“Remember the Grand Canyon…”

There’s nothing like a trip to the Grand Canyon to put one’s life in perspective. 

I’d never seen the Grand Canyon before and was determined to get my family there this spring. It did not disappoint.

People talk about the vastness of the canyon and how pictures don’t do it justice. They are right: vastness isn’t a big enough word for the width and depth of this wonder. The scale is awe-inspiring. Pictures don’t capture its empty quietness. What I wasn’t expecting, though, was the complexity of the space.

The oldest rocks in the Grand Canyon are almost two billion years old. Since that time, it has formed and reformed countless times; the layers and variations in geography are incredibly complicated. It was and continues to be shaped by wind and water; floods and erosion. Its history isn’t gentle; there are traces of devastation everywhere. It is a wild and stunning and kind of frightening space.

Which made me think of human hearts. Our tender, emotional hearts and souls are like canyons, showing our history: we have layers of joy under layers of heartbreak; we have loss and grief that are wiped away by love. We have depth that is unfathomable. Our hearts as teenagers aren’t the same as our hearts as adults; our hearts bear our scars and our triumphs.

Both the formation of the canyon and the shaping of our hearts are part of a larger process that takes time. 

I like to think of myself as a patient person—mostly because it would seem unwise to have signed up for four kids if I was impatient. While I am generally patient in my daily interactions, I’m not patient in when I want things to be “handled.” My timeline is extremely tight.

I panic when my kids don’t hit the markers for grade-level proficiency; I worry when relationships flatline; I envy other families that seem to have big questions settled.

I thought about all of this as I walked along the rim of the canyon on our last morning there: the billions of years that have passed to create this space. And how tiny and brief all of our lives are in comparison. 

I realized how little it matters if things happen when I want them to happen. I made a mental note to “remember the Grand Canyon” when I started feeling anxious or impatient.

If the call to “remember the Alamo” is a battle cry, my desire to “remember the Grand Canyon” is a gentle reminder to soften my heart and give my children the time they need to be shaped. It’s a reminder to settle down a bit. 

I’ve quietly said to myself “remember the Grand Canyon” multiple times in the past few days: when our plane was delayed and we arrived home at 2AM; when missing soccer socks made us late for practice once again; when asking my college kids about summer plans feels like nailing down jello. All of these things are really about my desire for control. I want proof and reassurance that it will all be okay.

Anne Lamott writes, “God doesn’t give us answers. God gives us grace and mercy. God gives us Her own self. Left to my own devices, I would prefer answers. This is why it is good that I am in charge of so little: the pets, the shopping, the garden.”

The Grand Canyon reminds me that its not my place to know the finished outcome; I don’t get to decide the layers on the hearts of the people that I love. There is an expansiveness happening that is beyond my imagination. 

And for that, I can give thanks and stand in awe and “remember the Grand Canyon.”

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  • What a great reminder…and yes, compared to the Grand Canyon and all of its splendor and challenge, the little things are trivial. Thank you for your insights!

  • Beautiful! Love the idea of the slogan “remember the Grand Canyon” in moments of anxiety and impatience. Definitely applies to many of us. Thank you!