Recently I set off on a grand adventure. The plan: camping and exploring Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park with my sister, Anna, and my brother in law, John David, followed by the bold brave step of attending a writing conference in Salt Lake City, topping it all off with Arches National Park and backpacking in the Rockies with two of my most adventurous and dear friends. The problem, I had to fly to Las Vegas. Because I am frugal I got the earliest flight, 6:45 a.m.; Anna and John David’s flight would not get in until 9:30 p.m.
Having never been to Vegas, I wasn’t mad about exploring something new, but I also was not necessarily looking forward to killing 14 hours. I attempted to research, but spent the majority of my time planning and dreaming of mountains and twisting trails. You see, I love the energy of a hustling city. All of New York City captured my full attention this spring, all of it except Times Square. Upon arriving in Vegas, I was greeted by friendly people and vowed to suspend judgement. Then I got to my first random stop on The Strip. It instantly felt like a spread out Times Square, but with luggage. My friend Christa said she could not imagine a city I would be less compatible with; I now agree.
Determined to find something good, I kept going. There is beauty here. There are many over the top incredible buildings filled with grandiose displays. Displays you don’t touch. Displays you don’t interact with. They are raised and roped off. You can only use your eyes, not your hands. Stuffy, stale smoke lingers around every winding catacomb-like twist. I easily get lost, but this is a whole new level. I think I went through 4 hotels without ever seeing the actual sun. I did, however, somehow see Italy, Paris, NYC, gondolas, coliseums and the statue of David. The Strip has confused and baffled my nature-loving heart.
As I wound through another hallway lined with seemingly the same luxury stores, I began to see this place as as something entirely different. The glass shattered and I suddenly realized almost everything here is a facade, a replica. All of the ornate gold accents and oversized ancient Roman statues, the retro lights and costumed characters, none of them are originals. They all allude to a time that is past while attempting to remember only the beauty. It appears someone edited all of these things with an Instagram filter, removing their imperfections. I found no exact copies or the dirty ugly parts of the rendered cities on The Strip. I only saw the caricature filtered imitations. I am still in awe of the scale at which this city functions, but mostly I’m now uncomfortable.
Realizing everything was trying to be something else made me pause and take stock of myself. What am I replicating and filtering? Am I replicating anything but Jesus? Do I take time to intricately craft a facade that only shows the pretty parts of me to others? Am I the Vegas version of Venice or the real Venice? Do I show people only the nice clean manicured canals of the replica? Or am I letting God use the mess of my life, my imperfections, for His glory?
I know the answer. You know the answer for your heart as well. My prayer after 14 hours on The Strip, God take away any facades I built up. Knock down any replicas I knowingly or unknowingly built in my life. Father I ask you to rebuild something in and through me, something that only reflects You. No fakes. No imitations. No perfectly crafted and manicured canals. I long for You, and You alone, to create and foster in me the original beauty You created and planned for my life.
****Disclaimer, there is nothing wrong with liking Las Vegas. There are many interesting and fascinating things to enjoy there. In my short time there, this was what I gleaned from my experience. We all have our own unique perspectives. We all shift and change over time. At this point for me, this was my Vegas experience.