Lessons from a Spiritual Retreat

This week our family had a spiritual retreat at the awe inspiring Zion National Park. Today my husband, Jim Haack, guest blogs about how God has spoken to him and us this week as we took in His glorious creation.

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We looked up and felt like ants. We looked down from dizzying heights and felt fragile. We looked left and right and felt peaceful. We looked in and felt refreshed.

These were just a few of the impressions that Zion National Park made upon us this past week, and all of them have a spiritual dimension. Looking up at the overpowering mountains and canyon walls has a way of humbling a person. Humility is the condition necessary for receiving God’s mercy and grace. “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).

Looking down from a sheer drop-off to a canyon floor some 1000 feet below you can be terrifying! But looking straight out at the awesome majesty of such vast spaces also inspires. To look down can bring dizziness, vertigo, and acrophobia–the fear of heights. But from those same heights–looking outward, not down–you get the tiniest hint at how God looks over the whole world. He sees the big picture. If you look down from a 1000-foot high cliff you can feel terror. Looking down into the canyons of our hearts reveals sin and the terrifying wrath of God if something isn’t done about it. “Our days pass away under Your wrath” (Psalm 90:7). But looking outward is a wondrous sight, and it’s the reason why you climbed this high in the first place! The “big picture” includes God’s grace, which poured out His wrath not on you, but on His Son Jesus Christ. This is what is meant by Psalm 121:1-2: “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

Looking outward, you take in scenes of amazing variety: The imaginative dance of sunlight and shadow on multi-colored canyon walls; the sudden radiance of a cactus bloom; and the myriads of tourists interacting with one another and with nature. Then you realize that the only reason you and they are here to behold this place is because a wrathful worldwide flood carved out these and all canyons. Yet God is in the business of redeeming and restoring, and this place becomes a giant testimony to Law and Gospel, sin and grace. And the people! God has redeemed all these people–even the ones who don’t know it or believe it. “The rocks cry out,” so to speak, and their message of judgment and redemption needs to be explained.

And then you look in, into your soul. Everything discussed above applies to you. The canyons carved in your heart by sin have been made spectacularly beautiful by our redeeming, restoring God! The word “Zion,” the NPS Rangers will tell you, has deep Biblical roots, and can be understood as a term relating to a place of peace.

Yes. Yes, indeed, it is so.

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