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The Forest for the Trees, or The Chasm for the Fossils

Comanche Point from Tanner Camp, photo credit: Nate Loper

[Originally published as Don’t Forget To Look Up]

Have you ever been so invested in observation of something that you failed to notice that which was happening all around you? Have you found yourself so intensely focused that you missed out on the “big picture” of your surroundings? This was exactly my scenario on my most recent river trip.

Last month while guiding a 4-day trip through the Grand Canyon, we camped at a place I’d never been before. We decided the next morning we would hike up and explore a side canyon that had until that point remained untrodden by any of us on that trip—the boat crew included.

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I love exploring uncharted chasms. Not only because of their unfolding mystery and beauty around every bend, but also because as one who’s keen on geology, it’s where we often find a literal “wash” of rocks and fossils dislodged from thousands of feet above and channeled into these far-fractured furrows.

It was just one of these side canyons we decided to venture up that morning. Scrambling up short ledges, weaving our way both over and around behemoth boulders, and ever hearing the sound of “crush, crush, crush, crush” as our feet moved over gravel beds from previous flash floods, my eye remained for the most part intently fixed on the ground in front of me.

Mind you now, this was not for fear of snakes or scorpions, nor for scouting cactus or catclaw, but for something I’ve habitually sought over the years—fossils. In the Grand Canyon, we find numerous fossils. Not just any old fossils, but marine ocean fossils. Something to think about. While we should never remove fossils—or rocks of any kind for that matter—from the canyon, we can teach about them and take pictures as well.

Oftentimes in side-canyon washes, we find fossils that have been brought down to our level. In particular, the Redwall Limestone seems to exhibit a number of fossils we find washed down to lower elevation. This includes fossils like crinoids, sponges, corals, and brachiopods. Ever desirous to find these fossils, I often hike through areas with my eyes on the ground.

As we were walking up the canyon, one of the guests said,

Wow, look at how beautiful these walls are!

Looking nearly 800 feet up from where we were standing, my eyes clapped onto what he was pointing at. High above us were towering canyon cliffs, with innumerable facets sticking out of layers just below that.

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It was a sight to behold.

I almost missed it.

It was then I felt a still, small voice in my head saying, “Don’t forget to look up.”

It was at that moment I learned a large lesson

While I was so used to practicing my pursuit of fossils and geologic finery, I nearly missed out on the big picture of what it means to be in this grand canyon.

But it was more than that. I felt at that moment I understood a great deal more about life and the daily pursuit of it. While we are often so focused on the task at hand, we sometimes miss the big picture of the beauty of life itself. Days pass by, adding up to weeks, months, and years. Some distant time down the road we look back and say, “Man, those were the good old days!” Thinking back to those days themselves, in the moment, did we recognize them as anything outstanding?  Doubtful.

We are living in the future’s “good old days”; we just simply fail to see it.

Pause each day and reflect on the good of the big picture all around. Let God open the eyes of your heart to see beyond the day-to-day similitude. Matthew 7:11 reveals to us that as a good Father, our Creator desires to give His children good gifts. He desires to walk with us in nearness—hand-in-hand, footprint-in-footprint, and heartbeat-to-heartbeat. Take hold of each new day in its fullness as a good gift from above, coming down from the Father of Lights, and for goodness sake …

Don’t forget to look up.

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Written by Canyon Ministries

Canyon Ministries is the premier biblical creation tour guide for the Grand Canyon and beyond. Find out what Nate Loper and the team do and how to visit at Canyon

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