The last autumn that our family spent in North Carolina before our move to Pennsylvania in 2014, my wife and I headed up to the North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains for a few days at our favorite bed and breakfast - the Andon Reid Inn in Waynesville. It was our tradition to go there each May for our anniversary and spend time shopping in the beautiful historic downtown of Waynesville (Rhonda’s favorite thing) and hiking some of the great trails of the NC mountains (my favorite thing). We had always wanted to spend a weekend there in the fall and enjoy some of the autumn color so made reservations at the inn and we lined up my mom to watch our boys.
As we headed into the mountains on a Friday afternoon we could see that, while the weather was beautiful, there wasn’t much color on the trees. Our hopes were further dashed as we drove through Asheville on the way to Waynesville and failed to see much color on the trees. Pulling into the parking lot of the bed and breakfast, we consoled ourselves by asserting that while the trees were mostly green and lacking autumn color, the weather was perfect - sunny and crisp. After spending Saturday shopping at the arts and craft fair in downtown Waynesville, we headed out onto the Blue Ridge Parkway with a picnic lunch to enjoy a hike and see some fall foliage at Graveyard Fields. As we ascended into the higher elevations we began to see some signs of autumn. Here and there we spied some bright yellow, orange or red leaves on the trees of the mountains. We had to drive slow and get out of the car at various overlooks to see them but they were there.
This brought to mind some words of Jesus as he described the coming Kingdom of God, ““What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.’” (Luke 13:18-19) In this parable Jesus says that that the kingdom of God begins small and grows from there. The little outposts of fall color that we saw along the way to our hike reminded me of the small, seemingly insignificant signs of the Kingdom in our midst. Like the fall visitors to mountains who want to see the mountains aglow with autumn color we want the Kingdom of God to come in all its glory. We want God to transform his creation into what God wants rather than a manifestation of our imperfect human desires and wishes. Unfortunately that is not what we have. For now we have to be content with the isolated pockets of Kingdom joy that erupt here and there: a prayer answered, an act of kindness performed, mercy given and received. What helps us await the coming of the Kingdom is hope. We have confidence that God will deliver on his promises. We place our hope in God’s faithfulness and we know that God will not let us down.
Rhonda and I hoped for more autumn color as we drove toward the location of our hike and we were not disappointed. As we rounded a bend in the parkway and saw our destination, that hope was rewarded. When our gaze fell upon the high, flat valley of Graveyard Fields we could see that it was ablaze in a vibrant display of fall color. Deep burgundies and reds were interspersed among bright yellows and oranges from one end of the valley to the other. Here in this high mountain valley we found autumn taking hold. We spent the afternoon hiking along the stream and waterfalls that the valley contains, marveling at the wonderful color around us. If we had given up in disappointment earlier in our drive we would have missed it.
Let us not give up in disappointment as we await the coming of God’s Kingdom. Its beginnings may be small but it is coming in all its glory. In the meanwhile let us trust God and reinforce our hope with the signs of Kingdom already among us. They may be small, but they are growing.