When we get a chance to get away, my husband Brent and I enjoy finding new places to hike. Considering that he was born near the Great Smoky Mountains, Brent loves being outdoors where there are waterfalls, rock formations, dirt trails and, of course, mountains. While we’re hiking, my nature-show-loving husband usually likes to stop and point out the various wildlife, such as funny looking lizards scurrying past us. Sometimes he’ll even snap a picture of some natural phenomenon. He’s just the cutest thing.
For Brent’s birthday, we took a quick trip to South Cumberland State Park. The threat of rain was looming over us, so we hiked for just a few hours. Still, it was enough time to see Foster Falls and cross a couple of cool bridges.
Most days I go for a walk down the sidewalk by my house, but a hike is oh-so different. On this particular hike, the majority of the trail was easy to trace, but there were a spots where we had to stop and survey what was up ahead to see if we were still on track. Though our hike did include some flat areas, there were plenty of places where we had to grasp a spindly tree to hoist ourselves up onto a rock or to help us shimmy down from another rock. There were tree roots bulging out of the ground and decaying logs to step over. I realized that I was mostly watching the backs of Brent’s hiking boots as we trekked through the wilderness, observing where he set his foot so I could do the same.
As we hiked, I was reminded of one of my favorite passages in the Bible—Psalm 121. This psalm is included in a group of poetry called the Songs of Ascent or Pilgrim Songs. They were meant to be traveling songs for Jews hiking up to the hill city of Jerusalem to visit the temple. Psalm 121 begins with “I lift up my eyes to the mountains. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”
As I tried to make my way up the mountainous terrain of our hike, I was concentrating so hard on the ground. I didn’t want to slide down into a brambly ravine. In order for me to “lift my eyes to the mountains,” I had to stop moving. I had to stay standing or sit down on a ledge and just breathe. It was the only way to adequately take in the beauty around me.
The first part of Psalm 121 is about my eyes looking up, and the second part is about God continually watching me. “The Lord watches over you—the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”
I need help, so I stop what I’m doing and look up. God offers help, so day and night He looks down. And all this watching goes on forevermore.