Standing on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, I tried to imagine the forces of nature that carved this gaping marvel. I could barely make out the emerald green of the Colorado River snaking through the bottom of the canyon 6,000 feet below. How had that tiny green thread created this 277-mile-long wonder? It was hard to grasp the magnitude of it all.
The Grand Canyon wasn’t formed overnight. The process took many thousands of years. Rising and falling waters eroding layers of rock year after year. Some of the changes were relatively abrupt as large segments of softer rock gave way to raging flood waters; but changes to harder rock were more gradual, barely perceivable from season to season.
The process reminds me of the way we experience change in our own lives. In some seasons, change happens so rapidly we beg for things to slow down. Abrupt change can be jarring, making us feel as though we’ve lost our footing. Help me, Lord. I can’t hold on any longer.
Other times, the change is so slow we wonder if anything is happening at all. Lord, I’ve been asking you for years. When will something happen? But just as it takes ages for a river to carve a canyon, we don’t always perceive the beginnings of change in our lives or the lives of our loved ones. This slower process can fuel doubt and frustration.
But both types of change are necessary. God knows the condition of our hearts. He knows where we have grown hard, just as He knows the areas in our lives where we are soft and malleable. His Holy Spirit is the river that carves through our very hearts creating a unique masterpiece.
I look back over the years and recognize the times when He gently smoothed away the rough surfaces with a cool, steady stream and also the times when the flood waters roared, upending everything in their path. Do you know the feeling?
Becoming a mother was one of those upending moments for me. I had decided to leave my job on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC to be a stay-at-home mom. I liked my job, and I loved the people in my office; but I’d had a difficult time imagining how I would balance the demands of a political career with being a mom. I know many women who do it well, but I didn’t think that lifestyle would suit our family. Financially, we could make it work; so, after prayerful consideration, my husband and I agreed it was the best choice for us.
I read all the popular parenting books and sought advice from near and far, but nothing could have prepared me for those first months of motherhood. In many ways, my experience was not unlike multitudes of other women — a difficult delivery, my newborn needing to spend a few extra days in the hospital, postpartum depression, sleepless nights, showerless days, exploding diapers…
I had based so much of my identity on my career that when it was gone, I believed I had nothing left. In a city where it often seems that who you work for is everything, I sometimes even felt ignored at church. I had become used to the attention I was given for my high-level connections. Now, upon sharing that I had become a stay-at-home mom — crickets. Nobody cared. Or at least that’s how it felt. I believed I had suddenly become the most boring human alive.
On reflection, I can see how God used the overwhelming change that came with motherhood to upend unhealthy beliefs and wear down a false identity. Day by day He was showing me I was more than a title or fancy office. But I can’t sugar-coat this process. It was painful. There were countless days when I could only cry out to God as the ground below me shifted and the walls of the canyon gave way around me. Those days of struggle took me deeper, sometimes kicking and screaming, but the Lord was patient with me. It took time for me to realize I was just as valuable to God at home changing diapers as I was in a press conference under the dome of the U.S. Capitol. I began to see a fruitful future, it just looked different than I imagined.
The canyon reminds me of distinctive qualities that have been revealed in my life as the flood waters rose and the winds roared. God used this time to carve out a solid foundation, one where my identity would be firm in Him. He cleared out the rubble from a crumbling identity that wasn’t grounded in Him. He smoothed my rough edges and brought new qualities to the surface. I now see glorious colors and rich textures that have been unearthed through relentless pressure and uncomfortable friction. And I know God’s loving hand was in it all.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7 NIV)
Shay Mason is a Chicago-area native living in North Carolina. An autoimmune disease and OCD/anxiety overcomer, she is a firm believer in God’s healing love. Her particular passion is helping people go deeper into God’s heart. In addition to writing, Shay loves travel, music, coffee, quirky indie films, and hiking. Shay and her husband Bruce are the founders of Love Inside Out, Inc. in Raleigh and have spent extensive time ministering in Madagascar. They have two college-aged kids and a spoiled Goldendoodle. Shay is a contributor at She Found Joy and a member of Hope*Writers. Her blog The Spacious Place can be found at https://www.shaysmason.com.