Where This Meets That
A few years ago, I had the honor of sponsoring a young man for Confirmation into the Catholic Church. He was a quiet high school student whom I only knew because I’d taught his younger cousin’s Sunday school class a couple years prior.
We made plans to meet after Mass one Sunday to get to know one another a little better and kick off his journey toward Confirmation.
It was a beautiful, blue-skied fall day when we got together, and after a casual lunch, I took him to my work campus for some more focused discussion. My office was situated on a scenic 20-acre plot of land that included a lovely little lake and surrounding walking trail that crossed a narrow finger of the lake by wooden bridge. The bridge provided a good spot for employees and their families to feed fish and ducks or to just enjoy a little solitude if desired. I thought it would provide a nice setting for us to “break the ice” and discuss our faith a little to kick off our journey toward his Confirmation.
After arriving there, I basically just asked, “So, what are your thoughts about God?” He’d always been fairly quiet during our interactions before, so I was delighted when he easily opened up to discuss his faith. Even at his young age, he was quite in tune with his spiritual self, and we quickly found a common ground in some of the ways we perceived God working in everyday life.
He compared God’s influence to the sky. I hadn’t noticed before, but the sky, so clear blue when we left the church together, had become blanketed with grey clouds. My young friend motioned to it and said something along the lines of “You’re you, and I’m me, and we control ourselves, but during the time we’ve met, the sky has completely changed . . . and that’s God.”
Deep, I thought. Good stuff.
I told him that it reminded me of thoughts I’d had while enjoying sunrises with my wife in the misty mountains of Appalachia and the paradisiacal waters of the Caribbean; there’s just no better way to watch a master work than to see God broad-stroke an awakening sky. I was impressed that this kid was alert to it, and I let him know it.
I told him that I see miracles every day. I added, “I’m not saying that I see some great miracle in the sky everyday” but pointed out that, through the right eyes, every breath, every hair on my kids’ heads, are miracles . . . that every single thing in Creation is a miracle.
Within moments, the sun’s light fell brightly on me and I, still trying to convey my thought, reflexively raised my hand to cover my eyes as my companion exclaimed, “Man, that is awesome! It looks like a big heart in the sky!”
Sure enough, I looked up at the sky to see that the blanket of clouds that had just covered the sky from horizon to horizon had burned off to leave only a large heart-shaped cloud in the middle of the sky.
Not only was the timing perfect, given our conversation, but also the message was beautiful. God was right there with us. Not just in some “Zeus-on-a-cloud” sort of way that we too often imagine, but right there with us, an active participant in our one-on-one conversation. Dumbstruck, I scrounged for a “closing statement”; my wife only wishes God would do more of the speaking for me!
In the days that followed, I reflected on the sign with gratitude and awe.
A few weeks passed, and I found myself standing at the same location during a break from the workday with one of my closest friends, who is also a colleague. We had just walked a lap around the lake, during which he informed me that doctors had found a growth in one of his lungs. He was naturally pretty concerned, as was I; it’s hard to not let your mind stray into worst-case scenarios when you hear news like that.
I don’t frequently talk faith matters with this friend, but as we paused on that wooden bridge and his news sunk in, I thought to tell him what had occurred to me the last time I stood in that spot. I couldn’t help but think that perhaps this was the moment the previous experience had occurred for, so I had to share.
I don’t know if my sharing gave him any comfort or not; he’s very much a “pragmatist” and would, under normal circumstances, probably dismiss the story as “nice”. But I do know that it brought me comfort, as his friend, to be reminded that God’s love is right there with us at all times. Kind of like rainbows; we spend our lives walking through them but only notice them in the right mix of rain and sunshine.
Oh, about my friend? Thankfully, the tumor was benign and successfully surgically removed soon after. Nowadays, he’s every bit as healthy (and pragmatic) as he’s ever been.
Read more of My Faith Journey at the links below: