The Journey Begins

 

“Every now and again take a good look at something not made with hands—a mountain, a star, the turn of a stream. There will come to you wisdom and patience and solace and, above all, the assurance that you are not alone in the world.”  –Sidney Lovett

Yesterday my birthday began with waking up at 5am mountain time–4am Pacific time–but I wasn’t consumed with sleepiness. Instead, I was filled with excitement…not for my birthday, but for this newest chance to see the power of God’s creation in the world.

We left the hotel while it was still dark, traveling north on the I-15. The air was thick and warm, probably around 85 degrees. As we drove, the sky began to lighten in the east. I felt a deep sense of anticipation. The sun rose this way every day, but today I was utterly present to the advent of its coming. It felt different.

We stopped in Cedar City for gas, and the air was noticably cooler. We decided to press on and munched on a banana from the hotel lobby. We wanted breakfast to be special, to reflect the specialness of this day.

As we turned eastward on the 143, which would take us to a 10,000 ft. summit around Brians Head ski resort, the dawn was insistently present, and we could see the beauty of the small homesteads that we passed as we headed up the mountain roads. We climbed, climbed, climbed…and soon began to see that the trees around us were showing the first signs of changing.

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In some places the earliest snows lightly dusted small patches on the ground. It was marvelous. We passed various mountain communities, stopping at a small restaurant in a fishing campground. It was cozy, overlooked the lake, and filled our stomachs with food that would sustain us throughout the day.

We continued on. Every new turn added beauty upon beauty. We couldn’t believe that at the end of this road we would be visiting Bryce Canyon on top of it all!

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When we finally reached Bryce, we had meandered through the mountains for over 3 hours. Every moment felt like a blessing.

Bryce was a whole new kind of wonder. We decided to hike the rim of the canyon. The best part of this trail was not all of the “scenic points” that the trail hit, because while those points were breathtaking, they were also always within easy access to a parking lot and lots of point-to-point tourists. The best parts, rather, were the segments in between these tourist locations. The trail was almost completely empty in these spaces, leaving us to drink deeply of the vast expansiveness of the brilliant red and pink hoodoos, the slot canyons, the pines. The holy silence that accompanied our time with the canyon was intimate and raw. It demanded our attention, respect, and reverence in a way that a crowded tourist spot just couldn’t. We dwelt in the space and gave thanks.

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It was here that I realized that there truly is a difference between dwelling in a place and visiting it. To dwell is to participate in it, to become intimate with it. To appreciate it in a way that doesn’t make it a “vacation spot” or photo opportunity. To visit a place has the unavoidable aspect of separation, of “us” and “that place.” To dwell connects these two and blends the lines so that we are all enfolded in the same light: we are creations of God. We all reflect and convey God’s majesty in different ways. None is superior except by our own perception.

The word that is often translated “to dwell” in the Gospels more accurately means “to tabernacle.” I think this gives us a better sense of what dwelling really means; to pitch a tent, to form a connecting bridge between heaven and earth. How different our world would have been if Jesus simply visited it, rather than dwelt in it.

This is not to say that visiting a place is bad. But I felt sad that more people didn’t take the time to dwell there. I saw so many people come, snap the picture, turn around and go back to the car. And it made me sad that they wouldn’t be able to dwell with the canyon a little longer.

When we returned home, it was dark once again. We got back on the road as the sun dipped behind the mountainside. The day ended as it began, with the sky changing its hue to embrace a new part of the daily cycle. We came home, happy and exausted, blessed to have dwelt together in this magnificent world.

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