What We Don't See Coming: My Journey Up Looking Glass Rock
The picture you saw when you clicked on this blog is of Looking Glass Rock in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. By the end of the summer of 2010, I climbed it (well, some of it). I may not have reached the peak, but in the beginning of the summer of 2010, I didn't even like climbing to the top of a bunk bed.
I remember the day very well. I sat in the back of a van with about a dozen other climbers as we made our way up the windy roads along Forest Service Road 475. The creaking of the van’s undercarriage as we faced dangerously steep roads didn’t bother me, because the higher we went in the van, the less I had to hike.
Growing up in Florida, heights weren’t a thing. I never walked uphill in my life. I had struggled with every hike we’d done so far that summer - and this promised to be one of the worst. When we finally reached the trail head, we got out of the van, loaded all of our climbing gear, camping gear, and food onto our backs, and set off to reach the base of Looking Glass Rock.
For the next 3 miles, we made our way through the woods, many times having to use our hands to help us climb over massive rocks that interrupted the path. Not only was this not a flat hike, but it wasn’t even totally walkable - often we had to crawl in order to not fall backwards and down to the bottom. After elevating almost 1500ft, the end was in sight. We were all really comfortable in the outdoors, and no one in the group struggled to make it. I stayed in the back of the line to make sure no one was left behind. Also, everyone else was moving faster than me, so it worked out. I made sure to stop every few minutes, to… umm… take in the scenery.
When we reached the base of the rock (the grey rock face that you can see in the picture), we took a water break, set up our ropes, and began to prep for the climb. Looking Glass Rock is a monolith, or one massive rock formation that juts out of the land surrounding it. They’re usually rounded towards the top, and this one is no exception. There’s a helipad at the top, but nooo, that would’ve been too easy. The friends I was with wanted to climb.
Using a few of the common rock climbing tools, I managed to find the ledges with my feet, slide my hands into the cracks, and get a decent bit of the way up the rock face before stopping, taking in the views, and repelling back down.
What you may not know is that this entire day was way outside of my comfort zone. I got into climbing that summer thinking it would be rock walls, you know, in rock climbing gyms. Where the ground is made of bouncy foam. If you had told me right then that by the end of the summer, I’d be expected to climb Looking Glass Rock, I would’ve quit.
I would’ve had a litany of excuses: I’m not ready. I don’t know how. I’ve never done anything like that before. That isn’t for me. But the funny thing is, most of the achievements in my life that I can look back and be happy about now, started the same way.
Most of us want to know what the future holds. It’s one of the main reasons for our doubt, our anxiety, our frustration with God - he asks for our faithfulness but we want to see the future. I wonder if we aren’t kept in the dark about some things because we’d mess it up if we knew what was ahead us.
I first started speaking publicly about my faith when I was 15. I attended a retreat, had my first moment of considering God’s love for me in a real way, and was asked to share my experience with the other kids in the group. My first ‘testimony’. I said yes, reluctantly, because I was asked very nicely by the youth minister. I figured somebody might relate to something I said and it might help them. If you had told me that 13 years later, in 2018, I would have traveled all over the USA, to Europe, the South Pacific and more, giving my testimony and talking about Jesus to tens of thousands of people - I assure you, I would not have given that first testimony. I never would’ve signed up! I wasn’t ready for all of that! I’m not sure I’m ready now!
However, God didn’t need me to be ready in 2005 for what he’d ask me to do in 2018. He doesn’t need us to be ready today for what he’ll ask us to do next week. I don’t think He’s looking for our grand “yes” to the lifetime of adventure He’s calling us on. I think He’s looking for a sincere “yes'“ to what He has for us today. And another “yes” tomorrow, and another the next day.
God doesn't always show us the entire road ahead. But I’ve found that if we lean in and listen, He illuminates the next step… and then the next one… and as we keep walking, His plans unfold before us.
I’m not sure what you’re working on. I’m not sure what you’re working through. But I do believe that whether it’s holiness, healing, being a guitar master or a celebrity chef - it’s okay if you’re not at your destination yet. Life is about moving toward your goals and taking steps in the right direction.
I’ve come to believe that when we’re walking through the darkness, we don’t need the sun to immediately pop up in the sky. In fact, that’d probably blind us, knock us off our feet, throw our senses into a blur. What we actually need while walking through the dark is a flashlight. A torch. Something that will help us see the next step.
Perhaps God shields our eyes from seeing the road ahead because if we saw it, we’d turn back. We’d look at where we are now, compare it to where we’re going to be in 20 steps, and we’d just stop walking. But if we did that, we’d be ignoring all of the work God was going to do in our lives over the next 19 steps to prepare us for that one.
Let’s just focus on today. Today will give you and I chances to take steps in the right direction. Will we take them?