Goblins and Jesus

My kids explore Goblin Valley, Utah

After over an hour’s drive from the already remote campsite where we were staying, we arrived at Goblin Valley State Park, Utah. I had fond memories of coming here with my parents when I was a child, exploring the maze of hoodoos and climbing on the strange, goblin-shaped rock formations, but I had never taken my own kids here until now. It was just too far away from absolutely everything to make for a convenient travel destination.

We got out of the car and stood at the overlook.

My youngest frowned at the view in front of him. “Why did people make this out here?” he asked.

“People didn’t make it,” I told him. “God made it.”

Jesus made it?” His mouth dropped open in shock. “Why did Jesus do that? What is it for?”

When my kids complain about objectionable features of nature — like bees, or snakes, or rain at a ball game — I can usually explain how important such things are to our fragile ecosystem. But I was at a loss. What was Goblin Valley for? I had no idea. And I hadn’t really intended to blame Jesus for it. My words had been flippant, not theological.

My son kept talking. This place was too far away and too hot and way too weird. Jesus should have known better.

His brow furrowed. What was he to think of a god who could produce such flawed design? How could he reconcile the thousands of acres of nonsense spread out before him in the vista with the perfect Jesus he had been taught about at church?

I tried to course-correct. Not theology; geology. I tossed some science in his general direction: erosion and plate tectonics and stuff about the water pocket fold that I had heard in the informational video we watched at Capitol Reef National Park the day before.

My son looked thoughtful.

“Maybe Jesus made it here because there’s no room for this in the city,” he said.

Crisis of faith averted? Probably not, but either way, we moved onto the trail and descended into Goblin Valley.

April Young Bennett

April Young Bennett is the author of the Ask a Suffragist book series and host of the Religious Feminism Podcast. Learn more about April at aprilyoungb.com.

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5 Responses

  1. MDearest says:

    Ya did good. Sometimes when I talk to people about the Colorado Plateau (which includes the Grand Canyon in AZ and includes most of southern Utah) I call it “God’s Art Project” where They could get wild and experimental mixing geology and sculpture, color and atmospheric perspective, and much more, making it so rugged and dry that it thwarts the mercenary instincts of humans and their bulldozers, and most stay away. Except for outlier desert rats.

  2. Ziff says:

    I love this story, April!

  3. Plato's Cave says:

    What might have been a child’s response if (s)he were told this was a Pokeman spawn valley?
    Sometimes the description prejudices the reception.

  4. EmilyCC says:

    Hahaha! This is a great depiction of trying to raise children understanding the Gospel with humor and letting them figure out their own theology.

  5. Di says:

    This really resonated with me because the older I get the more I realize that I have so many questions about our world to which there are no clear answers. And I mean that in terms of the terrible inequity that exists in the world. There is so much horrible hardship and poverty all over this planet and I often think that in the western world that we live in a rather white privileged bubble and we dissect all the things that are wrong and unjust in our own experiences but they don’t come anywhere close to what is happening in the lives of the teaming masses. It has certainly caused me to question ‘God’s Plan’. Why does it have to be this way? Frankly it sucks.

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