Saturday, November 13, 2010

The River Running Through Us

As I stare at the computer screen, I am mesmerized by the view, totally lost in the vast terrain. Before me spreads the incredible - surreal, really - Canyonlands of southeastern Utah. Upstream and one state removed from the better-known Grand Canyon, they are nevertheless equally impressive.

That we can instantly view these images with the click of a mouse is no less amazing to me. Captured by a small digital camera, the pictures were instantly available to view, delete, edit, and/or print. Labeled and viewed as a slide show, they can now be revisited any time we wish. We’ve viewed them often since that trip, studying the images carefully, turning them over and over in our minds in some feeble attempt to grasp their true size and significance. It is a daunting task for human brains.

Shimmering on the far-off edge of the horizon, dusky blue mountains fade into insignificance compared to the massive landscape before them. Here, through countless eons and numerous inundations of both fresh and salt water, layer upon thick layer of sand and gravel deposits were laid down. The most recent, topmost, layer is mostly flat, arid, and devoid of any large vegetation. The land here has been twisted, bent, stretched, and intruded upon volcanically. Most significantly, running water and wind have been ever-present - scouring and eroding through the layers of rock. The Colorado and Green rivers snake their way through this wild land, carving magnificent, deep canyons, leaving huge plateaus and colorful mesas above. Eventually merging southwest of here, they rush on to sculpt the mighty Grand Canyon.

The beauty of this raw land is awesome, but so are the dangers. One should not venture out into it alone or unprepared. In the rain shadow of the mountains to the west, it is barren and dry. Thunderstorms bring dangerous lightening and flash floods. Strong, sudden windstorms whip up thick clouds of dust. Without shelter or shade, the sun burns and dehydrates. With clear skies and high altitude, the air thins and freezes. Poisonous creatures lurk about. Viewed from above, the Canyonlands are an intricate maze. Without a good map, compass, and knowledge of the land, one could easily get hopelessly lost.

The two rivers meander slowly through this area, twisting and turning in giant, lazy loops. Their flat, silty bottom lands are lush with vegetation; wildlife abounds here. Overhangs and steep canyon walls offer shelter and shade, some measure of protection. There is life-giving water.

Our lives might be compared to these Canyonlands: multi layered, twisted, turned, stretched, intruded upon. We may struggle with grief, loneliness, betrayal, addiction, mental and physical illnesses, violence, poverty or disasters. We may feel that we’re been carved up, hollowed out, worn down, and carried away. But beneath the rugged landscape of our lives, flowing silently and steady as a river, the mighty Sculptor is at work - offering sustenance, shelter, protection. Creating beauty.

There is a river whose streams
make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the most High Dwells.
Psalm 46:4

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life,
as clear as crystal,
flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb
down the middle of the great street of the city.

1 comment:

  1. such a gorgeous place...beautiful pictures... unbelievable...i want to BE THERE...right now!! :]