How had we missed it? The sign was right there; a full six-feet wide and at least as tall, directing us right to the trail to the Overlook of the Falls. The trail had been no more than 50 yards from the very spot we would park each time we came to the park’s lodge to be assigned to our reserved cabin. Each time we visited, year after year, the trail had been right under our noses, only to be overlooked as we ventured past it to seek out the primary destination of our visit: Cedar Falls.
“Has this always been here?” my husband asked as we returned to our car from the lodge’s registration desk. We had learned that our cabin wouldn’t be ready for another hour, so we were prepared to drive our car to the Cedar Falls Overlook to amble along the path as we waited. “Surely not,” I answered. “We would have noticed that sign if it had always been here, wouldn’t we?” One would think.
We struck out for the trail, following the direction of the white diamond-shaped markers placed on some of the trees to help guide hikers along the path known as The Boy Scout Trail. The Boy Scout Trail is the one main trail that ties together all of the other smaller trails throughout Petit Jean State Park; its length in excess of 12 miles. That trail had been a part of the park since long before our first visit to Petit Jean in the early 1990’s; so, yes, it had been there. We had simply overlooked the quickest path to the Overlook.
We had overlooked the opportunity to see some beautiful sights; vignettes whose beauty refused to be dimmed by the waning sunlight and the dreariness of the oncoming winter.
How often do you get to see a huge boulder that looks like the head of a sleeping Snapping Turtle?
How sad it would have been to miss the glimpse of a misty fog lumbering its way through the Cedar Creek Canyon.
How disappointing it would have been to be deprived of the opportunity to walk across this gently trickling stream.
Some views… some moments or experiences can be recaptured at a later time. That turtle head rock probably won’t be going anywhere for the next several decades. But some opportunities only present themselves for a moment; disappearing as quickly as the fog when its driven away by the sun.
As we walked along our newly-discovered path I couldn’t help but reflect on other opportunities I may have overlooked in my rush to reach what I considered to be my primary destination. The sad part is that I’ve always considered myself to be pretty good about enjoying the journey. I’ve always tried to enjoy each day as the gift from God that it is.
I also wondered how many times I’ve missed a path God intended for me to travel. There are probably more paths than I care to know, and even more pitiful reasons for missing them. The main reason for missing most of those paths, though, is probably that I just looked past them in my hurry to reach what I thought was something better. I was probably always headed for what I deemed to be more worthwhile, and going in a direction that I had decided would be quickest and best.
Sometimes quickest and best takes us in another direction. Sometimes quickest and best leads to an altogether different destination. Then again, sometimes quickest and best leads to where we wanted to go in the first place. The long-overlooked path we found that day ended up being the path to The Overlook.
When I finally slowed down enough to see where God had placed me in that moment I was able to see the sign; the same sign that had been there every time we had visited in years past. That same sign directed us right to the trail that led us on a beautiful path that was shorter and easier-to-maneuver than any we had ever taken before.
How many signs does God place right under my nose every day? How often have I overlooked the sign He has placed right in front of me; failing to take advantage of His guidance? How many times have I failed to see the forest for the trees?
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not on thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6, KJV)