When a Shortcut Isn’t

I spent the past weekend at a Christian retreat in the mountains of western NC. On Saturday afternoon we had some down time and I decided to take a hike. There were all sorts of trails but the “High Falls” was listed as the most popular with it’s beautiful waterfall payoff.

Done.

It was, indeed, a lovely trail with thoughtfully built bridges and stairs to make the route easier and safer. And the waterfall was gorgeous! An excellent hike. After I finished snapping pictures I checked the map for the best route back–heaven forbid I backtrack! There was a nice, winding route that wasn’t too long but then I noticed the Water Tank Spur. Ah-ha–a shortcut! I was eager to get back to my room to do some writing so I headed that direction.

Totally ignoring the trail designation of “difficult.”

My first obstacle was a creek with no easy crossing. There were rocks, but they were too far apart to safely hop. So, I removed one shoe and sock and half waded, half rock-hopped across the little creek. No problem.

Then I came to the second obstacle. Turned out the comparitively short trail was almost entirely a steep climb up the side of the mountain through rhododendron. Did I mention it was steep?

But c’mon, can’t turn back now. I’d come too far and I’d have to ford that creek again. So up I went. And up. And up. And up. Pausing often to pant and wipe away the sweat.

I made it but slowly and in need of a shower. There went all that extra free time for writing.

And it occurred to me, being on a spiritual retreat, that this is all too often how I approach my spiritual growth. I look for the shortcuts. The quick path. And as a result I end up having to work twice as hard without getting where I want to go any more quickly.

Suffering is part of everyone’s journey through life–that is a fact. But I wonder how often we add to our own suffering by making choices that appear “easy” at the time.

I’d like to say that next time I’ll take the long way around and simply enjoy the hike. But I suspect I’ll come across another apparent shortcut ere long and will confidently strike out. Thinking to save myself some trouble . . .

Published by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Author, wife, child of God.

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