Driving around switchbacks, riverbeds, and farmer’s markets, the Smoky Mountain Range appeared premature compared to its name. With hues of bright orange and gold among the forest line, the mountains looked alight with an autumn fire in the changing leaves, while snowy peaks could be seen behind the nearest golden hilltops. Last weekend’s excursion to a vacation home in the Smokies was one of the most continuously breathtaking experiences I’ve had. All of us, from Georgia, South Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, and Tennessee, among others, were rapt the entire weekend, eyes glued to the trees’ changes going on before us.
In Oregon, we get gorgeous scenery year-round. We’re used to that. This Tennessean beauty is altogether something different: I’ve discovered the glory of change. Yes, the weather changes in Oregon, and our summers are unmatched (I’m willing to fight about that). But we miss out on the overwhelming sense of wonder that comes with significant change. Feeling weather change is one thing (cold, sleepy, warm, energetic), but seeing a system of thousands of trees, each one a different hue than the one surrounding it, all changing each day at its own pace, to the beat of the world’s drum. These visuals were stunning.
This weekend reminded me how change needs to pervade every realm for it to make significance. We’re constantly changing – time and our bodies make sure of that – if only at a gradual pace, as we perceive time. But are we progressing? Is the way I forgive someone more profound today than it was a year ago? Are the people in my life benefited because of the obstacles I’ve surmounted in the last year and the perspective I’ve passed on? If no one is changed because of me, what evidence do I have of change, besides those I trick myself into seeing?
I went to the Smokies with a handful of friends from the house church we’re all part of. It was a refreshing reminder how people are really all that matter. I can get caught up in trying to make money (which I do), or find my schedule filled with self-benefitting events and activities (which I also find is true), but if I’m not cherishing people and enriching others, what’s the point? Sure, the goal may be to get ahead and be successful (which I am eons away from), but what is success if not shared with others?
I’m reminded this week to make sure my efforts are always toward change, and how that change impacts others. My former bosses and dearest friends would often say, something producing good results should be either new, improved, or improving. Forward motion. Change on all accounts, not solely due to time. If my life changes only itself, what is it worth?