I’m not given to visions or supernatural experiences. I can count on one hand the number of divine encounters that I’ve had during my life.
By “divine encounters,” I don’t mean the miracles that we experience every day. Yes, I do believe that miracles happen all the time; in fact, they are so commonplace and so “ordinary” that we may very well miss them. Our good God creates them over and over for us. They are all around us, if we only have eyes to see.
Sunsets come to mind. A cardinal landing on a branch just as I'm needing a little grace for the day. A "chance" encounter with someone. Healing after a surgery. A "prompting" to give someone a call.
No, I'm talking "Moses and the burning bush" - type experiences. The kind where we see a lifting of the veil, a glimpse into a world beyond. A very real connection, a tailor-made, just-for-us touch from the Lord. When our heart stops and we know that we are on holy ground.
I experienced such a moment years ago in, of all places, a Kroger parking lot. God is present with us not just in a beautiful sunset across a tropical ocean, or in the awesome grandeur of a mountain range, but in a slushy, muddy parking lot of a grocery store on a cold and gray Michigan winter afternoon.
I was a young mom and had run out to the grocery store one Saturday afternoon while my husband watched the children. I had finished my shopping and I was trying to push a fully-laden grocery cart over the parking lot and across ruts of melted snow and ice to get to my van. The wheels were jamming and I had to keep adjusting the cart and steering it around puddles of icy water. My boots were leaking and the bottom of my jeans were wet. I got to the back of my van and lifted the rear door, grimy and dirty with the slush that always sprays up from the roads in such weather.
I started lifting the bags of groceries into the back of the van. Pausing as I reached for another one, I glanced up. Strings of electrical and phone wires hung limply between the telephone poles edging the side of the road. Cars drove past, overhung by the kinds of massive, heavy, gloomy clouds that can hold sway in a Michigan winter sky for weeks.
And then a strange thing happened. It was as if, as I looked through the wires and up at the sky, a kind of film was lifted up and away off of everything and I got a glimpse of something different, something that existed behind my view.
Not a thing had changed. The telephone wires were still there, the gray clouds, the slush-spattered cars, the banks of gray snow at the edge of the parking lot. But everything took on a new look. As if everything had been washed clean, as if somehow it had all been redeemed. Even the noises I heard, the traffic, people’s voices, were clear and bell-like, clean-sounding and fresh.
Everything was the same and yet everything had been transformed. The whole world had taken on a different aspect.
Is this what the world is really like? Or meant to be? Or what it will be some day? Was it a glimpse of heaven?
I pondered this event for a long time before I realized what it was that I saw behind the curtain that had been lifted for my benefit. For me, a young woman, tired and a little worn from the cares of the day, who was given this gift. What I saw that day was what is beyond and behind everything. And that thing is Love.
These are the bits of precious gold that I cling to.
It makes me think of the cabby in C.S. Lewis’s book, The Magician’s Nephew. At the end of the book, he gets a glimpse of heaven.
“Glory be!” said the Cabby. “I’d ha’ been a better man all my life if I’d known there were things like this.”
I hang on to this memory, this snapshot of what the world is really like, of what it will be like someday when everything broken will be restored. The Bible tells us to think on things that are true and lovely and of good report. The world here is a beautiful place with many awesome and wonderful things. But the truest things, the best things, the things that endure and last, are not what we can see.
But a lifting of the veil, and all is revealed.
A very Happy Thanksgiving to my U.S readers.