The Natural Bridge area was formed by a series of lava tubes, one of which actually bridges the Rogue River. The river simply disappears into the tube and then reappears a little further up. Pioneers would use this land bridge to cross over the rather dangerous rapids. It's really a remarkable sight.
One of the adventures on this trip was our hike. The Natural Bridge campsites are located on the east side of the river. The viewpoint is located on the west side. A very nice footbridge leads to a gentle, paved path with interpretive signs explaining the geography of the area. But once the paved path ends, the visitor can either turn around and go back over to the east side or take the trail that borders the west side of the river. We opted for the west side, because, after all, how hard could it be?
There is a reason why the trail is not taken much. Although technically classified as a "short, easy" trail, it is actually a couple of miles of narrow, steep grades that led us up further and further up the side of the hill. At one point, we could see our campsite far down and across the raging river. At several points, we wondered if we should have turned back. We had no idea how much further we were going to climb or how far down we would have to go before being able to cross over to the east side of the river.
And, oh yes, it started to rain. Wet and tired, we eventually found an older bridge that creaked a little as we crossed over, but returned us to the trail that led to our campsite. It was enjoyable, great exercise, fresh air, being out in nature.
And then I got to thinking...
Christian life and ministry is a lot like that hike. We don't always know what the trail will be like. As much as I'd like the path to be paved and even, the reality is that the going sometimes gets rough. And it rains. And a lot of times, I feel like turning back. But then the Lord reminds me that the best way to go is forward. The past is the past. The mistakes, hurts, and tragedies of yesterday fade into the distance as we keep going up and forward. And when we reach that bridge, when we "arrive", we can look back and rejoice that the path was taken.