Every time I come here, I’m breathless and speechless and awed by the hand of God. Yes, it’s layers of rock uplifted and cut through by a river over ages of time, but this place is so much more than an open geology textbook;it’s a deeply spiritual truth, too.
Facts and figures: located in northwestern Arizona on the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon is about 277 miles long with a width of 18 miles and a depth of 5,000 feet. The size of the canyon cuts all the way through the Colorado Plateau with an elevation at about 5,000 and 9,000 feet above the sea level.
I remember coming here as a child and being awed, amazed, totally enchanted with the beauty of the place. I remember hiking the Bright Angel Trail down to Plateau Point on my honeymoon,and the long, grueling walk back up to the rim. I remember bringing my own sons here, and their delight and wonder in this place. I remember bringing a group of Chinese engineers here, they took one look along the rim, turned around and had their group photo taken, and then asked, “Now what?”
Not everyone sees deeper into the Canyon, I guess, and to some people it’s probably nothing more than a large hole in the ground. I now know the same is true when you bring up the subject of our Creator God, creating all we call the Universe out of nothing but his heart and desire and power. OK, I can believe in the Big Bang, but where did that improbably dense naked singularity come from, and what was here before that?
I stand at the rim of the Grand Canyon and see ancient seas, mountain ranges raised and leveled,volcanoes erupting, plants and animals growing, dying and decaying under layers of soil and sand, more seas advancing and retreating, winds and rains eroding hard and softer rocks, and a river relentlessly carrying away sediments and cutting through slowly yielding rock. I stand there, see all of that unseen history, and realize that all I know of an equally awesome God is probably the first half-inch of soil of the nature, character,love, purposes,and power of Olam El, Everlasting God.
And yet … I have walked part of that trail, and I have seen “layers” of God’s character, mercy, guidance, intervention, healing, soft voice, and love in my life. That’s whatthis blog has been about for the last nine years, me basically writing a “geologic trail guide” to some of what I’ve seen and experienced, wondered and been floored by in the Triune God – Almighty Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit – alive and acting in my life. I invite you, and those of you who’ve only recently come to this blog, to search back through the years of archived “God stories” here. These stories came out of two unimagined and unwanted tragedies in my life, and yet here I am, still upright, still breathing, still closing my “mouth” to the baited hook of offense that dangles alluringly before me all too often, still opening my hand and life to the goodness of a loving, caring, passionate, forbearing, forgiving, second-chancing, grace-filled and merciful, powerful God.
I need to come to the Grand Canyon’s vastness from time to time to give myself a reality check, even as I need to come daily to my Lord’s ever-open arms. Two stories come to mind here, the first when I was 15 and my Grandma Miner and Aunt Jane flew out to visit us from Indiana. I was in the front seat of our blue station wagon, my grandmother sitting by the passenger-side door in the backseat. We parked at an overlook, I got out and shut the car door just as my Grandma’s hand wrapped around the door post to pull herself up. I was horrified! What did my Grandma say? Very calmly, she quietly said,”Rosie, you shut my hand in the door.” Matter-of-fact in what must have been wrenching pain, my Grandma did not shout at me or berate me. I hurt for her, and felt terrible that I hadn’t looked back before I closed the door. What did I learn? Mercy, forgiveness, and love freely given even at personal cost.
Flash forward to October 1988, me now a mother of two sons, and many Grand Canyon visits under my belt. My older son,then 13, and my husband planned to hike down the Kaibab Trail, reach the Colorado River, and hike up on the Bright Angel Trail. Since our younger son was only 2, he and drove his dad and brother to the trailhead, then stayed on top and took in a ranger program and picked up pinecones while Eric and his dad shouldered their backpacks and set off for their father-son adventure. The weather had been rainy a few days before, so the trails – generally three feet wide, perhaps a 30-degree slope, packed red dirt – were still muddy and slippery in places.
That afternoon when Eric and his dad conquered the last of the 3 1/2 miles of switchbacks at the top of the Bright Angel, Ethan and I met a white-faced Eric. The first words out of his mouth were, “Mom, Dad fell!” One look at the red-smeared legs of my husband’s jeans confirmed he’d slipped, and yet amazingly he hadn’t hurt himself.Praise God enough in that, but what I heard next revealed that I was looking at a miracle of God’s hand and grace-filled power.
“His pack shifted, he slipped on the second layer of trail before the Redwall Limestone wall and landed on the first section and stuck there!”
Falling roughly ten feet down onto a muddy trail and not rolling or slipping over the edge into 500 feet of empty , unforgiving space? No way was that coincidental or accidental or lucky; that was an angel or the hand of God, El Shaddai, stopping my husband’s slide and saving his life. My knees buckled and I wept in shock and gratitude and recognition of God’s Love, then threw my arms around my husband.
You can see the layers in the diagram, aeons of time, dirt compressed into rock inch by inch over hundreds of millions of years. Yes, we can carbon date and make our best scientific guesses at what happened when in forming the Grand Canyon, including what might have happened in the “great unconformity,” 1.2 billion years of missing rock. BUT who can “carbon date” God Almighty? The Bible gives us a record of his activity in lives of hundreds of people, in the rise of Israel and the falls of Jerusalem.Still,
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. Romans 11: 33-36 ESV
“But who has stood in the council of the LORD, That he should see and hear His word? Who has given heed to His word and listened? Jeremiah 23:18 KJV
Some of the layers of God’s character we see in his love, his intervention in our lives.Some of the depths and breadth and length of God are more than we can begin to search out and begin to know, except by God’s own Sovereign revelation to us.
The immutability of God is an attribute where “God is unchanging in his character, will, and covenant promises.”. The Westminster Shorter Catechism says, ’God is a spirit, whose being, wisdom power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth are infinite, eternal, and unchangeable.” Those things do not change.
