Finding Beauty In The Fog
It was a rainy afternoon in Milford Sound National Park, New Zealand. We had spent the morning on a boat staring with our jaw to the floor and our eyes gazing up; the landscape looked as if we had entered another world. I had heard of this place, even seen pictures but experiencing it in real life didn't quite feel like "real life". The tree-covered mountains were jetting out of the ocean, kind of like the world had been flooded again and we were voyaging through a water maze. I can see why they call it one of the wonders of the world. I honestly wouldn’t have even thought twice if a few pterodactyls came flying around the bend of the mountainous gates. That evening we had planned on "stealth camping" up at a spot we had heard about called Lake Marian. Apparently, this lake had the clearest water in all New Zealand… right when I heard those words: Clearest and water I was sold. An alpine lake with snow caped mountains surrounding and water that you'd accidentally step in because you couldn't tell if you were on dry ground or submerged. I was SO unbelievably into it. We parked the car at the trail head, packed our bags, got distracted by some Americans we met and almost got eaten alive by sand flies while talking to them. We were supposed to leave at 6pm to get there and have some time before dark but we didn't leave until 8pm… luckily NZ is crazy and it doesn't get dark until 10om. Our new American friends (who by the way, we saw THREE different times in three different places, one being on our plane ride back to the states) told us about how the trail was steep and muddy; judging by their dirt caked legs I could see they weren't exaggerating. Though it was late and we had to muster the courage to start hiking after a long day, we both agreed the lake would be worth it. Our destination would be so worth it.
We began the hike through dense rain forest, ferns and climbed over an entanglement of slippery roots. It was one of our many adventures. Now, like many outdoorsy people, we enjoy hiking but there's something exciting about finally seeing what you're searching for you know? Like after a long multipitch climb and finally reaching the top, or a long road trip to an epic camp site - you've made it. Plus, hiking in the rain and going uphill isn't really the most ideal trek. As we hiked I noticed the fog wasn't clearing. We were socked in completely. We could see in front of us but as far as looking up, it was a ceiling of grey. After a couple of hours, we reached our "destination". The pristine, crystal clear, blow your mind lake…
The fog had descended upon us like a thick wool blanket you would use in the dead of winter. I stepped forward to the water’s edge and looked down. I could see about 10 feet of beautiful water in front of me but, if I didn’t know any better I'd think it was a big puddle. It was ominous to say the least. We could even hear waterfalls, which hinted more that the mountains were dwelling just beyond our sight. Our clothes were drenched but to be honest I think our spirits were a bit more downcast. We tried to stay positive, took some cool time lapse photos in front of the blanket of clouds and then tried to find a semi flat spot to pitch our non-waterproof tent. We covered our $15 tent with a $6 ground tarp we had bought a month before and quickly crawled in to escape the nasty weather and to try and cook our warm soup for dinner. We had a few laughs about how we hiked all the way up there just to see fog and got a bit of a scare when a opossum tried breaking into our little home for the evening. The encouraging thought before falling asleep was, "let's just pray the fog lifts tonight and it'll be clear skies in the morning." I closed my eyes in our crammed, already damp tent and imagined a sunny morning and clear, turquoise lake. I imagined a towering mountain range and best of all, a perfect morning plunge into the frigid water. I even brought my snorkel mask I was that stoked. (It was kind of our trip theme, if it's a cool place to swim… we swim… cause we're in freaking New Zealand.)
I awoke that morning a little groggy from an interesting night sleep of slanted and rocky positioning but my spirit felt like a kid on Christmas morning. I was ready to tear back the tent flap and see those bluebird skies like a Christmas tree with beautiful presents wrapping the bottom. I unzipped the door, flung it open…
My heart sunk with my posture and I just stared at our good ol' blanket friend. Thicker than ever. It was a beautiful place no doubt but I still wanted more, I still wanted to see what I came for. What do we do now? Do we wait for it to clear in the cold rain? With ALL our stuff soaked? We sat for a while as I debated on what to do but my friend James is better at making quick decisions so we called off the waiting party. Why sit here hoping for it to clear, getting even more wet when we could go somewhere else? It was true. I knew it in my gut but my spirit battled; we're in New Zealand! At the clearest lake in the country! I want to see it! To my dismay, it wasn't going to happen this time. So, we put away our wet sleeping bags and our cheap tent; slid our wet hiking boots back on and made our way back down. I remember turning and looking at the fog and thinking, "I know those mountains are there… I can't see them but I KNOW they're there… I know you're as beautiful as ever, I just can’t see you." The rainforest all around us was soaking in the constant drizzle. As we walked we began to check out the cool plants covered in dew. We saw spider webs with water drops dancing along their intricate design. We explored the river’s edge; crawling on slippery rocks and down trees. Both of us wandering off to get a closer look and navigate through dense jungle - like modern day explorers. After a couple of hours, we realized our moods had changed… we spent more time hiking out than we did trying to get up to Lake Marian. At one point James turned and said, "You know, if it was a clear day we wouldn't really be taking the time to see the forest as we are right now." Then it hit me. Like a truck. A big beautiful truck. The depth in that sentence flooded into my mind and it made sense… this became one of the most meaningful experiences I had on our whole trip because of the lesson I learned while walking through the fog. Suddenly it felt like my brain got struck by lightning and all of these thoughts and bible verses began rushing in. Truths like these:
