Reverent Fear in the Face of Glory
More than five million people visit the Grand Canyon every year, and last week Kristin and I contributed to that stat. We also immediately understood why it is the second most popular National Park in America. The Big Ditch gets tons of hype and deserves every bit of it.
The four-hour drive from Phoenix provided ample time to build anticipation. The little engine of our borrowed Prius whined about being forced to climb over 6,000 feet in elevation to Flagstaff, where remnants of winter snow still lay in the shade. The last hour of approach is a perfect set up: 50 miles of unremarkable high desert flatness. No indicator that epic majesty is near. We pulled into the large parking lot of the visitor center and we still had seen nothing impressive, apart from an overwhelming number of cars.
A few hundred yards later, we joined the chorus of slack jaw, wide-eyed wonder. So this is the Grand Canyon. Long, slow exhale.
We spent the next few hours walking the popular rim trail with throngs of others chattering excitedly in a variety of languages about the breathtaking vistas and snapping countless photos. Just before noon, we heard what sounded like a storm-warning siren coming from the direction of the visitor center. Everyone stopped, wondering what it meant. The weather was fine so that couldn’t be the cause. But it soon stopped and everyone quickly resumed their exploration.
Word soon spread about the cause: Someone had just fallen to their death. That rumor was confirmed as a helicopter arrived a short time later, hovering near the foot of one of the many sheer cliffs, and then leaving again with the body of the victim in the recovery net.
This tragic death cast a dark shadow over everyone. This person was no different than anyone of us, excitedly delighting in the grandeur of the canyon. Then suddenly their life was over. Chatter on the trail focused heavily on the foolishness of people standing too close to the edge seeking spectacular pictures, with others advocating for more fences.
For me, it was a sobering reminder of the need for reverent fear of God. The glory of God is exhilarating, and we are made to enjoy it. But to ignore the gravity of God’s is to forfeit our lives. Uzzah was destroyed when he touched the ark of the covenant (2 Samuel 6:6) because he lacked sufficient respect for what he was dealing with. Likewise, visitors to the grandest of all canyons must respect the severe glory God endowed it with. And those who really see well will find their reverence deepen as they recognize this small gulley is but the fringes of his works. (Job 26:14)