In October 2013, some friends of mine and I took a 70 mile pilgrimage through the Paria Canyon in Arizona. The Paria River and Buckskin Gulch, which is the world’s longest slot canyon, has an other-worldly beauty to it – golden-red sandstone, parallel-striped and water-weathered walls, rust-colored boulders heaped one on top of another, tumbled and rooted deep. Rabbitbrush, arrowweed and ricegrass sway and wrap into one another, ash and tamarisk burrowed deep underground, and sun-bleached sand and scattered seed that wisps through the air.
The sounds were quiet – running water rolling and smoothing, rolling and smoothing the same river rock, wind whistling over and humming through hollow crevices, or a storm gathering miles away and rumbling. Most of the sounds were made by us, the pilgrims – foot falls, labored breathing, sloshing legs through water, aches and groans of sore shoulders and blistered heels and the quiet speaking of a group of men in search of something or themselves or someone that they have misplaced or forgotten.
Walking through a slot canyon took intense balance. The unsteady ground shifted below my feet, and it took time to adjust to the supplies upon my hunched back. I spent a lot of time looking for sure-footing and trying not to stumble the first few days. I spent a lot of time missing the view.
I entered at the trailhead hoping to hear from God but all that I heard was, “Don’t fall! Keep your head down! Don’t screw up!” Finally a quiet voice reminded me, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip – he who watches over you will not slumber.”
The Maker of Heaven and Earth reassured me. He Who Won’t Let My Foot Slip reminded me to look up and not spend so much time searching for infallible footing. Enjoy the scenery. Listen to your brothers and even if you stumble, they will help you up. So many times, I am distracted by searching for sure-footing and not-screwing-up that I fail to lift up my eyes, enjoy the journey and remember that my help comes from the Lord. As we conclude the year, be encouraged, look up and remember that the Lord will not let your foot slip. He who watches over you will not slumber.
Jesse Brown is the associate dean of student development and director of the Horizon Leadership Program. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This column reflects the views of the writer only.