I spent the sum of last week hiking through the Paria canyon located in Southern Utah and Arizona, accompanied by my husband and some friends of ours. The stretch was over 50 miles, starting in the Buckskin Gulch (the longest slot canyon in the US, possibly the world), and covering the entire expanse of the Paria river.
Up and down we weaved, through quicksand and cliffs, green grass and prickly cacti. The entire hike lasted five days, and we walked without tents – so every night we touched the stars and inhaled the cold desert air. It was beautifully raw, and I was totally unprepared.
To be completely transparent, I did not give much thought to the overall trip until just a couple weeks before. I grew up in a family whose second home was nature. My first overnight backpacking trip was at age five, and the first time I used the great outdoors as a restroom was at age two. But my backpacking career had ended at age nine, and although numerous day hikes followed, the overnight walks stopped. For 17 years, I sat on the belief that I was a natural backpacker, and therefore, I didn’t feel much need to prepare. After all, I exercise regularly and have pushed myself often. Plus, this was just a walk down a canyon. Right?!
By the end of the first full day, I was wiped. We had hiked twenty miles in a narrow slot canyon, trekking into the night. By the end of the third day, I was hiking on swollen ankles and possible shin splints. It was so easy for me to forget the piercing beauty of the red cliffs towering above me because I was in pain. I began to quickly dismiss the breath of air that came with sleeping outside because I was tired. And it wasn’t until the 200th time that we crossed the Paria River, feet wet and hearts beating wildly, that I realized this mindset is synonymous for every day normal life.
It’s not that beauty doesn’t surround us. It’s that we cannot see it when we are focused on the pain. We cannot have hope when we do not choose hope. Our God is not a God limited to end results, but rather He is the God of the process. With renewal, brings the invitation to be molded. But spring does not happen overnight, she has to first wait for winter to pass. And perhaps, trudging through the desert of winter is what gives us the ability to rejoice come spring.
But the sneaky nature of the seasons is the rhythm they’re in. Summer shows up with fall quickly behind, leading to winter and then the promise of spring. Again and again this pattern flows, and it teaches us that no matter how many times we cross the dessert or river, there is hope to be had on the other side.
Isaiah 41:18 promises us that “I (the Lord) will open rivers on the bare heights and springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water and the dry land fountains of water.”
The desert place also holds water. The wasteland also provides nourishment.
New life is promised after death, but that new life cannot reach its perfection without first walking through winter. Renewal happens in the wilderness. Friend, I urge you to pay attention where the green grass is starting to bloom as a result of the desert place. There is hope to be had.
2 Corinthians 2:14 “But thanks be to God, who, in Christ, always leads us in triumphal procession and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere.”