2014 has been a year of pondering. C.S. Lewis described my ponderings in a nutshell when he pointed out in Mere Christianity that “…the living, dynamic activity of love has been going on in God forever and has created everything else.” I’ve been thinking a lot about those words, my evolving faith and my life choices this year. It doesn’t escape me that I am remarkably blessed to live a life that affords me time for such contemplation. It wasn’t always so. Having been graced with the time to ponder, I feel compelled to share my ponderings. Bear with me!
In April, John and I were traveling overnight from Salzburg, Austria to Bucharest, Romania on a passenger train. I had never experienced a sleeper car on a train before and had visions of The Orient Express. Trust me, our first-class compartment wasn’t 19th century luxury – it was sterile, Soviet utilitarianism circa 1982.
John climbed into the top bunk and promptly fell asleep for a late afternoon nap. I was tired, but not sleepy so I just sat on my bottom bunk listening to John breathe as the train click-clacked over the rails. Eastern Europe passed by the window as the afternoon began sliding into early evening.
I sat very still, relaxed, not really thinking about anything. I definitely wasn’t thinking spiritual thoughts. My mind was quiet as I admired the beauty of the light out the window. It was that warm, red-gold light that you so often see as the sun begins its dive into the horizon. I became aware that the light wasn’t just outside the train car. A mellow, golden light permeated the cabin and I smiled at the incredible beauty of the Creation. My smile deepened in delightful surprise when I realized that I wasn’t just looking at the Creation, I was in the Creation and I wasn’t alone. I felt a presence, but it wasn’t just in the light, it was the light…and the air…and everything around me. I was distinctly aware – as I am rarely aware – of the Perpetually Present, Essence of All Things, the Ultimate Source, the Divine Love, the Being greater than my own intellect.
The Bible passage – Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10) – came to me and I sat as still as possible while this amazing sense of well-being, of peace, of warm, comforting love slowly flowed in and around and through me, a living thing that was everywhere, yet nowhere. I wanted to stay in that moment forever – bathed in the golden light, awash in the tangible sense of awareness, of feeling, of embracing the Divine. But, of course, I didn’t.
John snorted awake and the intimacy of my God Moment subsided, but the afterglow of that pervasive feeling of love and peace stayed with me for days. I shared it with Shannon shortly afterwards to offer her encouragement during, what has been, one of the hardest years of her young life. I often return to that train car in my own mind to feed my soul, eating off the residuals that remain. Doing so reminds me that while the Truth is not always evident, it exists and is revealed to us when we least expect it.
It’s fascinating how our minds connect seemingly unrelated dots to expose the most extraordinary connections. In contemplating my God Moment, my mind also took me back to the lovely city of Angers in France’s Loire region.
Angers is home to a cathedral and a mighty fortress constructed by Blanche of Castile in the 13th century to protect her son, Louis (as in the king and saint), until he could come of age and assume the throne. John and I visited Blanche’s chateau on a rainy day in the spring of 2013. The chateau consists of 17 towers, about 90-feet high, surrounded by a moat that was 20-feet deep in Blanche’s day.
The structure is, to say the least, quite impressive. There are also some lovely gardens at the chateau complete with a tiny vineyard, but the pièce-de-résistance is the Apocalypse tapestry.
Commissioned in the 14th century, the Apocalypse tapestry is the oldest in the world. It took seven years to make the 300-foot-long and almost 14-foot-high work of art detailing the Apostle John’s prophetic vision. A masterpiece from the get-go, it was handled with great care until the end of the 18th century when it was damaged, abandoned, and split up. In the mid-19th century, it was reassembled and restored. In 1954, it returned to the chateau for public exhibition.
Today, the tapestry is housed in a darkened room highlighted only by dim lights to protect its ancient weave. When you enter the room to gaze upon its wonder, you can stand at one end of the room and look down the length of its dimly-lit expanse. It seems to curve into infinity. The threads, each and every one of a countless number, retain their vibrant color, muted to the holy glow of a halo in the reverent ambience of the room. As I gaze upon its glory in my memory, I see that the universe, likewise, is an infinite tapestry in which each of us composes a single, minute thread. Alone, each thread is insignificant, but together, each is an integral, colorful part of an amazing, endless weave sewn in the unity of Love.
A line from a song in my favorite stage production, Les Miserables, says: “To love another person is to see the face of God.” I not only see the Divine when I choose to love others, I become an essential thread in a timeless story of Love without end. My struggles cease, my angst falls away, and my deepest hurt is healed when I bask in the knowledge of my role in the love story and its foregone conclusion. Love triumphs.
In a world torn by hate and strife, it seems absurdly naïve to put so much credence in the Divine Love that I sense running through all things. Yet, I do. It bubbles up from deep within me, a well spring of hope and assurance that gives meaning to my existence and sends my soul soaring with the knowledge that Love prevails. An amazing thing happens when I stop judging and start loving: Joy enters my existence. Peace fills me. The “abundant life” becomes mine to live.
Love to you this Holiday Season and always.