How a Canyon Hike Can be a Spiritual Experience: Week 3 Lenten Reflection

Have you ever had a spiritual experience where you feel so close to God it's almost tangible? I know for me I often feel that way in nature, especially in places of grandeur where mountains are surrounding me. I have found that these moments are when God is reminding me of how much He really wants me to trust in and rely on Him alone.

It's often like a spiritual journey where God just speaks to you through the beauty around you. It makes me think of the movie "The Way" with Martin Sheen. There is something very special about  a long hike. The repeated steps are like a meditation of the soul. You move your body and your mind while your soul gets to take in the beauty. It reminds me of when I used to run marathons. They were such a metaphor for life. But hikes even more so now because I'm just showing up to walk a terrain I know nothing about. I'm not trained for it and getting a medal. I'm getting a deep connection with the Divine, which is much better to me than a medal.

Let me tell you first about the Canyon. 

Towards the end of the hike, taken on the walk back. Trail ahead to the left and canyon to the right.

Towards the end of the hike, taken on the walk back. Trail ahead to the left and canyon to the right.

If you've ever seen or hiked a canyon, you know it's a huge deep almost indent in a mountain landscape where a river flows through. I later looked up the definition which I thought was pretty interesting:

"A deep gorge, typically one with a river flowing through it." Another said, "A deep narrow steep-sided valley formed by a river in the place where there is a little rainfall.”

I thought about this, knowing how much I felt connected to God on this hike and realized the deeper metaphor of God's love, and how His love is deep. The road is wide and his love is a river of life. These verses came to mind:

“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love us.” - Ephesians 3:18 NLT

“For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” - Matthew 7:14 ESV

“You formed the mountains by your power and armed yourself with might strength. Those who live at the ends of the earth stand in awe of your wonders. From where the sun rises to where it sets, you inspire shouts of joy. You take care of the earth and water it, making it rich and fertile. The river of God has plenty of water; it provides a bountiful harvest of grain, for you have ordered it so.” Psalm 65: 6, 8-9 NLT

If you want to get really deep, it's as if the canyon is the world we walk through - rocky, rugged and rough, and beautiful - and the river is God flowing through at the very depths of it with a constant flow of life.

What's funny is as I walked I found signs of his love...

Every time I walk or hike I find a rock to hold onto that makes me feel connected to God. It's like a reminder that on this journey He's holding my hand. This one was no different. I found one that was a little jagged at the beginning to walk with and one right there on the trial in the water. Each one was a reminder that God is always with it, reminding of us of His great love. I found these and then this one at the destination right in the middle of the waterfall. 

As I walked I just noticed the terrain. Rocks all over the trail, some over three feet high. Some were across streams and you had to balance yourself while walking across (like life). There were almost 10 of these streams to walk across...

The rocks around me had so many layers showing probably how many thousands of years they've stood there, making me feel like my life is so minimal compared to them! What a beautiful example of the depth and layers to life.

That was all just in my surroundings. Inside me was a whole different story. After 3 hours my legs started to get tired. My head wanted me to turn around and give up. My body kept walking and my heart knew I needed to keep going. At one point I even said out loud, "Come on Meredith you can do this."

That's why last week I recommended going by yourself because when you are out there by yourself, it's between you and God. He'll give you the inner strength because he's right there, but you've got to be the one to walk. Not only that, he's didn't bring someone along that you know to push you. He gave you Him to rely on for encouragement. So no matter how hard it gets, how tired you get, you just keep taking the steps. You stop and breathe or take a drink but you do not give up because you know that the journey is worth it because at the end you'll know who carried you. 

I did eventually make it to the waterfalls. I think you can see all 7 of them in this picture below. 

What's funny is there was a woman walking near me the whole time. When I got to that summit, he connected us. I found out about her life; where she's at, why she's doing this hike and what her challenges are in this life. I love to hear people's stories because it's just a reminder that we're all on the road together. What is so cool about our conversation is that we pretty much walked the whole way back together and when we hit the road, the sun started to set all around us.

I have seen some pretty amazing sunsets in my day but that one was glorious and lasted to the very moment we hit the parking lot. It was 360 views all around of color.

All of that glory was just a reminder of the presence of God and how amazing he is that he would create this day. I couldn't believe how perfect it was from start to finish. But, then I could - because that's what God is all about. Every day He gives us the chance to see just how much he loves us. We just have to notice it. No, we don't always get days like I got on Saturday. But every day we can notice how he is working in our lives and we can see over time that nothing happens out of coincidence. Everything is happening just how He plans it. All we have to do is keep showing up for the road ahead.

___

One last thing.

I heard this song when I had just finished my last hike of the weekend in Arizona and it just really encapsulates the feeling I had from the weekend in nature. I will leave you the video and the lyrics. I'm also going to recommend that you watch the movie "The Way" if you haven't seen it and if you are a soundtrack buff like me, listen to the score. I know I've recommended it before but it is one of my favorites for writing and just reflecting. Check it out on ITunes.

"The Maker"
I see You in the sunrise
I see You in the rain
I see You in the laughter
I feel You through the pain

Everything that You have made is beautiful
Oh, my God, I can't believe my eyes
But in all of this to think that You would think of me
Makes my heart come alive

[Chorus:]
Your love is like a mighty fire deep inside my bones
I feel like I could climb a thousand mountains all at once
And I never have to wonder if somebody cares for me
I love the Maker
And the Maker loves me

I see You, You are creation
I see the grandness of Your majesty
The universe is singing all Your glory
I can't believe You live inside of me

Everything that You have made is beautiful
Oh, my God, I can't believe my eyes
But in all of this to think that You would think of me
Makes my heart come alive

[Chorus]

More than just some words upon a page
You've shown me in a million ways
But there is one that stands above them all
Hands of creation on a cross

[Chorus]