This was the trip I’ve been requesting for years. Every time we would come home from the latest trip to Europe I would say, “Yeah but we still haven’t seen the Grand Canyon.” It kept showing up on my Bucket List in BIG RED LETTERS.
We hit the ground running with an early breakfast and various minor explorations until the hike I wanted to go on. It was a one-hour hike led by a park ranger who would explain the geology of the Grand Canyon. It was going to be the highlight of our visit. But by 10 a.m. it was still cold and incredibly windy and Beaven’s back was killing him. There was absolutely no reason for his back to hurt. We hadn’t done any hiking or even walking to speak of. We hadn’t done anything, in fact, but sit in a car for two solid days. But he felt bad enough that we agreed he could hang back and I would go on ahead without him.
The hike was doomed from the start. I ended up at the Yavapai Lodge instead of the Yavapai Geology Museum. And they were almost on opposite sides of the park. You would think if you were gonna name two things with one unusual name like Yavapai that you should expect people to get them confused. Frustrated, I had no choice but race to the other building. This involved taking the park shuttle to the Visitors Center then transferring to another shuttle bus to get me to the Yavapai Geological Museum (as opposed to the Yavapai Lodge.) Sheesh.
I got there about 10 minutes late. There was no park ranger and no group of eager hikers. I figured they couldn’t be too far ahead of me so I started down the trail going faster than the average group hike. I was confident I could catch up with them while they stopped to explore flora and fauna, especially because the park rangers wear those funny looking hats. I should be able to spot the ranger from a mile away. I looked ahead when the trail curved but couldn’t spot them. They were nowhere to be found. I was not going to get my guided hike.
I was close to tears.
I was so sad to miss this hike. I was also pissed. Furious. Angry at Beaven for general purposes because that’s what husbands are for. Angry at myself for getting confused and being late. Angry at the whole situation. All those years of looking forward to having a park ranger explain the geology of the Grand Canyon to me. My one day. My one shot. No ranger. No hike.
After standing there in the middle of the trail for a while it occurred to me that I could still take the hike by myself and just look at the Canyon. I might not understand what I was looking at but I could still appreciate the view and enjoy the peace and quiet. Instead of learning about geology I could just spend some time with God. So I started walking. The wind continued to blow. I had to hold my hat down so it didn’t blow away. It wasn’t necessarily cold because I had bought a great hooded jacket on sale the day before. But anything the jacket didn’t cover was a little cold. Alone on the trail and with no one else to talk to, I opened myself to God.
"OK, God. It’s just you and me. I will walk this trail for an hour and you better show up and say what you want to say to me. And you better show up fast. It’s cold and windy out here and I don’t want to spend a lot of time waiting for you. And you better talk loud because I’m pretty pissed right now and I want to make sure it’s you talking to me. So you’d better show up fast and talk loud. Yeah. And you’d better have something good to say."
And almost immediately, God started talking.
Let me pause for a minute here and reassure you that God has spoken to me before. I am as certain of it as I am of my hearing. Except God didn’t speak in an audible way. It was more of a very clear understanding put into words I could hear without my ears. Even though I couldn’t “hear” it I could still detect voice inflections. I don’t know if you can understand this explanation but I don’t apologize for it because it really happened.
And now it was happening again. On a hiking trail at the rim of the Grand Canyon. I had found a Thin Place. And God spoke:
Do you have any idea what I had to do to get you out here alone? First, I had to get Beaven to stay behind. Then I had to get rid of that hiking group. Do you know how hard it is to hide a National Park Ranger and 12 hikers?So I stopped and looked out at the Grand Canyon. The enormity of the empty space is almost more than you can take in. It’s a mile deep, ten miles across and over 200 miles in length. It's a sight that can only be experienced in person. Photos don’t do it justice. Some people call this the Power of Place. You just had to be there with your feet on the ground at the edge, seeing it with your own eyes.
Take a look at the canyon. This is what I brought you here for.
