstances.
Likewise, before having heard the sermon that would come later, I too found inspiration in something that may have stopped some and caused them to turn around. A wet foot at the beginning of a very long run, especially up a mountain, was something less than ideal. Yet, the incident neither discouraged nor stopped my progress, but rather, gave me just the motivation I needed to push me onward. Like a cold slap in the face, it reminded me that nothing worth having in life was easy – and so I pushed onward.
Usually on this particular run, my challenge to quote scripture begins when I cross over the bridge that lies on the dam at the end of Trout Lake. However, today was anything but typical, so instead of waiting, I began working on the lines to the farthest passages that were yet to be fully burnt into my mind – those in John 5. As my mind began to weakly recall those verses, the most amazing things began to occur. Slowly, the rain began to diminish. The puddles no longer danced with reflections of precipitation. In time, the bitter cold numbness of that initial onslaught of icy water would begin to subside. The sky brightened ever so slightly and soon; the cattle were my only companions as my journey passed through their pastures along the upper reaches of Rich Mountain. What had seemed what might be one of the most dreadful morning runs in quite some time, had finally turned out to be one of a soulful rejuvenation.
The rain-soaked pastures stretch out across those upper tables of mountainside like blankets of comforting greenery. It is a time of ease for these herds. Even with the rain, it is a time when there are pastures of plenty. Soon, the season will change. Running past the grazing cattle, the aroma of their wet hides drifted into my awareness – a pungent richness only a farmer can appreciate. By then, my voice called out the beginning passages of the Gospel of John as the cows eyed me with little care. Calves would stop their nursing and move to the opposite side of momma, eyeing me with curiosity as I passed. Just then a gust of chilly wind reminded me that this was the mountains and weather was forever changing. Before long, these pathways will be covered in blankets of snow.
A young Hereford calf stood just beyond my path and the herds of my maternal grandfather’s memory returned. It had been a harsh winter and he had taken me along in the truck to check the cattle that morning. The snow was deep enough across the pastures that there wasn’t a blade of grass showing. We drove to where the cattle were gathered and soon found a calf that had not made it through the night. Evidently it was a newborn, and as is often the case, the cow had given birth during the night in the midst of the storm. It always seemed that they would calve in the worst weather, and so it was that specific morning. The frozen body of that little baby cow forever stayed with me.
Soon, these highlands will be likewise buffeted with the harsh, cold winter winds and with them, the blankets of snow will cover the plethora of green grass that they now enjoy. But do the cattle worry? Do they stress about what is tomorrow? Even with the most severe weather, their births occur, and yes, even sometimes a death happens, but they push on through the storms of life. This reminder of my youth and of cattle was only possible because of the events that transpired to this point of this morning. Had I stopped at the underpass in the cold pool of water, these things may have never found their way into my thoughts.
Unlike previous jaunts up this mountain, this morning I was all alone. It was as if God had reserved the property just for me. In so doing, it gave me plenty of time to study His word and to reflect upon so many things in my life. While time passes, we seldom take the time to spend it giving thanks to all that our Creator had done for us in this life. Praying as I ran, the many people whom he had placed into my life came to mind. One by one, their needs were lifted, and one by one, my voice asked God to watch out for them and to help them in their times of need. As my journey soon found the downward pathways easier, the strain became less and ever so slowly, the pains began to fall away.
The words of Jesus from the Gospel of John, chapter 5, seemed to return to me when he spoke to the impotent man at the pool in Bethesda, “Wilt thou be made whole?”
As my journey in this story has shown, when we persevere, pressing on toward the mark, as Paul would say, we often find God is with us. Through it all, He reminds us that we are not alone. If we stay true to our faith, He will eventually take those things which seem insurmountable, those things which might feel like they are going to end your relationships, those things that seem like they will never heal, and he finds a way to brighten that sky and stop the rain. God can make you whole even if your entire life has been an infirmity.
Don’t give up, for He is with you always, even to the end of time.
Thanks be to God.