I am sitting at the edge of the Grand Canyon’s North Rim, ever so slightly off the marked path. Off to the right, two people are perched at the very tip of a major outcropping, posing (I suppose) for a Christmas e-letter photo. I worry that if either of them so much as sneezes or blinks or breathes, they will go tumbling over the edge; there go all my hopes of sweet dreams for the next several weeks.
Just behind me, a young family is making the trek out to Angel Point with their 2- and 4-year old sons in tow. And I do mean in tow. Except at just a few outermost spots, there are no safety rails or guards here. The only thing between you and the bottom of the canyon is a few inches of pathway and several thousand vertical feet. I briefly looked into the eyes of that mother as she wrangled with her adventurous 2-year old. She wants to go home. She wants to take a nap. She wants to strap her children into cushioned chairs and plant them in front of an electronic device. I don’t fault her for this. She is probably a wonderful mother who spends time doing creative and educational things with her children; who lets them run and jump and play and climb trees; who reads to them each night from the pages of classic literature. But this is the North Rim and there is no space for a wildly alive 2-year old to do anything except get dragged and pulled and contained and restrained by a wildly protective parent. There go all her hopes of sweet dreams for the next several weeks.
I am here without children and so am free to be still and quiet at the edge of the Canyon for as long as I want. So here I am, settled under the cool shade of God’s wings woven into the very being of a tree whose branches spread over me like a fringed embrace even while their needle-tips seem to kiss and caress the canyon wall miles away. I am overlooking a landscape whose majesty contains and reflects the very thumbprint of God Himself, but whose expanse can’t even begin to contain and reflect more than a mere thumbprint of God’s own majesty.
My North Rim stillness and quietness has shown me this:
It is impossible to fully take in (let alone fully describe) the immensity and grandeur spread out before me. Even with photographs. Perhaps especially with photographs. Trying to transfer and contain such colorful and variant and immeasurable depth, width, height, and length onto a two-dimensional surface – no matter how large – is futile. (Perhaps this explains in part previous generations’ universal dread of Other People’s Vacation Slide Shows, those drily-narrated and flattened-out Kodak Ektachrome versions of three-dimensional miracles that were powerfully spoken into existence.) (Which, in turn, might explain the genius of social media photo albums, those drily-captioned and flattened-out Instagrammed versions of life that are entirely optional for viewing.)
And also this:
I am small. Very small. A speck, in fact. I know this in my soul – for I am but one of trillions – even as I can see it with my eyes – for my outstretched hand (just inches away) is but a dot on the canyon wall backdrop (miles and miles away). I am but dust, the unmeasurable (because of my smallness) surrounded by the immeasurable (because of its magnitude).
When I consider the sight before and beside and below and around me (which is but a grain of sand among the Lord’s creation), I am left breathless. I am undone. Entirely.
Because of this:
God knows I am here. Knows my name. Knows me. And even still considers my unmeasurableness worth a full measure of His love and grace.
Inside this small speck of my unmeasurable self resides all the fullness, not of the immeasurable creation before and beside and below and around me, but of Christ Himself…the very creator of the immeasurable creation that is before and beside and below and around me. (Or at least as much of His fullness as I make room for by emptying myself of self, a daunting task indeed.)
What manner of mystery and miracle is this? That the Creator of the Cosmos – the only true God – not only reduced His own self to a fully human speck (so that we could be saved), but even further, compressed his own spirit to dwell within fully fallen, flawed, broken, and small specks of dust (so that we could know real life)…?!