We just had the best week in Gatlinburg, TN. I’ve never been there before so I didn’t know what to expect. I kind of figured it would be a lazy mountain town, I was pretty shocked to find it’s anything but. We gave it our best shot but I don’t think we scratched the surface of all the activities. There are shops, shops and more shops. There is food and shows to go along with your food, and in the back drop watching over it all are the beautiful Smoky Mountains. We live near the Blue Ridge Mountains now and I thought they were big, but I’ve decided “our” mountains look like large hills compared to the massive Smokies.
They are take your breath away scary and exhilarating all at once.
I’ve never considered myself one to be afraid of heights, not really anyway. I mean, I don’t want to hang off the balcony of a ten story building, but I don’t mind looking out the window. Well, if you’re going to a mountain town, you better put on your seatbelt because everything is high.
It started with the drive from our house to Gatlinburg. I was totally unprepared for how intimidating it would be to drive over the mountains. Did I mention they are BIG? Ignorance is bliss they say. Sometimes I think ignorance makes it even scarier. I guess I like to know what I’m facing if possible. Then I can worry over it in advance and get my act together while I anticipate what I’m about to face.
Maybe not entirely healthy, but it makes sense to me.
But, in real life, difficulties don’t come with an email warning us what’s ahead.
My husband drove us to Gatlinburg and I sat unsuspecting in the passenger seat. I had music playing and I was flying high anticipating a great week with family. When we started driving upward for what seemed like forever, I began to get suspicious. Why is there no downhill? Pretty soon the road started to wind and there were signs warning of chicanes ahead that looked like the letter “S.” I started to feel my heartbeat elevate. It was then I began to notice all the semi-trucks around us. They were driving like we were on a straight, flat road all the while their trailers were swinging in the wind. What in the world would these guys consider hazardous enough to slow down?
It was very cold so there were signs posted reminding us there might be ice on the road, oh, and falling rocks. What the heck??
This was all too much for this girl from the Deep South to bear. And that reminds me, there were bear crossing signs. Are you kidding me? This is the reason I nearly ran to the woman’s bathroom when we stopped at a rest area. Speed walking to stay ahead of the bears while keeping a constant eye out for falling rocks. Of course by the time we stopped at the rest area I nearly needed oxygen because the semi-trucks. But, short of breath or not I was still able to speed walk.
Why did no one warn me the Smoky Mountains were big enough to hide the sun?
After our bathroom stop, we began to see signs that the road was narrowing down to one lane. So, our windy, curvy road was going to cram us all into one lane with the crazy semi drivers. Great. As you can imagine, I wasn’t singing praise and worship anymore, I was “helping” my husband drive since I was sure I could see things he couldn’t.
There was a river on one side and a million feet of rock straight up on the other.
Then there was us.
And the semis.
And falling rocks and bears.
Why was I going to Gatlinburg again?
What seemed like hours later we finally made it to the other side of the mountain or maybe we stopped halfway down, whichever, I was never more thankful to see civilization and roads that didn’t feel like they were going straight up or plummeting down.
When did I become so afraid of travel? I used to love new experiences. I would’ve loved driving between the river and the rock and would’ve looked for bears, cautiously, for selfies. But, on this day, I was terrified and something equally terrifying was exposed in my heart.
When we were smack dab in the middle of that drive I felt so trapped; it didn’t matter which way I went, it felt scary. Every mile we drove I felt unsure of what might be ahead. What if a semi tried to change lanes on top of us? What if a large boulder crashed down in front of us? What if a bear was hiding behind the bathroom? It all kind of sounds outlandish, until you’re living it.
When did new things become so scary?
When did I quit enjoying the ride?
To me, the road of life is like that mountain road with falling rocks and bears and dangerous drivers and it makes me want to curl up in a ball in the floorboard. It’s so hard for me to be completely comfortable from day to day because “what if?” What if one of my kids gets hurt or worse? What if my dad suddenly dies? What if my husband gets in a plane crash? What if I get a terrible diagnosis? These are all so much more real the older I get. I’ve received scary phone calls with bad news, I’ve watched death up close, and I’ve had to have some medical procedures that made me afraid.
But, because of those hard things that have happened and because the Lord is doing “open heart surgery” on me, I knew I had to look that fear in the face and ask God what the source is.
Why am I so afraid?
Instead of giving me the answer, He (the Lord) made me spend a week in a place that feels like it hangs off the side of a mountain. More windy roads, then Gatlinburg had flash flooding, what seemed like endless rain, dangerous fog and finally snow. During this crazy week, we went to shows, museums and ate way too much. One day, when the weather was only slightly perilous, we rode a ski lift up the steep side of the mountain and then walked across a suspended bridge that had a glass bottom. It just seemed like anything we wanted to do involved facing a fear, and I DID IT. I faced them one at a time and then, as fate would have it, my husband was called into work and I had to make the drive back across the Smoky Mountains by myself.
Interesting fact, after facing so many hard things in one week, the mountains didn’t feel quite so terrifying. One particularly windy road offered a place to pull over and enjoy the view. On the way there I didn’t want to see the view I just wanted to be done. But after prayer, and reflection and continuing to face smaller scary things all week, I was ready to pull over and see what all the fuss was about. Wow! The view from up there will take your breath away.
In full transparency, I did stay kind of close to the car just in case, you know, a bear.
And I didn’t stop for the bathroom until there were no more bear crossing signs.
A girl can only take so much.
I believe the Lord uses ALL the things in our lives to teach us and grow us up in Him. Nothing is wasted. Even road trips over scary mountains.
And thanks to that, I’m on the road to brave again.