I stepped outside this morning into an unusually humid and dense environment. I felt separated from the world as common landmarks were enveloped by a thick fog. The heavy, gray atmosphere that made it hard to see was a good match for the mood of my soul.
Have you ever held a toddler who was kicking and throwing a fit? It isn’t fun, and it isn’t pretty. When I have done that, I’ve often smiled at God and thanked him for making adults so much bigger and stronger than kids. Children sometimes get emotionally wrecked and start flailing at a person who is about four times their size and is only trying to help them. If I’m honest with you, over the past week or so, I feel like I’ve been spiritually kicking at God. It makes no sense and I cannot give a good reason why, but I have felt like I have been wrestling with God.
That inner tension is one of the main reasons I wanted to go to Palo Duro Canyon today. When I am alone outdoors, that is when I feel closest to God. There is biblical precedent for that – Jesus often went to the wilderness himself and would also take disciples with him.1,2,3 As I was driving into the Canyon, I asked God to meet with me out there and speak some truth into my life.
Early morning fog in Palo Duro Canyon.
I was also on a specific history-related mission. A Texas historian friend of mine had given me a rough sketch of the location of the Comanche Indian camp on September 28, 1874, when Colonel Ranald Mackenzie and his men came into the Canyon and attacked them. On that day, Comanches, Kiowas, and Cheyennes were all camped near one another and fled for their lives in all directions. The Comanche camp was located near Tub Springs Draw, and many Comanches ran up the draw in an effort to scale the Canyon walls and escape. I wanted to visit the campsite and get a first-hand look at the battleground and the path of the Comanche’s retreat.
Tub Springs Draw in Palo Duro Canyon I made my way to Tub Springs Draw, and started hiking the dry creek riverbed without a hitch. Although some of the vegetation has changed in Palo Duro Canyon, it is amazing to see and experience the same land formations that the Indians, Cavalry, and pioneers did. The history buff in me was completely caught-up in the moment as I retraced the steps of Comanche’s of all ages who had lived on and loved that land for so many years and who found themselves in a panic on that fateful day.
One turn around a bend in the Canyon led to another one. The creek bed made a nice trail through the brush, and hiking was easy. Something about experiencing landscapes that I have never seen before makes me want to keep on going. The historic nature of the path I was on added to the mystery and drew me in. The dry creek turned into a running brook, and that only complimented the beauty of the whole situation. I forged on, taking it all in.
The creek seemed to keep on turning to the right, so I got it in my mind that I would eventually come out somewhere on the other side of the Comanche camp. The Canyon walls closed in tighter and became hundreds of feet taller. I did not know exactly where I was headed. I felt certain that the Canyon walls would open up somewhere down the line, and I could easily hop back on the main trail. Step after step, I just went deeper and deeper into the Canyon abyss. When turn after turn did not yield a good opening in the Canyon walls, I thought about retracing my steps to get back out. …But who wants to do that? I didn’t want to see what I had just passed. I wanted new vistas, new discoveries. I was getting tired and hungry, so I climbed the Canyon wall looking for a place to get on top of it. In the area where I was, the last 20 to 30 feet of Canyon wall was a sheer cliff. I hiked on close to the top in search of any opportunity to get on top.
A couple of hours in, it happened. I turned a corner and realized that the two Canyon walls on either side of the creek joined together and formed a dead end. The cliff walls made it impossible to get on top, and I laughed at my situation. I was in a mess. Hiking the side of the Canyon was dangerous with loose rocks and a steep grade. Hiking the bottom of the Canyon was maddening, with huge boulders, thick brush, and cactus to bind me up. I sat down in some shade to think it over, and made a lunch out of water and a sleeve of Planters peanuts. I was so glad that I had packed in more water than I ever thought I would use.
I decided on going back along the side of the Canyon with an eye out for any passage to the top. I had some quality thinking time out there during all of this. I didn’t hear God audibly, but I felt like He was putting these words on my heart, “Landry, this is an analogy of your spiritual life right now. You’ve taken your eyes off of me, and you’re just charging on down the road. You don’t have a map. You don’t have a plan. You’re trying to make things happen on your own. You are seeking pleasure and security in other things. You’re frustrated because your best efforts apart from me only get you more tangled-up, put you in danger, and lead to dead ends.” 4,5,6 I thought a lot about all of that, and God and I spent some good time together.
Eventually, there was an opportunity for me to climb to the top of the Canyon for a better view. The perspective was fantastic and daunting at the same time. I could see clearly exactly where I was in relation to where I wanted to be and where I needed to go, but my truck was so very far away. I slowly made my way back down the Canyon wall and back to where I had started. I retraced my steps and plenty more by the time my adventure was over. The analogy held true to the end, as I thought about the restorative nature of God and how He’s always willing to guide us back home if we will only turn to Him. 7,8,9
A view from the Canyon rim looking down on Tub Springs Draw and the location of the old Comanche campsite (left of Tub Springs Draw in the photo).
1 “But he (Jesus) would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” – Luke 5:16
2 “In these days he (Jesus) went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles.” - Luke 6:12-13
3 “And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.” - Matthew 14:23
4 “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” - John 15:5
5 “Be appalled, O heavens, at this: be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” - Jeremiah 2:12-13
6 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-2
7 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9
8 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” - 2 Corinthians 5:17
9 “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 8:1