The omniscience of God is the principle that God is all-knowing; that He encompasses all knowledge of the universe past, present, and future. In the beginning, God created the world and everything in it, including knowledge.Psalm 147:4-5 tells us, “He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.” Imagine. God not only knows how many stars are in the universe, but knows each of them by name. An Australian study a few years ago put the number of stars we can see at 70,000 million million million, or the number 70 followed by 22 zeroes! God knows their names, and even more mind-boggling, he knows YOUR name and everything about YOU!
God is omnipotent and can do all things.Nothing is too difficult for God. “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere him. For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.” Psalm 33: 6-9 KJV
“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” Genesis 1:3 KJV
Life and death are subject to God’s Word and Will.”Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out — those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” John 5: 28-29 RSV
“Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable” Psalm 145:3 RSV
I agree with Henry Morris, PhD.:
“At the same time, there are some things that are far beyond the research capabilities of human investigations. Yet they are understandable to the believing heart, because these unsearchable things are near to the heart of God, who made us in His image. ‘Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite’ (Psalm 147:5). There is far more to be discovered concerning God and His great creation than all the scientists can ever hope to discover in this life. But those who love Him will have an eternity of time to search out the majestic complexities of His infinite universe, for ‘eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him’ (1 Corinthians 2:9-10). What a marvelous paradox! ‘O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!’ ” (Romans 11:33).
One of my favorite traditional hymns is”Immortal, Invisible God Only Wise”
1 Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
in light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
almighty, victorious, thy great name we praise.
2 Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
nor wanting, nor wasting, thou rulest in might:
thy justice, like mountains high soaring above,
thy clouds which are fountains of goodness and love.
3 To all, life thou givest, to both great and small;
in all life thou livest, the true life of all;
we blossom and flourish like leaves on the tree,
then wither and perish, but naught changeth thee.
4 Thou reignest in glory, thou dwellest in light,
thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight;
all praise we would render; O help us to see
’tis only the splendor of light hideth thee!
All of this is true of God, and yet, and yet he is knowable in part if not in totality and truly wants us to know him – not just know about him, but KNOW HIM! Have you ever trembled to think the Creator of everything wants to have a loving, intimate relationship with you, yes with YOU?
31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8: 31-38 NIV
Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:23-24 NKJV)
God WANTS to be good to you, gracious to you, kind to you, powerful in and through you!As I stood at the rim of the Canyon,I thought how many “layers” of God I have experienced, out of his sheer love for me as my Father in Heaven and the Lover of my soul. One of these days I will commit Psalm 103 to memory, stand on the South Rim,and shout into the abyss:
A psalm of David.
1 Let all that I am praise the Lord;
with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
2 Let all that I am praise the Lord;
may I never forget the good things he does for me.
3 He forgives all my sins
and heals all my diseases.
4 He redeems me from death
and crowns me with love and tender mercies.
5 He fills my life with good things.
My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!
6 The Lord gives righteousness
and justice to all who are treated unfairly.
7 He revealed his character to Moses
and his deeds to the people of Israel.
8 The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
9 He will not constantly accuse us,
nor remain angry forever.
10 He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
11 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
12 He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west.
13 The Lord is like a father to his children,
tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
14 For he knows how weak we are;
he remembers we are only dust.
15 Our days on earth are like grass;
like wildflowers, we bloom and die.
16 The wind blows, and we are gone—
as though we had never been here.
17 But the love of the Lord remains forever
with those who fear him.
His salvation extends to the children’s children
18 of those who are faithful to his covenant,
of those who obey his commandments!
19 The Lord has made the heavens his throne;
from there he rules over everything.
20 Praise the Lord, you angels,
you mighty ones who carry out his plans,
listening for each of his commands.
21 Yes, praise the Lord, you armies of angels
who serve him and do his will!
22 Praise the Lord, everything he has created,
everything in all his kingdom.
Let all that I am praise the Lord!
Here comes the elementary school teacher in me.You see the layers of rock in the geologic diagram of the Grand Canyon above. Now I’m inserting a black and white version, and I’m going to do what I ask you to do as an act of recognizing and acknowledging God’s Presence in my life: copy it, print it out, and starting from the top down, write in the layers of God you’ve experienced. He saved me in 1972, healed me miraculously from a kidney problem in 1982, gave me a child after seven years of fruitless trying in 1986,saved me and our whole family from death in 1987, delivered a healthy granddaughter at only 29 weeks gestation in 2006, sent me to Thailand in 2010, guided me so many times over so many years, provided a way for me to use my writing gift – a cry of my heart – in 1990, and if I think about it, I know I’ll have other “layers”of God’s grace, mercy, provision. protection, healing, love, wisdom, power, kindness, and strength to fill in.
If you need some auditory encouragement,here are two songs that may help you as you ask God to reveal his handprints and love in your life:
This is your “…BUT God…”
Label your own “layers” of God’s goodness to you! This is your “…BUT GOD…” to pray in praise today.
Lord God, Almighty Everlasting One, take me deeper into who you are to know more of you, and I know in the revelation only you can bring,Holy Spirit, I will see more of myself, including my “fault zones” the enemy of my soul would use to bring condemnation on me. Lord, Jesus, lover of my soul, come into those places first with your truth that there is therefore now NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus – ME – for the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus HAS, done deal already accomplished, set me free from the law of sin and death. Help me walk the Bright Angelic Trail deeper into knowing you so that I may know and believe YOUR LOVE FOR ME even more deeply, wholly, and rock-solidly, in Jesus’ name, amen! Speak to me, Holy Spirit, with new true revelation of all the ways Father God has loved me. Open my eyes and the eyes of my heart as I listen for your heart words _____________________________________________________