Well, I hope someone reads this. I probably wouldn’t. To be honest, the title would normally not interest me.
You see, I really care nothing at all about flowers. I’m not sure I’d know a daffodil from a dandelion! And I’m pretty sure I’ve never learned anything significant in my life from flowers.
Well, I guess that’s not exactly true. I’ve learned that I’m in big trouble if I don’t give them to my wife on our anniversary! But other than that—not a lot of life lessons for me from flowers.
Today I had a day off, and for me, living close to the Smoky Mountains, that often means a hike. Sometimes with my wife. Those are my favorite. But she couldn’t go today, so I was on my own.
Now, my goal on a hike is always some awesome destination. An incredible vista at the top of a mountain, an old mountain cemetery deep in the woods … or best of all, and my usual destination—a massive waterfall! There’s just nothing like it. I think I’ve hiked to about every waterfall in east Tennessee.
But today I had a problem. I have a knee injury, and I wasn’t sure I could make a long hike. So I decided to try something different.
Every year, people in this part of the country rave about the spring Smoky Mountain wildflower hikes. I wasn’t really sure if I’d ever noticed any wildflowers. On my previous hikes to waterfalls in the spring, they were probably something like wallpaper on the hallway of my journey to the big destination. Just not something I paid any attention to.
But today, on this first day of April, I decided to hike Chestnut Top near Townsend, reportedly one of the best wildflower hikes to be found anywhere.
From the very beginning, it was peaceful and beautiful. And sure enough, there were the wildflowers. But to be honest, at first I was a little disappointed.
Wildflowers are small!
I guess I was looking for the kind of flowers you see at a wedding, or the ones I bring my wife. But these were just tiny flowers on the side of the trail. Not even enough to make a decent bouquet!
At first I thought, “Maybe I’ll just turn around and go find a waterfall somewhere.” But somehow I sensed that this was a day where I just needed to slow down. So I knelt down close and took a closer look at the first wildflowers I saw.
These flowers were stunning! They were so intricate and delicate, and the colors of purple and white reminded me of tiny Easter lilies growing right there on the side of the mountain. I couldn’t stop looking at them.
And then, as I walked up the path, it was like I couldn’t see anything else! For the first time in so many hikes, I wasn’t trying to reach the “big destination.” So I saw the wonder of what was right in front of me. And it was dazzling!
As I slowly moved up the trail with my eyes now firmly fixed on small things, I began to hear the voice of the Lord. Maybe the things He said to me will help you too.
The things that look small in life often matter the most.
There was once a Man who did small things. In fact, he often did small things for a few people, or even just one, when there was always a crowd very close by that could have been His focus.
This Man asked for a drink of water from an outcast woman at a well. He cried with a grieving family. He washed the nasty feet of His friends.
This Man was also God.
If the God-Man spent so much time on small things, then maybe I should too.
Maybe the most important things in life are not the big church, the big promotion, the big house, the big success. Maybe life would be better if I just joined Jesus in the small things.
Jesus may be more interested in my journey than my destination.
I never actually reached much of a destination on this hike. I pretty much just walked until my knee wore out, and I turned around and went back. I can’t ever remember doing that on a hike. I would never stop until I got to “the destination.”
But on this hike—one that I believe I will always remember as one of my best hikes—the journey was what mattered.
Maybe sometimes Jesus just wants to walk with me. Maybe sometimes He just waits for me to walk with Him. To look at the intricacies of what He has made. To consider the wonder of His simple creations.
What an incredible thought. And what a sad thing to miss that. I don’t want to miss Jesus on my way to something big!
The journey with Jesus is always new.
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV).
As I moved on up the trail, I began to see flowers that were just about to bloom. And strange plants I’d never even noticed before that were clearly close to producing some kind of flower.
I thought about the fact that if I come back here next week, this hike will probably look completely different. New flowers will bloom. Probably entirely different kinds of flowers!
I want to live with a daily sense of overwhelming joy that His love for me and His life for me is new every morning.
I don’t have to miss that. Neither do you!
Suddenly, the flowers just stopped. As the trail climbed upward, I noticed that there just weren’t any more flowers.
I don’t mean there were only some, or a few. They were just gone. I probably hiked another two miles up the mountain and never saw another flower.
I don’t know why. I really don’t know much about flowers. But I’m guessing that as I climbed higher here in the early spring, it was just too cold for flowers. Flowers don’t grow everywhere. And if I had not been paying attention to the small things along the trail in the beginning, I would have missed them completely! Because they didn’t really last that long.
There are opportunities from God right in front of me, but if I’m not looking for them, I may miss them altogether.
I don’t want to do that. I really desire to see what God wants me to see, to love who God wants me to love, to join Him in the small opportunities I often miss in my pursuit of bigger things.
Just as the flowers began to disappear, I saw one flower that was different from any of the others I had seen. Honestly, I was so stunned by it, I walked backwards for a little while to see if I could find another one. I could not.
And after I saw this one beautiful, blood-red flower, I never saw another one on the entire trail.
I heard the whisper of the Lord, reminding me that at the end of every trail of my life—in fact, the actual destination I should be pursuing on every daily journey—is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Ultimately, nothing will matter that is not about the gospel, immersed in the gospel, advancing the gospel.
The only things that are truly “big” in this world are blood-red with the gospel.
Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Galatians 6:14).
I did see one “big” thing on this hike that got my attention. I don’t think I’ve ever been on a hike where I actually could see the road that I would take to get back home.
I’m about to take that road now. And who knows where it will lead? There will be opportunities that look big to me that may be no big deal to God. And there will be small things, just wildflowers along the trail, that may actually be the most important things in my life.
I hope that because of this day with the Lord in the mountains, I’m a little better prepared to know the difference. And I hope these words may help you to be as well.
Thank You, Lord, for big lessons in small things.