Only From the Wilderness Comes Such Grace
24 December 2015 (updated 9 October 2023)
Some of the most spiritual places in the world, for me, are found in the rugged red rock deserts and blue sky scraping peaks of Southern Utah. And that not naked and alone, but rather with family and friends, and with backpacks, cameras, smartphones, and cellular connections.
As a child, I followed and then led my father through the bottoms of slot canyons and across the tops of plateaus, often waiting as he took pictures with a state-of-the-art analog camera. As a father, I sped our family van to trail heads, some descending into goblin mazes and others ascending to angelic vistas: perfect places to tweet a family selfie to the world wide web – a sublime connectivity that transcends ever broader and deeper divides.
The contrast of social artifacts in the proverbial middle-of-nowhere inspires me. It’s my pioneer ancestors in wagon trains stretching across strange lands to the foundations of a granite temple. It’s Earth softly glowing as that pale blue dot suspended in an immense void. It’s your compassion for me at the heart of billions of years of brutal evolution.
It’s looking at those places in my father’s photos, remembering them, remembering him, and imagining a more powerful camera that can reach through time and bring back more than images: bring back whole persons – bring back him, overcoming the cancer.
It’s God. It’s Gods of Gods, without beginning, finding themselves in the midst of chaos, and working together to transform each other into radically compassionate creators of worlds without end. It’s a newborn baby in a manger on the outskirts of nowhere, small and weak, but wrapped by a loving mother who would teach him to become Christ.
It’s you and me. We’re in the wilderness, together, and that’s our opportunity. Here and now, we can reach out to each other and build, maybe to make our own extension of heaven. Only from the wilderness, red in tooth and claw and heart, comes such grace.