We had just left our car in the parking lot at Rimrock Overlook, in the Allegany National Forest in Pennsylvania, and were heading down to the lookout for a spectacular view. We then planned to descend the stairs from the lookout to the bottom of the lookout rock to explore the hiking trails of the area. As we approached the lookout, a lady was just coming up the stairs. Obviously winded, she stopped for a moment to catch her breath, and then she asked if she was almost to the parking lot. We assured her she was.
“Good!” She wheezed. “Don’t go further than the bottom of the stairs! The path is not worthwhile, believe me. The best view is from the bottom of those stairs.”
She seemed relieved to have delivered her warning, and she continued on to the parking lot muttering, “No farther than the steps! Otherwise you have an uphill climb all the way back!”
She looked so disappointed that we couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. It seems she had expected much more at the foot of these cliffs, but when her expectations had not been met, she quickly retreated to her usual surroundings, determined to never return.
Many in life go looking for love. Unfortunately their expectations are in conflict with what they seek. First, many look for love in all the wrong places, seeking this craved emotion where human self-interest is at its prime. Others test the waters concerning the divine love they’ve heard about once or twice when they’ve attended church. Many of these people leave disillusioned as well. They may have not been greeted at the door with open arms in the way they thought they should have been, or the offering plate may have look more like a business transaction than a place to find love. Lost among those who are supposed to love unconditionally, they conclude that the view is much better outside of the church. At least there it is expected that everyone be indifferent.
Why did the lady at Rimrock Overlook become disheartened? Because the paved way had stopped at the bottom of the stairs and she was met with a trail that was rocky and steep. Despite her assessment of the trail, it actually looked inviting to us and we followed it. It led down to the Kinzua Bay, or the Kinzua River, depending on the direction you decided to take. It was true that the path was far from level. In fact it was rather steep as you climbed down to the level of the water. But the experience of getting to the river itself was well worth the effort, even on the return climb, which was all uphill! Why? Because we were surrounded by the beauty of fall and we could indeed feel the presence of God!
“When I came, why was there no one? When I called, why was there no one to answer? Was my arm too short to deliver you? Do I lack the strength to rescue you?” (Isa 50:2, NIV2)
Too often our expectations get in the way of finding genuine love. Have we come just for paved paths? Are we solely interested in how certain groups of people react in church? (Remember it was the “religious” who crucified Jesus. These are still numerous on our planet!) Or are we after the everlasting, selfless love of God, who willingly sacrificed Himself on a cross for you and me, so that we could fully experience Him once again?
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” (Jer 31:3, NIV2)
The path down to the river is truly worthwhile! Don’t let a bit of steep, rocky trail stop you!
(To access the entire “The Question About Love” devotional series, please click here.)