High above the city, just east of Highway 39, south of the East Fork Bridge and across from the East Fork River, lays a small canyon hidden by trees and large boulders, camouflaged by the river that runs in front of it. From the road one would not even notice a canyon there; some people might not even care, thinking that nothing is worth getting dirty, sandy and all wet for. But to me that canyon was paradise. It became my secret place, my refuge, and my chapel in the woods. It is where I went to think, to pray, to explore or just soak up the scenery.
I discovered it more than thirty years ago while living in Azusa Canyon. I lived right across the road from it for months, not knowing it existed; thinking that I had explored every mountain top and every canyon in the vicinity.
Stepping into the canyon for the first time was like entering into a different world—everything was so peaceful, so soothing and so inviting; funny, I hadn’t noticed it before. The canyon walls were draped with rich green ferns that fell symmetrically in line with the others—some light and some dark. The sound of the soft crackling creek that slowly ran through it drowned out the sound of passing cars in the distance. In it, small pools of water gently gathered leaves and small twigs that fell into it.
Above the creek were towering Oak and Sycamore Trees that lined the canyon floor with dried fallen leaves—countless shades of brown and green, yellow and orange. Warm sharp rays of sunlight hit only parts of the canyon floor as bits of sunlight illuminated the fallen Oak leaves resting on the creek’s surface. Their reflection bounced off the top of the creek and onto the canyon walls. The sight of it all left me breathless. And as an overwhelming peace filled the atmosphere, the thought of capturing such a scene left me in awe as I slowly took in its beauty.
I gave my life to the Lord that day, for the beauty that surrounded me left me no choice but to acknowledge that His hand had created it—as I dropped to my knees and bowed my head in silent worship, that overwhelming peace that was all around me now flooded my heart and changed me forever.
That whole scene remains as vivid in my mind today as if I had discovered it yesterday, and my decision to follow Him has left me no regrets. I am as in awe of Him today as I was the day I discovered Him behind the trees. And even though that canyon has dried up and withered into nothing, the smell of the rich moist soil that laced the canyon floor remains etched in my mind—even today.
I can still see the leaves glowing in the sun and the soft rays of sunlight that peered through the trees. I still hear the gentle movement of the creek overpowered by the sound of the soft waterfall in the distance. I can still remember the spongy patch of grass that I knelt down on that day. But most of all, I remember the beautiful silence and how His Presence encompassed me as everything moved, yet seemed so still—I was sure that I was standing on holy ground.
The butterflies that danced across the water made me wish that I had wings. The leaves on the trees swayed playfully in the wind and seemed to enjoy it. Even the tiny lizard that sat on a rock bobbing its head up and down became part of the scenery. I’ll never forget the soft rays of sunlight that touched my shoulders like the warm arm of a friend, and the spray of the waterfall that soothed my face like a cool drink of water.
I look back on that day that curiosity provoked me to cross the river and explore the other side not knowing that I would stumble upon a hidden treasure in the woods and be blessed enough to capture it in its prime; but also to have discovered that God was there—waiting for His opportunity to introduce Himself to me. That moment is impossible for me to ever forget—simply impossible!
And when the storms of life get violent, and I feel alone or afraid, I close my eyes and remember the day that I found Love in a canyon, and am flattered to know that Love was searching for me—and in knowing in advance that I was coming—adorned that canyon in its finest array. My only wish is that I had, had a camera that day, I could probably have retired on the pictures that I took.