It was about 11 o’clock at night and I had just landed at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. I was on the second leg of a three stop journey – Atlanta, Phoenix, San Diego. Being my first time visiting Arizona, and not knowing when or if I would return, I somehow thought it would be a great idea to start my Arizona visit off with a drive straight to the Grand Canyon to see the sunrise. Four hours away from the Grand Canyon, I started my midnight journey in a completely unknown place, down a totally foreign highway, to a highly anticipated breathtaking view. This might be a great place to mention that I was ALONE. Looking back, it probably wasn’t the wisest decision to go exploring a canyon, the desert, and a popular West Coast city alone, but there was something freeing and freakishly appealing about going on a solo journey to discover, pray, and relax with only God to protect me. It strangely felt like it was just him and I, and kind of liked it that way.
Traveling down the pitch-black highway, bopping to cool tunes, I noticed fewer and fewer cars around me. My ears popped as I drove through various elevations, my mind wondering how high I had traveled. In the calm of the night, I started to see more trucks and trailers and started questioning what the heck I was thinking driving along these dark roads alone. Ignoring the fear, I observed how BIG and close the stars felt. It was so beautiful and vivid that I had to look away for fear that I was looking into the eyes of God. Big city living comes with many perks, but missing out on pure beauty like these bright natural lights is definitely a downside.
Three hours later, I finally exited the highway onto the final stretch. “Grand Canyon here I come.” But, as the roads quickly turned into a black, you-can-only-see-as-far-as-your-car-lights-shine, heavily signed “watch out” for the deer, mouse, and dinosaurs, single lane road, FEAR became a passenger. Once I saw the first set of highlighter-green-eyed deer staring at me like gangsters wondering what I was doing driving through their streets, I was officially panicked and scared and realized that I could not see ANYTHING to the left or right of the road. Wondering, then believing, that I was driving right on the edge of the canyon itself, I figured that I better drive cautiously enough to not go over the edge and die, yet fast enough to not become the animals’ mid-night snack. After all, I would make quite the tasty piece of meat. Maintaining my composure, uttering a silent pray, and focusing on the beauty that I was fast approaching, I started picturing my adventure more like a surprise. I mean I was in the dark simply waiting for the sun to show me something great. Refocused on the excitement of what the morning would bring, my fears somehow subsided.
Finally, I arrived. The sun rose 30 minutes later. I hiked into the canyon and was back up by noon, grabbed lunch, basked in the awe of the miles-wide masterpiece, and began my journey back to Phoenix for the real portion of the second vacation stop. Realizing that eventually the road became one lane again, I started to look to the left and right to see what lurked in the darkness on my drive up. Ready? Wide-opened fields and desert for as far as the eyes could see with beautiful mountains painted in the distance. No massive animals in sight. What a gorgeous unveiling. My “edge of the cliff” theory could not have been further from reality.
For hours, I was consumed, almost overtaken by the thought of what lurked in the darkness. If I had been back home, I would have probably convinced myself that I needed to turn around, get the heck away from these weird animals along the roadside, and wait until the morning to make the journey. While I don’t encourage you to take this trip alone (although it was awesome and peaceful), and I am not saying I would do it again, I learned a valuable and necessary lesson: Sometimes the most beautiful things are on the other side of fear and just a moment outside the darkness. The key is to feel the fear and keep moving. On that terrifying portion of the drive, I also saw stars brighter than I’d ever seen in my life. Maybe sometimes it takes darkness to reveal what’s beautiful.
Basically, don’t quit in darkness because there just might be something beautiful waiting for you once it’s daylight.