life is not a waterpark
Blessed are those whose strength is in You, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Weeping, they make it a place of springs . . . They go from strength to strength ‘til each appears before God in Zion. Psalm 84:5,7
This summer, visiting Maui, we took a hike to the Nakalele Blowhole.
It promised to be a beautiful hike along the scenic rugged coastline. Steep cliffs, blue water, awesome sprays of white foam shooting up high into the air, splashing down like summer rain on the onlookers below. To the left of the trail is the blowhole, and if you look to the right, you will see a rock wall jutting up with an almost perfect heart-shaped hole in the center.
We drove out past Honolua Bay to the 38th mile marker and parked in a gravel lot along the road. From there we walked a dirt path through a wind-whipped meadow of dried grasses. We climbed over small boulders in between the pretty a’ah a’ah lava that hundreds of years ago left beautiful and delicate holes that reminds me of giant honeycomb.
Before long the path steepened, the grass disappeared, and we reached an outcrop of rocks. Standing there, you can see the vague outline of a path that leads down the steep hillside. Treading carefully, we made our way over loose rocks and red gravelly sand, minding every step. Our eight-year old granddaughter Allie, who is quite the confident athlete, stumbled and skinned her knee. As the blood began to trickle down her shin, through her sobs she cried, “Dad, it really stings! I want to turn around now.”
It’s wise to mind the uneven ground when you’re tempted to look at the view and not the trail. It is also wise to mind the small hand painted sign.
“Stay clear of the blowhole. You can be sucked in and killed. This is not a waterpark.”
Subtle, right? But a very important warning. On a windy day with high surf, the blowhole explodes and waves sweep over the surrounding lava with tremendous power.
Stand back, people.
A few years ago, one visitor fell into the Nakalele blowhole after being knocked over by a wave. The body of the 44-year old California man was never recovered. Seriously.
What makes the hike to the blowhole worth it, is watching the force of ocean waves as the tide slams and rushes into submerged ocean caves, violently shooting water up to 50 feet into the air. It is nature showing off, for sure. Even standing a safe distance away, you can feel the ground tremble under your feet.
Life can be so like this hike—moments of beauty, grassy meadows, windswept hillsides and stunning views. But life can also be the scary, slippery, rocky, trail.
It’s not a waterpark, my friends.
When the path gets scary and steep, how do we resist the urge to stay safe and turn back? Will we set our heart on pilgrimage, knowing there will be skinned knees and tears along the way?
We read in Psalm 84:5, “Blessed are those whose strength is in You, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.” It was the song of weary travelers going up to Jerusalem, to the temple, to the place where God dwelt.
They sang, “How lovely is Your dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts!” During Old Testament times the people of God were required to go to the temple in Jerusalem, but it was their desire and delight.
The way of pilgrimage was not an external duty. This dwelling place is so lovely, so full of every delight, that the psalmist said his heart longed, even fainted to be there. Here was where God’s people were invited to come and meet with God Himself!
Think of this. The door of God’s house is open to us—all the time. So, when the way gets difficult and we are weak and tired, this is the key. Abiding in His presence which dwells with us. Sustained by His Word and His promises.
He gives us strength we need.
There is sufficient power (now that’s an understatement!) for the journey. His presence IS the joy along journey—and blissful reward when we reach our final destination. Both . . . at the same time!
Do you find yourself getting tired? Lord, how much longer…are we there yet? Only He has that answer. But my determined purpose is to experience as much of Him as I can along the way. Wherever I am, whatever place He has called me to be.
Back to the end of the story about our hike.
As promised, after the steep climb and sharp, rocky descent, we reached our destination. We stood there in awe, at the edge of such power and beauty, waiting for the next explosion of water to pierce the sky.
All the hard moments, with some of us bruised and skinned and wondering if the hike would ever end, well . . . that was the last thing on our minds. To our delight, a massive ocean wave came crashing over the rocks and shot high into the sky like a broken fire hydrant! We couldn’t help but ooh and aah—it was awesome!