Last week I made my annual pilgrimage—our seventh in a row—to Lake Powell in southern Utah. The lake is really the Colorado River with a dam at the Utah/Arizona border. Further south it becomes the Grand Canyon. So imagine a lake encompassed by Grand Canyon-like walls and 96 smaller canyons porcupining the edges.
If you spend much time with Kelley and me, you’ve probably grown tired of our constant references to our favorite vacation spot…unless you’ve been there. The views are breathtaking and the water is perfect for outdoor water sports, especially water skiing.
Hence our disappointment with the fierce mid-morning downpour. After securing our air mattresses on top of the houseboat and collecting our towels that were drying on the deck, we shoehorned all 10 people into an area no bigger than an average-sized bedroom. And we waited for the storm to clear.
Bored and disappointed, I poked my head out of the front of the boat, which was facing the canyon wall and looked to the side, awestruck by the immense volumes of water that were coming down. Then suddenly, I heard this shush-ing behind me. “Look!” someone cried out.
Immediately to my left, a huge waterfall began forming. A good friend had told me this happens during heavy rainstorms on the canyon, but I had forgotten. About 250 yards away, sheets of water were blanketing the monolithic stone wall. After a few moments, the cascade focused into a 20 foot wide, constantly shifting stream that began 300 feet above.
I could hardly believe my eyes.
Suddenly, my friend Charles jumped off the boat and began climbing over the rocky surface toward the falls. Why didn’t I think of that? I asked myself. Then I threw on my shoes and followed him. To my amazement, Charles’ 10 year old son was halfway between us, trekking toward the adventure. He wasn’t wearing any shoes, but he didn’t let that tidbit of trivia deter him.
Finally, after a 10 minute climb, I found myself beneath the streaming water. Overwhelmed by the exhilarating, once-in-a-lifetime experience, I began yelling at the top of my lungs.
Here’s what I learned from the experience:
We can watch the adventure or we can join it. All too often, I settle for watching the adventure take place. If Charles hadn’t led the way, I would have watched the unbelievable experience rather than joined it.
Disappointments can BE the adventure. Initially, I was pretty disheartened by the morning rainstorm—it was upsetting my plans. But in the end, the storm presented me with a experience that I’ll never forget. Disappointments can be like that. I don’t want to overspiritualize it, but when Scripture tells us that “in all things God works for the good” (Romans 8:28), I think he meant it.
I doubt he sent a rainstorm solely so we could enjoy the waterfall, but on a greater level, our disappointments, our storms, our pain, can work toward a greater good. For our good. If we’re committed to his purposes and we keep our eyes open to the adventure.
Michael serves as co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.