Every time I visit a beautiful place, I find myself overwhelmed with a deep hunger, a desperate longing, to grasp more of it. I remember many years ago driving the Icefields Parkway in Canada and I was an emotional wreck for three days. It was stunning beyond belief, and as much as I tried to drink it all in, I was left panting with thirst. I lived in Alaska for many years, and it was the same thing. I tried to absorb it all, but was left wanting.
This has all been resurrected in my soul as my wife and I have just driven from Southern California to Denver for a conference. We took the opportunity to visit some of our National Parks and enjoy the creative work of our great God, including Zion NP, Bryce Canyon NP, and Capitol Reef NP. We also drove Utah Hwy 12, one of America’s top scenic drives. Quite simply, we have seen some of the most stunning scenery in the world (my current opinion—I certainly haven’t seen all the scenery in the world!).
We processed this soul longing as we wound our way through Zion Canyon. God created all this beauty initially for His own good pleasure, and now He allows His created beings to enjoy it. These parks, and this scenery, are massive; stunning; breathtaking; immense. Kind of like God. The realization grew as we drove and talked that this hunger I experience, this desire to almost become one with the stupendous vistas unfolding before us, can only be satisfied by God Himself. He gives us these gorgeous places to draw our emotions toward Him. These places create that want for more because we do want more. And no created thing, no mountain, no canyon, no majestic vista, can begin to compare with His glory and His beauty.
When we stare up at the massive sandstone formations in Capitol Reef, or gaze on the intricate formations that defy description in Bryce Canyon, we need to be drawn toward God Himself. As massive and beautiful as those formations are, they pale compared to the immensity of the Creator who made them. This earthly beauty, designed by God for His pleasure and our enjoyment, is simply an arrow that points toward Him. If I am left panting as I gaze on such earthly beauty, what should my response be as I meditate on the dazzling radiance of God? Ask Ezekiel or Isaiah. After glimpsing the radiance of God’s glory, Ezekiel fell on his face (Ezek 1:26-28). When Isaiah saw the throne room of heaven, he assumed he was a dead man (Isa 6:1-7).
I imagine those responses were not unlike the feelings evoked in us when we are privileged to see the breathtaking vistas of Yosemite, or the towering Rocky Mountains, or the wild rugged beauty of Alaska. Only more so exponentially. God knows that to truly gaze on His glory is only permitted to a select few; I’m sure because we simply couldn’t handle it. So He gives us the ethereal hoodoos in Bryce Canyon and the massive sandstone monoliths of Capitol Reef to take our breath away, and try to fathom how infinitely great is our God.
We are all surrounded by beauty, even if it’s not the grandeur of the Western U.S. We have lived many places, and have found beauty in each of those places. From watching the sunset over the cornfields of the Midwest, to watching lines of ants marching off to who-knows-where, God has designed His glorious world for us to catch a glimpse of Him. So my thought is this: every time I look upon His creation, whether tiny or massive, simple or bizarre, ordinary or unique, I need to see it as an expression of His character. I need to realize that the longing inside for more of that stunning vista is simply a longing for more of our glorious God and Savior and Creator Jesus. He gave us these places, this earth, and the beauty around us. That is why it is beneficial to go to places like Zion NP, Bryce Canyon NP, and Capitol Reef NP. So get out your map, plan a trip, and go worship our supremely huge God.
“The mountains rose, the valleys sank down, to the place that you appointed for them.” Ps 104:8