There’s a place I used to go when I was younger, when I was in much better shape, and when my family still lived down by the river (but not in a van). It was a bluff overlooking the Tennessee River Gorge, right above where we lived.
Just the other day, as I walked out of the cardiologist’s office, I saw in the waiting room a photo on canvas, a photo of the very place I used to hike to as a kid. Emotions took my breath away.
I moved a chair out of my way and used my phone to take a picture – this picture – of the picture.
There it was, the view like no other in Tennessee, like few in the world. It was the view of my home from on top of that rocky outcrop that I’d gladly hike for a few hours to reach.
Oh, how I’d love to go there again, except this time with my wife and girls! I would love for them to share in the awe and grandeur of God’s perfect river view.
If you were to sit on the edge of the rock, to your left you would see the Tennessee River flow down from the direction of Chattanooga. Below your feet would be a hundred-foot drop to the tops of maple and oak trees. To your right would be (as you see here) the river on which we’d fish, ride in a boat, and watch the rains from every storm approach us like a white wall.
This was Cherokee country. This was moonshine country. This was the place where my great grandfather immigrated to after hobo-ing a train out of Rainbow City, Alabama. This is where my grandfather married a half-Cherokee woman and built a house out of rough-cut pine that he and his father cut at the saw mill. This is where my dad and my uncle would sneak across the river at night to take food to my grandpa Baker who was hiding out from the revenuers.
This was where my dad got his first and last whiskey still at the age of 14, but gave it up after the plum whiskey nearly killed him.
This is where we would later live after my dad met my mom, gave his heart to Jesus, and displayed what it really looked like to be changed by the Gospel.
This is where I learned to shoot, hunt, fish, and be proud of my “hillbilly” roots. It’s also where my cousin and I snuck what we thought were .22 cal. blanks out of my uncle’s gun cabinet and then proceed to shoot at each other across a field at night. Actually, I had the blanks, but Danny had the bullets.
I can say with all certainty, he missed.
This is where I would accept the call to preach at age 16.
This is the place I used to call home, but no longer. Even if I wanted to move back there, the millionaires have bought up much of what used to be my stomping grounds, at least what’s not now part of the Tennessee River Trust. I’d never be able to afford a place to build a campfire, much less a house, even if the old family property was available.
But that’s OK.
Sure, there’s a sentimental ache in my heart to stand on that bluff again, to look down on my old home. But the older I get, the more I have a longing to see someplace else, someplace where I’ll be welcome forever… A place I’ve been reading about in an old Book.
From what I’ve been told, well… the view there is spectacular! Even infinite!
And there’ll be no cardiologist waiting rooms, either.