“In this time, you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious that gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” – 1 Peter 1:6-8
“And your ear shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ when you turn to the right or turn to the left. Then, you will defile your carved idols overlaid with silver and your gold-plated metal images. You will scatter them as unclean things. You will say to them, ‘Be gone!” – Isaiah 30:21-22
“It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed in his own authority.” – Acts 1:7
“The surpassing power belongs to God and not to us… we walk by faith, not by sight.” – 2 Corinthians 4
I’m so thankful we didn’t see that lake. Sure, it would’ve been so badass to stick another incredible view under our belts but to miss out on that life lesson, no thanks. The parallels that God taught me in that moment are still teaching me to this day and it even brings tears to my eyes as I write this. We are on one hell of a journey, friends. Sometimes we get to have blue bird days but sometimes, we have really foggy days. We want our dreams to come true, we want our plans to pan out and we want our desires to be fulfilled. Just like I wanted to see that beautiful lake, I KNEW the views were there, I knew because I had seen pictures. That day… I didn’t see it, I had to believe it. Those mountains are just like God in our life. There are times when we cry out at the top of our lungs asking, “God, where are you?? Why are things not working out the way I thought? Why is life throwing so many curve balls at me?” The list goes on and on… That hike reminded me of his quiet whisper. He is the creator of the universe, the one who set things in motion. He’s the enormous mountain range hidden in the fog and he’s there, whispering to us, I am here. It’s up to us if we want to listen. If we want our voice to shut up for once and know that we aren’t in control – that’s when he reminds us that he’s been there the whole time and he’s not going anywhere. Ask yourself, will I choose to listen? Will I choose to find beauty in the forest?
After we explored the forest and changed our mindset, every hiker we saw we were excited to tell them about how awesome the hike was, even if they weren’t going to see the lake. In life, I want my mind to be excited about the ultimate destination, not the lake, not the peak, or the next place but my heavenly home. My kingdom country that is written into my inheritance. With that mindset, I know in my heart that I can find joy in every forest I encounter. If I choose that love every time, just having Him and nothing else, I'll wrestle through life but I'll know that nothing on this earth will sustain me or fulfill me like the love my creator offers. It's a simple yet very complex promise. It is so hard. I fail often but I know I’m forgiven and I am fully loved and fully known, no matter what. The darkest and deepest forest will always have a glimmer of light. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation of shadow due to change.” – James 1:17
I just finished a Harry Potter marathon with some friends and I love the Goblet of Fire because it has the Triwizard Tournament. When I picture the worst possible idea of a fearful life I think of the last stage when they’re running through that crazy maze. It’s constantly changing, there are curses and it’s just scary as hell. If I were thrown in there I’d either pass out or poop my pants. Maybe both. I think about the scene when Cedric and Harry are sprinting neck and neck to try and win and Cedric gets entangled by the wild roots. Harry turns, and with some hesitation yells “Reducto!” and frees him of the trap. I picture my mind like that maze sometimes; like the forest. What I’m learning is to not let fear grab me and try to suffocate me. The enemy send arrows of lies towards us daily, trying to send us deeper into a spiral of negativity. And boy, do we have to speak life against those deadly thoughts. Jesus is there yelling “Reducto!” without even thinking twice. He never hesitates to love me more and carry me through the valleys. (Sorry if that’s a geeky parallel for you but it pumps me up.)
We can choose to see the beauty in the fog and in our forests throughout life. We can choose to believe those wonderful mountains are dwelling quietly, calmly, and are there nonetheless. We can make the decision to never let the fear, rejection or insecurity become bigger than the God who loves us unconditionally, who created us in his image and is constantly overflowing with grace. This is a discipline I’m learning and praying for daily and I hope you can challenge yourself as well. I’ll finish (about dang time) with a quote from a book that is changing me and sharpening my life and I can honestly say the Lord is speaking so many sweet things to me through these words. Let this challenge become your own and allow it to loosen your grip. Stop white knuckling life, let the pressure off and put God in his rightful place.
“As we walk the road deliberately with him, toward him, we watch him write our story with love and purpose, to know him a little better, to feel the light a little brighter.” – Grace Thornton
P.S. If you have a desire to read the book that’s been really affirming these lessons for me it’s called “I Don’t Wait Anymore” by Grace Thornton. Also, if you’d like to chat more about this topic or just in general I’d be over joyed. So, here’s my personal email in case that sparks your interest: firstname.lastname@example.org
Keep charging it friends, further up and further in!
Much Love, Rylee