I looked down over an expanse and saw a whole different world. Perched on its edge, I knew that it would only be a matter of time before I would explore its grand expanse and profound depths. For now, the vista in front of me was so massive and colorful that my mind couldn’t take it all in, but I could admire the thousand shades of color, from rich red, to golden orange, pale brown, and deep purple. I entertained thoughts concerning the world below me, all the different nooks and crannies, all the different river ways, and the solitary towers of rock leaving islands in the sky. I could conjure up stories of adventure in the depths and speculate the history of people living in and passing through the narrows. Canyons are rich for the imagination and profound for inspiration.
At just around sunset I started this hike along the canyon rim at Canyonlands National Park. It had been a full day of hiking many trails and covering many miles. I felt accomplished, but I was getting tired and I wanted time to wind down, so just a leisurely stroll along the canyon rim at sunset seemed perfect.
When I go hiking I always end up taking away more than I can imagine, nothing physical, but rather inspiration, reassurance, and healing. Nature has a way of bringing about these things, and I’ve lived enough life to know that nature itself is not some mystical magical entity, but rather I believe nature is a creation designed purposefully to appeal to man and take him to depths of self actualization and to intimacy with God. Often times when I go hiking alone, I find it to be the perfect time to pause, reflect, and just be in the presence of God. Out in the solace of His natural beauty, its sometimes easier to hear God speak. I have seen this evident in my own life in many instances, God uses natural beauty to speak to me. The rocks, the trees, the towering mountains, and canyon depths are designed to have meaning. They are symbols.
As I was was hiking along that rim, I was reflecting on my life, trying to pinpoint where exactly in my life I was feeling a corrosive emptiness and deficit, despite my fleeting feelings of accomplishment. I was pouring out to God this discontentment, and feeling of inadequacy. This was something that had plagued me for a while. I felt I was just not doing something right, that I wasn’t living up to my potential, and that my character was lacking something.
While I was feeling these heavy emotions, the sun was hidden behind a cloud and therefore the countless canyons of Canyonlands were dark, mysterious, and seemingly bottomless. Lines separating the sections of the canyon were blurred from lack of sunlight. In this moment, suddenly it hit me, the realization that my own life has a number of canyons- deep and dark places where light just doesn’t shine, where the lines are blurred. I wasn’t sure exactly what those canyons were and what was the cause of them, but I knew there were dark places in my life where lines that separate truth from lies had been blurred, places that were corrosive that continued to grow deeper and darker. I asked God to show me the canyons in my life.
Canyons are very interesting things in relation to life. They are cavities in the earth’s surface caused by erosion over time. They are huge but can begin forming by something so simple as just a crack. Water eats away and erodes the trivial into something massive. However other times the impetus for formation is the land itself shifting as plates collide and move. And so the dark places in our lives can form very much like canyons. They may start as something trivial on the surface, a seemingly harmless sin, which over time can erode a person’s life. Sometimes those cracks we aren’t even responsible for, but they are caused by the abuse of others which start to erode our very being. Other times these canyons are formed by major life events, with loss or dramatic changes, when we feel the earth is pulled right out from under us.
As I was reflecting on canyons and their relevance to life, inspired by all the metaphors I could apply to life, suddenly the sun broke through an opening in the clouds. Beams of warm yellow light shot down and reached a number of canyons. The beams of light were situated at just the right angle that they illuminated the deepest canyons. And just like that a number of dark and dreary canyons became strikingly beautiful and awesome, no longer dreary and dark but rich in color and light.
At this moment God spoke to me, not in any audible voice but rather more directly, right to my soul. He told me that he can take the canyons in my life and turn them into something beautiful. Tears began to roll down my face in response to the beautiful parallels God was making and hearing His voice, which had seemed absent in my life for quite some time.
My first response was thankfulness, thankful that God met me here, literally out wandering in the desert. Secondly, I began searching my life for canyons. That evening I wasn’t sure of the canyons in my life, but I was ready to face them. I was inspired to seek change in my life and let God illuminate those dark places in my life.
This was a couple months ago when this happened. I have been able to identify some canyons in my life. I know one of my most profound canyons is selfishness, which is a complex and sprawling canyon. I am still on a quest to find the rest of my canyons, confront them, and let God’s light transform them into something beautiful. I love how God is transformative and resourceful. He doesn’t let bad experiences and choices in life exist without redemption. God uses the dark places in our lives and illuminates them to bring him glory and fulfill his purpose.
If you are reading this I encourage you to take a hike out in nature and talk to God and ask him to show you your own canyons. I am uncertain of all my canyons, but I know God will lead me to them, and he can lead you to yours too.
I encourage you to try this whether you have faith in God or not. Just go out in nature and reflect on the places in life you need to work on to be a better you- the “canyons”. I pray that on your quest to find your canyons that you encounter God, because I’m telling you, there’s nothing more powerful.