The Central California Valley stretches from Redding, in Northern California, all the way down to Bakersfield, not far from L.A. The northern section is known as Sacramento Valley, and its southern section is called the San Joaquin Valley. The meeting of these two sections is at a delta where the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers meet.
I live in the San Joaquin Valley. Geologically, a valley can sometimes be referred to as a depression. Sometimes, it feels as if I live in the San Joaquin Depression. I don't know exactly what it is, but it seems the valley I live in is a place where people feel trapped. All that pollution gets trapped in the valley with no place to go, and prevents you from seeing the foothills, the mountains, that are just a few miles away .
The airport I usually fly out of is in San Francisco. You drive through the Altamont pass to get to and from there, through the foothills. Sometimes, when I've been away for a while and feel refreshed and ready to come back to Modesto, I drive over those hills and start to feel the oppression and overwhelming sadness of the valley. For some reason, this valley seems to be a place where hope dies, and people lose vision for a real, full life. I hear story after story of people who came here hoping for work and a new life, who now only want to get out because work is scarce and life is hard.
Last Sunday morning, I took Chris to the airport. I was driving through the familiar Altamont pass, noticing the earliest signs of green coming to life on the brown hills. I rounded a bend and saw the wide open valley lying before me, and I suddenly realized something. Valleys supposed to be a place of life. The valley looked beautiful. It was green and full of life. It looked like a place of safety, sanctuary and refuge. It looked like a place where hope could gather.
The San Joaquin Valley is still very rich in agriculture. For all the orchards that have been stripped away for track housing, many more remain. There are rich farmlands here, some of the best in all of the United States. Clearly, this valley was never meant to be a place of stagnation and hopelessness.
God made this valley. What God makes is good. He said so. He surrounded it with mountains to remind us of his greatness, and he gave it these rivers to remind us of new life. The Central Valley is not the Valley of the Shadow of Death, nor the Vale of Tears. It's a place of life, if we remember the life in it. It can be a place of hope and renewal. By our own choice, we can co-operate with God in making it so.
I live in the valley, and I choose life.