This Summer our family took a National Parks road trip. Seeing the variety of nature God has created was incredible! I thought I couldn’t be more impressed than I’ve been with Rocky Mountain National Park. Then we drove just North of Jackson Hole, Wyoming and I fell in love with Grand Teton National Park. It amazes me how much variety there is in our country.
On a previous road trip my family drove through the eerily desolate desert of Roswell, New Mexico and visited the National UFO Museum. One member of our family even commented that this must be the part of the country where people are relocated when put into the witness protection program. And yet, even the bizarre landscape of southern New Mexico didn’t feel as strange or otherworldly as Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone is so weird!
One of the sights that caught our attention the most was a location they call the mudpots. The surface of the earth around the mudpots is so fragile that they have boardwalks throughout the area for visitors to walk on. As soon as you approach the mudpots you are overwhelmed with a horrific stench! Looking down at this fascinating wonder we saw a milky murky thick liquid bubbling and steaming out of the earth. The liquid that runs off of and away from the pots may be as clear as delicious cooling water, but it actually has the same acidity as that in our stomachs! For much of the area you can’t get closer than an observation point on the hill, but that was something we were thankful for once we got a whiff of the Sulphur Cauldron!
On the opposite side of the park we were blessed to stay at the Old Faithful Lodge. This was exceptionally thrilling because we were able to witness the geysers erupting several times over the span of our time there. Old Faithful is a particularly interesting geyser because of the buildup prior to eruption. With a low rumbling sound, it begins splashing and small bursts of boiling water lazily spurt out of the ground every few minutes until it finally shoots into the sky, climbing and sizzling higher and higher while the steam from it drifts even higher into the atmosphere. The water, as it comes back down to the hard surface, pitter patters like a downpour rainstorm.
I had never experienced anything like these natural phenomena. To see such pressure erupting from the surface in steam, boiling water, muddy bubbles, odorous gasses and colorful minerals was truly a wonder. I may not have seen these things in nature to this point, but it turns out that, in fact, I have seen such eruptions in human behavior. As we have been going through our current sermon series, Bubbling Up, my mind keeps returning to our experiences at Yellowstone. Whether it has been sadness, anxiety or anger, there are times when things bubble up to the surface and when left undealt with they can be accompanied by an overwhelming stench!
Like the mudpots, sadness can be a sludgy, murky state of being. We become so fragile on the surface. Even when we are trying to keep it all together and go on as if everything is A-OK, there are signs of muddy sadness gurgling and bubbling up. A mentor once cautioned, “Your paint is chipping.” This was to say that though we put on our masks or paint on our faces, our cracks will still show until we are able to confront our sadness and be honest with someone who can listen and show compassion. We don’t have to trudge through our sorrows alone. Aside from the lunch hour, Shawnee St. Paul’s sanctuary is open Monday through Thursday from 9:00am to 4:00pm for you to come and pray in solitude. Making an appointment to talk with the pastor is another great way of addressing those feelings.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
Anxiety can feel an awful lot like the acidic run off that steams and sizzles as it moves along it’s course. Though our insides can feel like a tense mess of chaos, we are still expected to carry on with our regular routines. Like the clear liquid running from the unsettled earth, the danger then is that as people approach us, unaware of the acidity we are suppressing, we may unintentionally splash, steam and burn them just for getting too close. Praying for God’s holy peace and focusing on God’s blessings and provisions can be helpful when getting caught in the anxiety stream. What other practices, spiritual or other, help you cool down the acidic tension that can bubble up within you?
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7
“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” Proverbs 12:25
Sometimes, things don’t go as I’d planned. I’ve put effort into something that just doesn’t work. I’ve invested time, energy and love into a relationship that didn’t quite return the favor. Sometimes, I get frustrated. Inside me a grumbling begins. Someone treats me unfairly, traffic is at a gridlock and the world is full of injustice. Sometimes, I get irritated. I begin splashing around and spurting up a bit. Things break down, people hurt others intentionally, something steals my joy and then suddenly, like Old Faithful, I erupt! Anger rises high into the sky climbing to a point where my rage spatters onto everything around. How do we allow this bubbling up become such a boil? If self-control is a fruit of the spirit, what could this behavior classify as? We need to cry out to God, even in the middle of our anger, so that we don’t hurt ourselves or others. Sometimes, God will reveal things to us that help us understand the situation better and tends to our rage. When we carefully consider all sides of a matter, we are less likely to feel unjustified anger.
“The insight of a person certainly slows down their anger.”
“Let go of anger and abandon rage. Do not become upset and turn to doing evil.” Psalm 37:8
With mudpots and geyser basins along with the boiling water and mineral deposits rolling down the rugged travertine terrace steps at Mammoth Hot Springs, I found Yellowstone to be incredibly bizarre. There are also, however, sights that are absolutely stunning!
The three-hundred-foot waterfall that cascades into The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and its steep colorful cliffs can best be viewed from the aptly named Inspiration Point. Lamar Valley, in the North Eastern corner of the park, is a beautiful sprawling landscape that has also been known as the Serengeti of North America. Here we saw countless Bison, some Elk and even a baby Bear! Finally, one of the most breathtaking places in Yellowstone is the Grand Prismatic Spring. Bigger than a football field and as deep as a ten-story building, Grand Prismatic’s center is a deep blue, then you have green and yellow tints, followed by lots of bold orange on the outskirts. The multi-color layers are beyond what I’ve seen anywhere else.
God made us as very complex beings. We bubble and boil, sludge, steam and erupt. We experience a wide range of emotions that can sometimes be acidic, volatile, muddy or downright bizarre. But God does not leave us to experience these emotions alone. Surrounding the depths of those feelings are layers and layers of bright beautiful colors. When we take a step back and take a look at our lives from Inspiration Point, we can see all of the beautiful things God is doing. It is when we identify our blessings and feel sincere gratitude that we are able to experience true joy.
In the middle of God’s creation of mountains, forests, rivers, springs and wildlife, what brought me the most joy was the hours and hours of time I got to spend in the car with my family. Such a blessing it is to share memories like that with people I love so much. I’m so grateful.