Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A certainty of his presence

Today was a Very Good day. I spent it with Krista, traveling from Chiang Mai to Bangkok. We arrived (with our luggage) and then found a taxi easily, slipped into our excellent hotel, ate an exceptional meal, lounged in the pool, and then explored the river using the public taxi boats (more like buses than taxis) and then eventually made our way over to "the sky train" and hit the Thai mall, ate dinner, snagged some mango sticky rice from a grocery store and made our way home again by train and boat. You can see pictures from our day on Krista's blog.
Five times today I felt a certainty of God's presence. They came in small moments, measured in seconds not minutes, but they came like the sun bursting out from behind the clouds.

The first came as I read Dave Eggers' "What is the What" while we sat on lounge chairs in the pool (the chairs are ankle deep in the water). I won't go into detail (I want to share more when I finish reading it), other than to say that the book, which deals with the Sudanese diaspora in a powerful way, had a page where the main character reflects on suffering and God. In that moment, I felt God's presence, for those ten seconds when I read two paragraphs.




The second came as Krista and I sat on a boat-bus and the cool wind came in off the river. Krista stood up to take a picture, and for a moment I felt a deep satisfaction, as if I were not a foreigner, and our life seemed full and wonderful... taking a day in Thailand to ride a taxi boat, waiting for our children and parents to join us, the beautiful river and the Thai people huddled around us like family, like friends, like fellow travelers.


The third came on another boat at the end of the night, when the sun had set and we headed for home again. Again, a moment of satisfaction, a sense of blessing and a realization that this satisfaction -- could it be peace? -- came to me as a gift from him.




The fourth came as Krista showed me her pictures from our day. In one of them the sun explodes through a pagoda, reducing it to shadow soaked in sunshine. I saw in that moment a metaphor for this culture, I hope a vision of the future, as God bursts through the things that men have made for worship and shows his own might and glory, more spectacular than a thousand gold-encrusted wats.




And then the fifth, as I sprawled on the bed reading the story of Jesus washing the disciple's feet, I read the words, "Do you understand what I have done for you?" No. I don't realize it, not really. The night before we left for Thailand, Krista had a second miscarriage. We hadn't told anyone she was pregnant, and then hours before we left for Thailand we lost the baby. I think this palpable, heart-breaking reminder of the broken world we live in made Jesus' words to his followers after washing their feet stand out to me. I love everything about this passsage. The ridiculous, almost nonsensical description of Christ's motivations, the violation of social norms, the uncommonly straightforward exposition. Knowing that he came to serve us and save us in the midst of my loss makes it more profound to me. And then, "Now that I, your Lord and Master have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet."

And there it is. All told, it might be fifty seconds out of the day that I sensed his presence, fifty seconds where I felt him near me.
And for today, that was enough.