In February, I drove down to Salt Lake City and boarded a plane to fly to Phoenix to attend my Grandmother’s funeral in Thatcher, Arizona. I’d made this trip a hundred times, but rarely with such clear skies and never with such a tender heart.
I was grateful to have the window seat. As my baby boy slept on my chest, I could clearly see the ground below. Sometimes I could make out the path of Interstate 15 snaking through some of the most beautiful and varied terrain on the planet, and other times I felt lucky to glimpse patches of wilderness I had never seen before–winding rivers, jagged red peaks, the steepled cliffs of Southern Utah.
It wasn’t long before the earth looked flat and brown, like clay pressed down with the palm of your hand. For a few seconds I watched this smoothness pass below me, and then I saw small cracks beginning in the ground. They would start like hairline fractures, and would soon resemble the top of a pan of brownies or cookies, the cracks widening and deepening as we headed further south.
Suddenly, those cracks became the northeastern edge of the Grand Canyon. Even from the plane, the breath-taking expanse of this hole in the ground was captivating. As I looked closely at the crevices and the multi-colored cliffs, the words of a favorite hymn ran through my mind (as they are wont to do when I am awed by nature):
“Oh Lord, My God
When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds thy hands have made”¦
Then sings my soul, my savior God to thee,
How great Thou art”¦”
I imagined the Lord creating the wonders of this canyon with the detail of a sculptor”¦and then something in my mind said, No. What He did was plan this beauty. Millions of years ago, He set in motion the elements with the potential to create something as big and beautiful as the Grand Canyon. Millions of years ago, this was a piece of ground like all other ground, with a stream flowing through it. That stream grew into a mighty river, picking up soil and rocks, eroding and depositing earth, etching its way thousands of feet through the ordinary ground. The earth shook and helped the river to create the intricate beauty of the canyon.
The words Plan and Potential stuck in my mind. God has a plan. He has set the elements in motion to become something amazing that witnesses of Him. This is true in nature and most importantly and magnificently, in humanity. I thought of myself, once a simple zygote, elements set in motion and endowed with an eternal spirit, sent off on my way in this world to become something (someone) amazing that witnesses of my Father—if I let it happen.
I think what would have happened if the canyon were like me, mumbling and grumbling about the discomfort of the river always wearing it down, or the deep and traumatic motions of the earthquakes that would one day make it a wonder of the world. I wondered how many times I have used my agency to interrupt the process God set in motion to make me more like Him?
Over and over that weekend I thought of the Plan and the Potential. As we buried my Grandmother out in the hot, stark dessert of eastern Arizona after a service where we rejoiced in her life, I thought of the Plan. It’s a cycle and it spins pretty fast, and in the end will I have met the Potential? Will I have weathered life with grit and grace like the canyon, and like my Grandma? I want to let it happen. I want to find the right balance of determination to act and faith to step back, stop “white-knuckling” life, and allow the Plan to lead to my Potential.
How do you find the balance?