Summer is my favorite time because it’s when we travel the most. And I adore traveling. This summer we kind of accidentally had a National Parks theme to our adventures. I came away with a lot of pictures and some great memories. I also came away with three life lessons.
Lesson One: You Never Know How Close You Are to the End
We spent two full days in Yellowstone in June, and I can’t tell you how many truly amazing things we saw. It was my third time there, and I was just as awestruck as the first time. I love seeing God’s hand. It made me think about how creative He is and how incredible it is that He set up a whole chain of events so that I could see a beautiful thing right now.
There are essentially two loops that take you through all the sights at Yellowstone. We drove the south loop the first day, stopping to see geysers and steaming rocks and buffalo and elk. The second day we drove the north loop, stopping to see stunning formations caused by something as simple as minerals and water. We drove up a 9,000-foot mountain that day and even saw two black bears!
Like a great poet, Nature knows how to produce the greatest effects with the most limited means. -Heinrich Heine
After our two full days, we went back through Yellowstone on our way to Grand Teton National Park because that was the most direct path. We hadn’t driven very far into the south loop before there was a big slowdown on the road. We kept coming to the next turn in the road, looking ahead, and finding our lane full of cars as far as we could see. Ten minutes turned into twenty and then thirty. After about forty minutes, some of the cars in front of us started turning around. We were concerned about the delay this was causing us as we only had a very limited time to see the Tetons.
After about an hour, one car right in front of us turned around and drove back the way we had come. Of course, I don’t fault the driver for making that choice. He didn’t have any information and probably had a limited time available to see Yellowstone. But one minute after he turned around, we came around a corner to find traffic moving along normally. There had been a buffalo on the road! A park ranger was there and the buffalo was now off the road so we could all move around him.
And the thought came to me:
That car in front of us would never know how close he was to the end.
Whether trials and difficulties in life actually last a long time or just seem to last a long time, you never know how close you are to the end.
Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead. Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don’t come until heaven; but for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come. ~Jeffrey R. Holland
There are certainly times when walking away from a situation is wise, but the counsel to keep walking and keep trying applies to most situations. Keeping your head up in difficult or uncertain times is hard, and giving up is easy. But remember that you never know how close you are to the end. Click To Tweet And it will be all right in the end.
Lesson Two: Interacting Makes it Yours
On the way to Arches National Park in July, we did some exploring and ended up at a little state park in the middle of Utah called Goblin Valley. I had heard a little about it and looked at it online, and it seemed worth our while, but I was totally unprepared for how much fun it would be.
When we arrived at Goblin Valley, we didn’t realize that although it’s a beautiful and impressive (and a kind of weird) place, it’s more than a view. It’s a playground! We didn’t know that you could actually climb the “goblins.” My kids are 13, 16, and 20, and they loved climbing, running, and exploring. We only stayed an hour because it was 100 degrees (on orange-red sandstone), but if not for that, we probably could have stayed half the day. It’s quiet, unique, impressive, and fun.
I really was taken aback at how much our whole family enjoyed this spot. It caused me to consider why. What made this place so lovable and so fun? What made me text my brother and say, “We need to meet you here sometime”?
And then it dawned on me: interaction.
At Yellowstone, you look but don’t touch. (In fact, keeping your distance from a boiling geyser or a buffalo is a lifesaving measure!) At Goblin Valley, though, we interacted. We were on the “goblins,” appreciating them from close up. We could touch, sit on, and jump off them. By interacting with them, it made us part of the experience, not just onlookers.
This is true for so many things. If you want to understand or know something, do it. Click To Tweet I’ve always loved the wisdom in John 17:7 in the New Testament.
If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
Here, Jesus was saying that if a person wanted to understand a doctrine or truth, they should do it to find out if it was from God or if Jesus was just making it up himself. (So, if you don’t know that observing the Sabbath as a holy day is a true principle, do it. If you don’t know that reading scripture is important, do it. That’s how you find out.)
The lesson I learned from Goblin Valley was that if you want to appreciate, understand, and know something, interact with it. Do it. Make it part of you and your life’s experience.
Lesson 3: Hard Things Have Better Rewards
By the time we got to Arches National Park, some of us were pretty tired. We had already done a lot of hiking and walking on the trip. The hike to the famous Delicate Arch was rated “difficult,” and that was a bit of a turn-off for some of us. There is an alternate way to see Delicate Arch, though. There’s a viewpoint. You drive up and get out of the car and look. And I’ll tell you– that sounded pretty good.
My daughter Googled the view of Delicate Arch from the viewpoint. She found quite a few photos. And I have to say, it was a little disappointing. The Arch was pretty far away. You could see it, sure, but it wasn’t the same as being right AT it.
The description on the National Park brochure of the hike to Delicate Arch is: “Difficult trail with elevation gain of 480 feet; no shade– take at least one quart of water per person. Open slickrock with some exposure to heights.” To which my gut response is: “No thanks.”
We struggled because we knew we could make the 3-mile hike — we just didn’t really want to. Worn out as we were, it sounded hard. Knowing the alternative (the view from the viewpoint), though, made up our minds: We were going to do the hike to Delicate Arch.
And I’m so glad we did. The hike itself was really amazing. Granted, there were some boring parts, and hiking in the desert in 95 degrees isn’t particularly enjoyable, but there were so many things along the way that we would have never seen otherwise: stunning views, interesting formations, unique sights. And standing right at Delicate Arch was indescribable. (You can appreciate its size if you can see my little family standing there at the base of it.)
Getting to this spot was hard, but it was worth it. It was so much better than seeing it from the viewpoint would have been. I am so glad we chose the harder way because the rewards were something I’m honestly very grateful I didn’t miss.Hard things have better rewards. Click To Tweet
Hard things have better rewards. They just do. This is true in part because of the fight or the sacrifice that we’ve made to get to those rewards. It makes the rewards sweeter.
What hard fight are you fighting? Can you recognize some good things on your difficult path that you wouldn’t have been able to see or know or do otherwise? Sometimes those are hard to pick out or appreciate, but looking for and seeing them really helps us on our way to better things. While we are sometimes given the harder thing (as opposed to choosing it on our own), we can spend our journey looking forward, knowing there are better rewards ahead.
What Life Lessons Have You Learned Recently?
These lessons I learned from my National and State Park travels this summer have real-life applications. They are sometimes hard to remember as I struggle with hard things or do things I don’t want to have to do. But they are true principles nonetheless. Interacting makes it mine– it makes me appreciate and understand things better. Hard things have better rewards. And I never know how close I am to the end.
So let’s keep trying and keep walking.