bratton_heidiA few years ago we took a family trip to the Grand Canyon during a winter vacation.  We spent six months preparing for the journey, studying the history and geography of the Southwest, and carefully making all the travel arrangements.  We spent two long days traveling by car, bus, airplane, and rental car from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, only to arrive at the South Rim in a shroud of fog and snow, exactly the type of weather we had left behind in New England.  I can’t find words to say how disappointed we were.  My husband and I had prepared the kids to see spectacular rock formations and to experience a colorful panorama so expansive as to be beyond their wildest imaginations, and all that was before us was a wall of misty, snowy gray.  I burst into tears and wouldn’t even get out of the car.

My husband convinced me to at least get out and stretch my legs with the kids, however, and as we trudged through the storm to the edge of the Canyon, an unbelievable event unfolded before our eyes.  Layer by layer the snow and fog parted, and sets of cliffs were unveiled one by one by the retreating curtains of gray.  Each time a new ridge was revealed, it didn’t seem like the scene could get any grander.  Then, with flare as dramatic as any night at the Oscars, the setting sun broke through the clouds and a series of exceedingly brilliant rainbows appeared in the bottom of the Canyon.  It was a drama of National Geographic proportions, and all seven of us were left speechless.  Looking back it seems plausible that it was the presence of ice crystals in the air that created the extra vibrant rainbows we witnessed, meaning that, without the bad weather our experience wouldn’t have been nearly as spectacular.

In 2 Corinthians 5:7 St. Paul tells believers in Christ that "We walk by faith, not by sight."  Whether or not we can see him, feel him, or experience him, faith tells us that God is with us.  Faith says that God is as real as the Grand Canyon hiding behind a bank of snow and fog.  Faith tells us that whatever circumstance or mindset is holding us back from believing in the reality of God’s presence, we need to break free (or get out of our metaphorical cars) and walk toward God, expecting and believing that in his time God will part the clouds of doubt and disillusionment and reveal a spectacular view of his majesty.

Walking with such faith and trust is not always easy.  I don’t know about you, but as it was at the Grand Canyon, my impulse is not only to stay in the car, but also to drive away from God as quickly as possible when a fog of doubt or disillusionment looms around me.  Of course further on in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 St. Paul gives us another story to help us know how to live in times of uncertainty, pain, or disappointment.  "There was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

Whenever we drive through a fog bank on a bridge, hike through clouds in the mountains, or arrive at the ocean only to find it shrouded in misty gray, someone in the family will say, "Wow! Would you look at that?  It’s the Grand Canyon!"  Of course we all laugh, knowing someone just had to say it, but more importantly, fog and clouds now remind us that we walk by faith and not by sight, that God’s grace is sufficient for us, and that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness.

Copyright 2010 Heidi Bratton