Gawk Reflex

The first time my grandmother saw the Grand Canyon, she cried.

I can totally understand why now. I’ve heard about this gargantuan geological treasure my whole life, of course, but it wasn’t until recently that I saw it with own bewildered eyes.

We were on a long, epic road trip through New Mexico and Arizona with my family of six during the Christmas holiday. After a fun yet confining car drive, we parked at one of the many parking lots near the visitor center, bundled up for the cold weather, and headed through some snowy side trails toward the main South Rim Trail where the vista beckoned us.

It beckoned a lot of other people that day, too. Dozens of people like us were piling out of their cars and making their way to that unforgettable view.

Our family was giddy seeing all that magical white snow along the trails, but something even more breathtaking was just ahead. Every now and then we would catch a glimpse of vast openness through the trees.

The final bend, a quick scramble across the sidewalk, and there it was.




How can anything be this big?

Look at this!

Every picture or painting you have ever seen of it, any verbal description anyone could give you, is just a poor rendering of its overwhelming majesty. You just have to see it for yourself and let it take the breath out of you to be captured in the full experience. All those photographic, artistic or verbal representations are just peeps through a narrow straw, a small capture of its beauty and glory.

It didn’t disappoint. The Grand Canyon is one of the few things in life that simply can’t be overrated. From the moment I saw it, I just stood there, gawking.

We gawked all day, in fact. Dozens of pictures and family poses in front of several different scenic views were taken throughout an unforgettable day, until a gently colorful dusk when we had to get back on the road. 

I thought afterwards, how long has it been since something took my breath away like that?

A long time.

My soul desperately needed that touch with transcendence, something infinitely bigger than me. Something to make me and my problems seem very, very small.

I think that’s what those other people on that trail were trying to get to as well that day—transcendence.

There are two things in life that are never satisfied, according to wise king Solomon (see Proverbs 27:20). The eyes of man make that very short list. On the car trip home, I didn’t say to my kids, okay guys, we are done with vacations and road trips from here on out…we’ve seen enough. Instead, all that Arizonian beauty awakened in me a desire to see more beauty. I want see the Niagara Waterfall for myself and feel its misty spray in my face. I want to touch transcendence again in the nearer future.

Deep calls to deep in us, and it always will.

Is your soul feeling downcast right now? Let me give you some advice from Solomon’s God-seeking father, King David:

My soul is downcast within me;

Therefore I will remember you From the land of the Jordan,

the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls;

All your waves and breakers have swept over me.

By day the Lord directs his love,

at night his song is with me

a prayer to the God of my life.

– Psalm 42:6-8

You and I live in the parking lot. We’re usually surrounded by man-made stuff. Garages. Traffic. Computer screens. Cubicles. Stores.

Internally, we are slogging through our to-do list, troubleshooting problems, dealing with relational problems and working through our own emotional struggles…head down, just grinding through, every day.

Our souls are downcast because they are pointed downward most of the time.

Therefore I will remember you.

Time to take a trip from your tight and cluttered parking lot and move along those side trials until you find transcendence. Turn your soul heavenward and let His glory take your breath away. How long has that been?

Deep is calling to deep…can you hear those distant waves and breakers and will you let them sweep over you?

By day He is directing His love toward you.

Breathe that in until His song is with you in the night.

P.S. Here’s a fun video my creative daughter Ana made of our epic vacation:

— Mike O’Quin, author of Java Wake and Growing Desperate

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