Isn’t this picture beautiful? It’s from just below the lower falls of the Yellowstone River as it runs through the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Erosion can result in beautiful art!
A few weeks ago, my husband and I visited Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the Badlands of North Dakota. The landscape is quite unlike anything we are accustomed to! Colorful buttes, deep valleys, prairie grasses, and few trees to obstruct the view for miles. We got to see native wildlife, including bison, prairie dogs, wild horses, pronghorns, and a few mule deer.
What impressed me about the landscape there was how level the layers of sediment are in each butte. Layers include sandstone, siltstone, mudstone, bentonite clay, and lignite coal.
Atop one of the buttes, I even saw evidence of an ancient streambed!
How could a streambed be on top of a hill?
I’m sure you know the answer already. Everything was once mostly level. Over time, meandering rivers cut away the softest of the sedimentary layers. Many of those rivers and their tributaries changed course now and again, creating the hills and valleys that make up the Badlands today.
After our time at Theodore Roosevelt N. P., we moved on to Glacier National Park. During our visit there, we took a few day hikes into the wild (which of course wasn’t really wild, as there were people everywhere!). Beside streams and waterfalls, I found more examples of erosion, this time caused by the power of swift-moving mountain streams.
We also hiked up to Grinell Glacier, and got to see what it has done to the surrounding landscape as it has retreated over the years.
Visible erosion can have several causes: water, wind, and ice. The soil has no say in the matter; it is simply acted upon by outside forces. The same can be said of us. Things happen us as we go through life and make an impact on us, whether good or bad. Those things may improve us or tear us down. Either way, we are definitely not the same now as when we were much younger!
Those negative things which have worn us down could be viewed as erosive agents. They have changed the landscape of our lives. Loss, betrayal, personal attacks, and family strife just begin to scratch the surface of what could erode us from the outside.
I think one of the coolest things I learned at Theodore Roosevelt N.P. was that the layers of lignite coal may be ignited by lightning or prairie fire. Once lit, they can burn for years underground! We hiked by one that has been burning for over a year now. Another trail took us through the valley created by a fire that burned underground for 26 years! As the fire burned, two things happened. First, the fire baked the rocks in the layers above, turning them into clinker, one of the hardest rocks in the badlands. Second, as the coal burned away, the unsupported rock layers above collapsed and formed the valley that exists today.
Sometimes the changes in our lives come from within. Again, those changes may be positive or negative, but they do leave a mark! The fires of negative inner erosion may be ignited from without, but we allow the fire to burn much too long, and it begins to affect the way we interact with others as well as how we respond to the circumstances we find ourselves in.
What might that inner erosion be caused by? We can find a few examples in Scripture.
- Cain was overtaken by jealousy and murdered his brother. He was sent away from his family to survive on his own.
- Abraham took God’s promise into his own hands, and in the end lost a son in order to keep the peace at home. The void left must have been a painful one to bear.
- King Saul was wound up in others’ view of him so much so that he lost the kingdom because he chose pleasing men over obeying God.
Other agents of negative inner change might be bitterness, dissatisfaction, pride, envy, and the like. When left too long unchecked, the impact they make on our mental, emotional, and spiritual health can eventually turn us into someone else entirely!
All of us have been affected by soul erosion of one kind or another, but that doesn’t have to be the end of the story. So what are we to do?
There is Someone who knows all about it. He knew the pain we would go through before we were even born, and he knows what all of our tomorrows will bring. Not only does He know all of the pain we’ve endured, He has a plan to use it, and to change us into something new and beautiful in spite of it!
One of my favorite verses is Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (NLT) Now go back and think about the word “everything.” It doesn’t just mean everything good, it means everything both good and bad!
When I looked out over the buttes and valleys caused by rivers and coal fires, what I saw was beautiful rolling hills covered in waving grasses and flowers. When I looked around and saw the rocks carved out by mountain streams, I saw beautiful mosses and flowers growing. When I saw the incredible changes formed by a glacier moving over giant boulders, I saw beautiful designs carved by immense power.
All of our pain and suffering can also be made beautiful, if we will only give it to our Creator and Keeper. If it is pain from without, give it to him. Let him make something new with your life. Trust his plan, and let the pain go. There is so much more to life than living in the pain of the past!
If you find yourself heartsick from allowing inner erosion to smolder, take it to your Father. He knows your heart better than even you do! We were made to seek Him first, and when we get our sights off target, we find ourselves in muddy quicksand. Ask him to forgive you for not trusting him, and for holding on to misguided desires.
Make seeking God daily a priority. Read your Bible, and ask him to make his word alive in your heart. Ask him to help you on your journey to wholeness, and before long you’ll find your heart landscape sprouting new life!
And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.” (Ezekiel 36:26, NLT)