While traveling throughout the American Southwest a few years back, we were appreciating the immensity of Grand Canyon. (Our kids endured this because of the promise of going to Legoland California at the end of the trip!)
I was excited because I had purchased a simple 3D camera, thinking that I could bring back pictures that would capture the landscape, so that others could appreciate the size and impressiveness of this amazing natural formation. (In retrospect, my dad’s ViewMaster and National Parks reels had already done this…decades earlier.)
Well, as nice as the 3D effect was (in the resulting pictures) for some of the trees and rocks on the trail, the canyon itself ended up resembling a painting in the background. Like a backdrop in a cheesy movie or TV show, the canyon looks like it was hung on a piece of canvas behind the more immediate scenery, like so much set dressing. The actual landmark was so large that the separation of the two lenses in the camera simply could not capture the size and majesty of the view. Let’s face it – Grand Canyon is really, really big.
(For what it’s worth, here’s an anaglyph rendering of one of those pictures: Grand Canyon Anaglyph. If you have some red/blue glasses, you can see what I mean.)
While touring the Grand Canyon area, another interesting place to visit is the Desert View settlement (part of the National Parks system – see https://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/desert-view.htm). Among the other things to see at this location is a watchtower, right on the rim of the canyon, with yet another great view.
From one of the lookouts, a sign caught our eye. Rather than the usual historic and cultural information (which my wife and I enjoy more than our kids, at this age), the plaque contained a passage from Psalms 66:4 in the Bible. The picture below captures this sign, along with a small taste of the view from this point.
From this vantage point, that passage is particularly applicable. Who can see the amazing creation of God and – if we choose to recognize His handiwork – not do or say anything about it? We liked this picture so much that we had it enlarged and framed, and it now hangs on our wall. But, like the 3D camera, this picture can’t fully capture the view.
In some ways, many of the Psalms are similarly trying to capture thoughts that are much greater than words. The various writers of the Psalms tried to explain how great God is, and what He meant to them. While these authors were talented, I suspect that they would each have said that God is so great that their words inevitably fell short.
So, what do we do? When we are experience something really great, but words and pictures just don’t cover it, do we just give up? No, we try to tell the story as best as we can, to put others into the scene, and to transfer to them some approximation of our own memories. Just because God is greater than we can describe, that doesn’t mean we don’t keep trying.
The next time we take a great vacation, my friends and extended family will probably have to endure my stories (even if they don’t have the same effect as being there). In the same way, I challenge each of us (myself included) to keep doing our best to explain to others what God means to us. We must step up to the challenge of sharing our testimonies about who God is, even if our descriptions aren’t complete enough to capture God.
After all, if we don’t, the rocks – even those of Grand Canyon – may cry out, and tell the story for us. (And, if we look carefully, maybe they are already doing so – sharing their part of that great message.)
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”
Luke 19:39-40 NASB
See also: May We Be Truly Thankful