I love hiking. Especially this time of year. There is nothing more beautiful than the fall colours illuminated in shimmering sunlight, and there is nothing more refreshing than the crisp air. Autumn is the season of hiking. A couple of weeks ago a friend and I drove out to Albion Falls to hike. Neither of us are from Hamilton, but we’ve heard it has some of the best trails in Southern Ontario, so we’ve made an agreement to explore as many of them as possible.
Unfortunately with the demands of work and school we weren’t able to make it to the trail until a little after 6pm, which at the time didn’t strike us as a problem. We parked the car and set off into the trees in search of Albion Falls. Immediately the stress of school and the busyness of life drifted away. Finally a brief escape.
We walked through hills and pathways, framed by a canopy of trees, and admired the brilliant fall colours that surrounded us. As we wandered, paying little attention to where we were, I realized it was slowly becoming dark. The dimming of dusk was upon us, settling amongst the trees. The gentle breeze was cooling down, and the shadows were closing in on the weathered trails. We were running out of daylight. Coming to a fork, we felt unsure of what direction to take. We chose the right, and soon after realized it wasn’t the direction we had anticipated. We began to accept that we may be a little lost.
Soon after that, a thick billowing fog began to creep through the grey trees. It was both beautiful and eerie all at once. It began at our feet, and rolling in, it smothered the forest floor like a thick blanket. It crept up to our knees and weaved through the tree trunks. The sun was sinking, and the fog was settling so we continued to twist through the trails toward Albion Falls.
Finally, in the foggy distance, we heard the undeniable sound of the waterfall. We made it! I was anticipating the beautiful splendor that the internet posts I read online had boasted of. But as we climbed up to see it for ourselves, I was filled with disappointment. We were standing right in front of Albion falls and we saw…nothing. Just fog. Just a thick wall of fog, guarding the waterfall. A vast and never-ending hazy abyss. We could hear it, but we couldn’t see it! All that hiking… for fog.
I realized then that I know that fog. I know that fog too well… because that is the fog that I feel inside me. It distorts our vision; it gives us the unsettling feeling of fear, it lingers as this physical depiction of the unknown. In the last several months this fog has crept inside of me, and filled me with a hollow kind of sadness. As life becomes uncertain, as things end in unfair ways, and the difficult times have felt unbearable, I have felt the fog billowing in. It has left me desperate for clarity, eager for sunlight, and sometimes feeling… lost. Somewhere along the way the fog starts to feel familiar.
And just as familiar is this idea of wandering through the wilderness; of searching for something. Desperate for the promise of glory. Desperate to see what we feel entitled to seeing. Desperate to see the waterfall. Wandering through the wilderness is familiar too. And sometimes I think this is life. Wandering. Wondering. And hoping for a glimpse of God’s glory; a glimpse of hope. Especially in the dark times – in the dusk – when daylight is slipping away, night is creeping in, and dawn seems far away.
The fog and the wandering – it makes us so weary, and if we aren’t careful, we will be tempted to settle for a fog-covered waterfall once we finally reach it. We will be tempted to convince ourselves that it’s enough. But we can’t settle for the fog just because it becomes familiar to us. Just like we can’t settle for the things of this world just because they are right in front of us. Behind it there is much greater glory.
Just as Paul says in Corinthians, “we don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us” (I Corinthians 13:12, MSG). We start on this path to see that glory and along the way that fog starts to roll in. But we’ve been given a charge to keep going. We have been called to keep seeing that path in light of its end; that greater glory. The promise is that the fog will roll away and the glory will be revealed. If we aren’t careful, if we allow this fog to feel familiar and if we don’t trek on in hope of seeing more glory, we’re going to miss seeing the waterfall.
I thought about that hike for the entire week – about the fog, and the wandering, and about not seeing the waterfall. The following week I woke up early on Saturday and found myself driving back to Albion Falls. I had to go back. In the soft glow of morning sun I retraced my steps.
And then, I came across the waterfall. Finally, I could see it clearly. It felt like it was God’s glory; revealed to me. It was actually much more beautiful than I thought it would be. The water fell gracefully, almost in slow motion, and cascaded down onto many tiers of weathered rock. The pouring water caught the sunlight and reflected it back onto all who stood in awe of it. A spectacle you cannot capture. A glimpse into eternity that you cannot replicate. I could hear it, I could feel the misty air, and finally… I could see it.
After finally seeing the waterfall, I felt a sense of peace wash over me. The glory is coming. The wilderness will not stretch on forever. The fog will be lifted, and the dusk will be restored to dawn. We are not left alone. God will show us the waterfall and the beauty He is longing to reveal to us his coming. You will not be abandoned to the depths of the darkness, nor swallowed by the fog. For you were made to stand in the Glory of our King. You were made to see and experience the greatness of the waterfall.