And nobody really knows how it was created. The wind blew furiously around me at the rim. I had to hold my hat onto my head. And God spoke.
How can you not trust me to take care of you after seeing this? If I can create this, how can you doubt that I am powerful enough to protect you and keep you safe?I confess that lately I’ve feared the diminishing future. I’m getting older. I have a growing sense that my time is running out. But there are so many things left that I want to do. I don’t want to leave this world. And I don’t want to slow down. It’s hard to house an energetic mind in an old body. There are many moments of panic in the night when I feel like I’m falling off the edge of time with unfinished business. God may have forever but I don’t.
I am going to have to learn to lay that worry down and walk away. It will be hard. I decided I needed to think that one over. And I needed to burn the picture of the canyon into my brain. I went back to my hike.
The wind continued to whip fiercely . My ears were getting cold. And God spoke again:
A lot of what you need you can provide yourself. You just bought that thick hoodie that you’re wearing. And I happen to know you were pretty proud of your purchase. It’s a nice thick jacket and you got it on sale and you’ve been chuckling to yourself over it ever since. You already have everything you need to keep your ears warm and your hat from blowing off. Put the hood over your head and tie the string.
Now, with the hood over my hat and my ears defrosting inside, I was much more comfortable continuing the walk. I had a lot to think about
I walked on for a while waiting to see what else God wanted to say to me. Every once in a while I reminded God that I have a short attention span. If He wanted to get his point made He was going to have to talk fast.
I started noticing other things besides the canyon. There were gnarled old pine trees, some dead and some thriving in spite of no rain. I sat on a rock and just looked out at the canyon. After a few minutes a young man walked up and politely asked if he could take a picture from where I sat. We did the Tourist Photo Trick where I volunteered to take his picture and he volunteered to take mine.
I did take the hood and ball cap off for the photo.
One thing I love about travel to a place like the Grand Canyon is that you will encounter people from all over the world. A sure conversation starter is asking where someone is from. This guy was a PhD candidate from China. I don’t have many conversation starters for a Computer Science PhD candidate but we still connected as two human beings and enjoyed a short conversation.
In the midst of the greatest geological spectacle on earth, it turned out I was having more fun talking to my fellow travelers than enjoying the Canyon. The colors of the rocks just weren’t doing anything for me—they are very beige-- but my fellow humans were fascinating. I know God went to a lot of trouble carving the canyon but God created people, too. And I was enjoying them. And, if nothing else, they can take pictures of me when I can't.
My Chinese friend and I separated .
And sometimes you will need other people to do things for you that you can’t do for yourself. And that’s OK.I knew Beaven would be expecting me at our meeting place soon but I still had a little time. I forced myself to stay and wait. And wait. I knew better than to rush a Creator who is willing to take 6 million years to carve a canyon like this one. I waited. Finally the word came, gently, patiently, quietly:
We can do this back home, you know. I'm everywhere. Always.And the wind stopped blowing. Everything got quiet and still. I got the impression God went off to talk to someone else. My appointment was over. I turned around and headed back to the trail head.
Around the very next curve was the park ranger with the group of hikers I missed hooking up with. I stepped closer to listen in on what she had to say to them. She was talking about finding an extremely rare pink rattlesnake.
And I knew I had gotten a much better deal. The Creator who took 6 million years to make the Grand Canyon was willing to spend time with me; was willing to go to a little trouble to get me alone, to answer questions I didn't even know I had. The guided hike had never been that far from me. How else could I have missed it? Why else would Beaven have conveniently bailed on going with me?
The trail ended at the Geology Museum. I thought about going in to look around. But I had lost the urge to understand the geology of the Grand Canyon. I had just had an encounter with its Creator. It didn’t matter how it was created; all I needed to know was that the grandest geological formation in the world was formed by the same Creator who knit my own bones together. And that same Creator accompanies me as those bones and sinew wear away like the water wore away the rocks of the canyon. A Powerful Creator who loves me. Who is waiting back home for me. Everywhere I go. Always.