It’s been a busy trip, but extremely refreshing and enjoyable. (Way too much to keep up with on social media!) My wife and I began our trip in St. Louis at 5 A.M. Wednesday morning. We made a quick stop in Denver, and were quickly on our way to Salt Lake City.
Once we made Salt Lake, we coordinated with team members and made our way to the condo. I, of course, was plotting my next hiking trip as we drove past the towering mountains and canyons of the Wasatch Mountain front along the way.
I was then blessed with the opportunity to attend the company Gala where my wife was recognized for the success of her business in the last year.
Sometimes travel can cause a separation from reality. That separation can also reveal a need for affirmation. This trip was successful in making reality as clear as ever and affirming the purpose and need of the gospel.
The next day, I was able to sneak away from my private chauffeur responsibilities for a coveted “free day” while the ladies were at their conference. I made my way to Scheel’s sporting goods and asked one of the department managers where I should go hike for the day. I ended up at Little Cottonwood Canyon. Hiked about a mile in, took some photos, and was reminded of how unfit I was!
After my hike, I headed back into Salt Lake to pick up my wife and her business team. I had never really explored SLC, so I drove for a while and found myself in what looked like the lowest income part of town. As I kept driving I saw an enormous mural of Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism. It was painted on the entire side of a building facing these low-income homes. I was impressed by the artistry, but I was quickly snapped into reality when I observed a young man, probably in his late twenties, pointing and screaming at the artwork.
I listened closer. His screams were chilling. As he pointed, wept, and spewed infuriated venom at the mural, I couldn’t help but hear his words. “I hope they all burn in hell!” he said, “That’s what they all deserve!” Something came over me. This man needed someone or something to interject in his life before his anger and depression overcame him.
I pulled the car over and stepped out. I was concerned. The man was getting dangerously close to a bridge I was preparing to cross in my vehicle. I called to him and asked if he was okay. Clearly he was not, but I wanted to interrupt his current thought process. He came over to me with rage and pain on his face. I could see that he was struggling with some mental instability as well, so I took his words with strict objectivity. He continued to voice unspeakable things to me that had been done to him.
No matter how true or untrue his accusations were, I proceeded to listen and allow him to unload his frustration. When he finished, I was able to share with him that there was someone who truly cared about his pain and who understood it. He refused to believe me, but he allowed me to pray with him. He walked the opposite way of the bridge and back down the street he came from. I watched him walk away until I couldn’t see him anymore.
The next morning, that man was on my mind as I boarded a flight to Dallas for a visit I was very excited about. I was on my way to spend time with two great friends I have met through sportsman’s ministry and meet new ones. I had also been invited to attend the North Texas fundraising gala for Blast & Cast Men’s Ministries, so we were able to have fellowship in a great atmosphere.
When I got back to my hotel room that night, I laid awake with my mind full. It’s hard to wrap my thoughts around the concept that there can be so much beauty, like in the mountains or seeing ministries like Blast & Cast grow, and then witness the near catastrophic destruction of the human mind and emotions. It’s a spectrum that can cause a person to flee too much to one end or the other. Why would someone want to be immersed in the pain of humanity’s sin? Especially when they know the beauty that exists elsewhere. My mind calmed when I was reminded that this is exactly what Jesus did. He did it because he so deeply valued the glory of his father and his design for salvation of his people, that he stepped out of the beauty of heaven and came to earth to attend to the fury and brokenness of my sin.
How much will God teach you on a three city, four day trip around the nation? If you’ll listen you will be surprised. The allure of the mountains is escape. Even as I stood alone on a trail where a mountain lion had recently been seen, I felt at peace. But even this relative peace can be deceiving. My belief was affirmed that no matter how beautiful a place is, while I’m on this earth, I will never be far from the presence of sin. People will be hurting. But more than this, the gospel will be the only healing salve that penetrates the hardness of a broken person. It’s the most important thing we can take with us.