The weather wasn’t looking good but with Nick and Anna staying for the weekend we decided to venture out anyway. We headed for the Elan Valley, a forty-mile drive from home. The roads narrowed and the weather deteriorated as we got closer to our planned destination, the Elan Valley Visitor Centre. The Visitor Centre has toilets so a stop was essential.
There were many other cars parked at the Visitor Centre, where for most people this seemed to be the end of the journey. We stopped briefly, but then pressed on, driving around the reservoirs, pulling over for cars approaching us, and searching for the ideal spot to eat our picnic lunch. Suddenly I spotted a sign to the right and pulled off the tarmac road onto a track. The sign suggested picnic tables, so I drove up the track climbing sharply into the forest. The track became so narrow that it would have been impossible to pass an approaching vehicle safely. There was a sheer drop to one side. At one point Nick had to get out and remove branches from the track so we could continue. At the end of the track we found our own private picnic area looking down through the trees to the reservoir below. No one else was there.
Although it was both beautiful and peaceful we didn’t stay at the picnic spot. It wasn’t the end of our journey. We drove on around the reservoirs crossing old stone bridges, stopping occasionally to explore. Eventually we reached the junction with the mountain road to Aberystwyth. There was a slight delay here while we retrieved our football from the river. In the process Nick lost a shoe in a bog and needed a change of clothes from the waist down.
Despite the mishaps we enjoyed our day. If we had parked up and remained at the Visitor Centre we would have missed so much. Okay, there was stuff to do there, stuff to eat there, stuff to buy there. But the Centre only gives a hint of what there is to experience in and around the Elan Valley. Our photographs cannot begin to describe some of the stunningly beautiful scenery we viewed. The roads are narrow and difficult to negotiate in places. They have to be driven slowly, and there may be delays and distractions. But the rewards are indescribable if we press on. Jesus spoke about our Elan Valley experience when He talked about life’s journey:
“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it. (Matthew 7: 13-14)
Paul recognised the need to keep moving despite obstacles, delays and distractions:
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. (Philippians 3: 12-14)
Surrendering to God is just the first step in our journey. Many are tempted to park up at the beginning thinking they have arrived and the journey is over. In fact it has just begun. No one else found our picnic spot because no other drivers were prepared to take the risk of venturing along the narrow stony trail. But even then our journey was not over. And it still isn’t. The Elan Valley has more to offer. We have only explored a small part of it. And so it is in our relationship with the Creator of the Elan Valley who is consumed with love for us. He passionately desires that we continue to journey, that we continue to explore, and that in doing so experience all that He has to offer us.