Still a bit groggy, I opened my eyes. The engine noise faded then stopped as the bus driver pulled into the parking lot. He rose to his feet with hands raised, “Okay, we’re here! This hike isn’t intense. Climb at your own pace. Keep an eye out of each other and enjoy the view!”
I stepped off the bus with women who attended the conference and they teased me because I was dressed like the forecast called for snow even though it was an unseasonably warm September day. The coolness of the shade brought welcomed relief under the canopy of trees that towered above. We walked along the path’s gradual, steady incline. I drank in the beauty. I gazed circumspectly and whispered “Thank you creator God.”
I spoke earlier that day about God’s lavish love and told a story that likened it to being drenched in water. Well a view of Lake Michigan is appropriate! Creation’s vast visual buffet of beauty was a reminder of Jesus’ creativity, power, presence and love which amazed me afresh. When we emerged from the woods, I almost bumped into the women in front of me as everyone stopped to take in the view. Some stood looking, others snapped photos with cell phones, iPads or cameras.
“Will you take one of all three of us?”
“Now let’s get the whole group!”
“Rachel, come over here! Yes, we want YOU in it too, get in here!”
Each one was captivated. The trees seemed to part which opened a view of the water and the shoreline below. I had been on this same hike a year earlier and had my photo taken at that exact location. I didn’t want to spoil their enjoyment at all because it was spectacular. Yet I wanted to shout, “BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE! Keep going, just keep going, you’ll be amazed. Don’t settle for this alone.”
The hike continued uphill and around a bend. At the top of the bluff, the view of the expanse takes one’s breath away. Ahead of me stopped one sweet women, wiping her tears, she sputtered these words, “Oh, my! It’s so beautiful! I can’t believe I live here! I’ve never seen this! This is Michigan? It is so beautiful!”
I thought of all the photos that were taken of the vista prior to this one. It paled in comparison. It was beautiful, yes. But it was nothing like this.
I reflected on this experience with some sorrow, because I feel, at times, that’s the way I approach my relationship with God and his love for me. I stop short. But wait there’s more. Do I fully experience his lavish love for me? Do you? I think we often settle “Yup, I know God loves me and I’ve experienced his love, I think. We often stop short. BUT wait there’s more! So much more! The past few years I have experienced new levels and even new depths to the love God has for me. But I know I’m just scratching the surface. I’m excited about what lies ahead. It will take my breath away.
This is my prayer for myself and for you. “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17b-19. It is the prayer of apostle Paul.