Among the wonders of Utah’s Zion National Park runs the Virgin River, walled in on both sides by thousand-foot red cliffs. Daily, visitors don water boots and trek through this sacred space called The Narrows, sloshing through cold rushing water, splashing from rock to rock, and grasping their walking sticks for balance. The Narrows runs for miles and preaches the grandeur of God.
The sign told us the river was “Very High!” on the day we rented the boots and walking sticks, but we didn’t have time to wait for a river to dry up, so we waded in, shaky calves against rushing water. The entry was crowded, but some people were only in it for the photo op and cleared out quickly. Our view as we pushed forward was now mostly water and rock.
It was a gorgeous challenge, and several times as we clung to our sticks, we almost lost our footing. Balancing demanded full focus in those moments, and we forgot about the rock walls standing like sentinels over us. But touching them when we maneuvered back to the edge had a most steadying effect: Left hand against colossal rock wall, right hand on walking stick. Feet pushing left, right, left, right against the rushing coldness.
In just this position, I felt the Holy Spirit bring truth to mind.
So much of life feels like a long push upstream with every current around us heaving the other way, pushing us back, and knocking us off-balance. We press on, splashed with the cold realities of life, finding a foothold we think will support us only to feel it give way under our feet. Sometimes rays of sun glimmer on the water, drawing our gaze upward, but our eyes soon dart down again–down to where the work is. Left, right, left, right, our little walking sticks just barely support us as we wobble along.
On my adventure that day, touching the rock changed things. It felt cool under my palm. Its towering bulk hemmed me in, unfazed by the swirling water. Its touch gave me strength and balance. That wall was like God.
God gives us walking sticks, and what helpful blessings they are: friends and books and beds and homes and counselors. They’ve kept us from drowning more than once. But how foolish to walk the raging river forgetting the massive strength that stands beside us. God is our ever-present help in trouble, our steadying force, and our guard and guide by day and night. His stature makes our walking sticks look like blades of grass.
In whatever current you’re pressing through, reach your hand out and you’ll touch God’s strength. It’s there even when you don’t see it. When your walking stick snaps, your strong tower won’t. With each step, we can sing along with David and his stringed instruments in Psalm 61:
Hear my cry, O God,
listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth
I call to you when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
that is higher than I,
for you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the enemy.
The rapids won’t run forever. Someday our Narrows will widen out into a bright meadow called Paradise, and the wind will be at our backs. Until then, God, our mighty Rock of Refuge, won’t move. He will be tall and strong and true, and always, always by our side.