Last Thursday I went hiking with one of my dearest friends. We have a favorite trail that takes us through four miles of hill country, but the highlight is the lake at the halfway point. Jade-green and hidden by hills until you’re almost on top of it, it’s always a spectacular sight, like a snippet of the Amazon in California.
This time, though, there was something extra-special about it. A whole flock of seagulls (inexplicably far from the sea) was camping out on the water. Then, as one body, the flock rose into the air, fluttering on wings that “gleam and dart,” as W.B. Yeats would have it. Moving like an airborne whirlpool, they formed a column of light and air over the lake. Something about that moment–the surprise sight of so many birds in an unexpected place, their movement in perfect unity, the way their half-translucent wings caught the light–was unspeakable. It was like a glimpse of the Old Testament’s pillar of cloud, the visible presence of God that guided the wandering Israelites through the desert.
The sight got me thinking about such moments, moments that jump the gap between heaven and earth. Life here isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination. The road is peppered with suffering, unfairness, betrayal, fallings-short. But more than any rational argument or logical progression, it’s beautiful moments like these that make me certain that there is a God–a God of tenderness, breathtaking beauty, and an astounding imagination. C.S. Lewis called these moments “joy.” I like to think of them as cracks in the floor of heaven.
I caught sight of another one the weekend before. I spent the weekend in Seattle, driving down to the Portland area for the wedding of a former roommate and dear friend. Though there was a lot of preparation and clean-up work involved, when all the cheese cubes were arranged and the dozens of chairs unfolded, the wedding was beautiful. One of the things the bride and groom did during the ceremony was braid a three-stranded cord to symbolize the intertwining of their lives with each other and with God. Watching a friend step out in love and faith to make a decision that will last a lifetime, transforming before my eyes from an individual into a couple bound together for life was one of those moments that was piercing in its shock, its newness, and its beauty.
That continued as they danced their first dance, sometimes uncertain in the steps, but completely oblivious as they rocked in their own world. Human love is one of those mysteries that leaves us curious, wondering, and feeling the eternal echoes reverberating within. Clearer even than a swirl of white birds over a hidden lake, it’s one of those things that stops us in our tracks and hushes our words. Those moments are enveloped in bubbles, untouched by the incompletenesses and disappointments life can bring. They make us pause, look up, and catch a glimpse of light sparkling through the cracks overhead.
What cracks in heaven’s floor have you caught sight of lately?