Hallelujah nevertheless, was the song the pain couldn’t destroy
Hallelujah nevertheless, you’re my joy invincible joy —Switchfoot
Spring break road trip 2019!! A car full of best friends. Cheap motels in small towns, friendly strangers, spontaneous pull-the-car-over explorations, early morning too-much-creamer coffee, four-day-old sweatpants, crazy lightning rainstorms, Polaroid pictures, roadside diners, tears-streaming-down-cheeks laughter. Driving through the Southwest United States and making soooo many happy memories with gals that are family to me. Appreciating good ol’ Earl, my steadfast Toyota that has over 220,500 miles on it now. Getting to discover new places and not think about school. Taking life minute by minute, letting the day unfold, paying attention and coming into rhythm with the slower pace of the countryside around us.
The five of us gals stayed in Kanab, Utah and took day trips to Zion, Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Horseshoe Bend, the Grand Canyon and Flagstaff, with stops all along the way. Even driving was a gift—being able to contemplate and talk and stare out the window.
Zion National Park.
A breathing, ancient landscape to behold, to encounter.
My friends and I are enveloped by the majesty of the archaic cliffs as we drive through the park. We stare in silent awe. There is a certain magic in not being able to grasp the beauty before our eyes. For a moment, all is timeless, all is awe, all is vast. The Spirit moves in the loving space between our bodies and the landscape we walk on and touch. We cannot seize this beauty, we can only behold the gift, the reality of creation and God’s imagination. We are humbled before the skyrocketing sediment, the breathing bedrock.
On our way up the Angel’s Landing hike, we touch the trails of cold, fresh water that trickle down the smooth burgundy slabs baking in the mid-morning sun. Speckles of moss and lichen welcome the hikers with their verdant parade. The gentle blue sky is so close, so wild and endless. The wispy, fragmented clouds swirl and play with the silent rock. The contradiction of strong and soft, fleeting and steadfast, unbroken and evaporating. It’s moments like these that we are awakened to reality and our aching souls are inspired.
Oh, the magnificence of those steady, earthy castles. Of those rocky steeples that draw our hearts into the mystery and awe of creation.
Jesus tells the Pharisees that “if they [the disciples] keep quiet, the very rocks would cry out” (Luke 19:40). What beauty—the rocks worship simply by what they are and cry out in silence with us. Rocks embody that sacred mystery. They are wrapped in seamless, silent prayer. Oh how I love words, I truly do—but how do I even begin to use words to describe the welling up of wonder in my very being, or the sacredness of what it means to exist as a human in this broken world and still feel joy even in suffering? Or to behold a landscape that takes my breath away, that reminds me how loved I am by the Divine? Words fall short, words do not begin to scratch the surface.
“Have I spoken of God, or uttered [God’s] praise, in any worthy way? Nay, I feel that I have done nothing more than desire to speak; and if I have said anything, it is not what I desired to say. How do I know this, except from the fact that God is unspeakable? … And yet God, although nothing worthy of [God’s] greatness can be said of [God], has condescended to accept the worship of [humans’] mouths, and has desired us through medium of our own words to rejoice in [God’s] praise.” —St. Augustine
As humans we are lacking and radically incapable of using language to give an accurate account of God. Yet, God accepts our words of praise and the non-words of praise that echo in our souls when we sing silently with the rocks.
It is a gift that we can enter into relation with a rock, a tree, a landscape. Nature requires nothing from us except that we be present and still of heart. The numerous and unimportant things we stress about on a daily basis dissipate when we are humbled before a glory that could never be of our origin. How great is it that fresh air breathes new life into us and overwhelms us all at once?
For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. —Isaiah 55:12
And so we go out in joy. We laugh uncontrollably, we dance, we sing in the car, we cry together. We go through grief, we mourn, we forgive, we remember the good times and the bad times and are held in God’s incomprehensible love through all of it.
Creation is held in this love too. It is a friend to us. We are broken, and this we share with the rocks, and all creation throughout time. Redemption does not require that a body be fixed. Christianity is about being saved even in sickness, even in brokenness, like a canyon that still sings songs of glory every morning.
The Grand Canyon is most definitely alive and breathing in its own wise way with swirly clouds and conscious air. I am humbled by the glory of the day, by the wonder in this crimson valley.
I am so thankful for Zion and Southern Utah and Northern Arizona and the wide open landscapes of the West. I am thankful for friends to travel with who make me feel seen and known. I’m thankful for grace and the trials of life and the beauty of the Earth.
But I think there’s a God and he hears either way when I rejoice and complain
I never know what to say
But I rejoice, I rejoice, I rejoice —Julien Baker
After our road trip we went to Disneyland!! Me when I was three vs. me at 21 🙂
Let us thank the Earth
That offers ground for home
And holds our feet firm
To walk in space open
To infinite galaxies.
Let us salute the silence
And certainty of mountains:
Their sublime stillness,
Their dream-filled hearts.
The kindness of the Earth,
Opening to receive
Our worn forms
Into the final stillness.
Let us remember within us
The ancient clay
—John O’Donohue, “In Praise of the Earth”