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I've been thinking about transcendent moments.

Perhaps it's because I know we'll soon fall back into darkness between the 5:00 pm to to 5:00 am hours. (Not a fan.)

Or it may be because I've had some frustrating challenges with my health lately.

Whatever the reason, I've been looking for those times when the divine seems to break through the everyday world. Moments when the distance between God and us becomes thinner, smaller.

I once gave a sermon on that distance, as represented in Michelangelo's painting of God's creation of Adam, found in the Sistine Chapel. I'm sure you're familiar with this image, in which God appears to reach out to Adam, his forefingers nearly—but not quite—touching him.

The gap between them in the painting is literally less than an inch. Clearly, Michelangelo chose to paint the hands not quite touching. And much has been written about what that represents. Is it the moment just before Adam receives the spark of life from his Creator? Is God pointing to Adam as the first human? Does it suggest that the man—who appears to be in a more relaxed state than God—is only half-heartedly reaching out to God? All seem reasonable.

Here’s another way to interpret the artist’s intention:

The gap is a reminder that, while God constantly reaches out to us, we remain separated from the Divine as long as we live here on earth. That, until we are united with God after death, we live in awareness of that gap, perhaps the original “thin place.”

Many believers experience this thinning of the gap. Moments of transcendence that lift us out of this world and into the presence of our Creator, even if only for a moment. If you’ve gone on spiritual retreats, traveled to places that are holy for you, or participated in extraordinary worship services, it’s likely that God’s presence felt very near to you. Mountaintop experiences can certainly produce this feeling of deeper connection.

But it can also happen in the middle of an ordinary day, when we least expect it.

I mentioned some health problems I’ve been experiencing. One is a detached retina. I’ll spare you all of the details (You’re welcome.), but what happens is that some part of the retina—found on the back of the eye—becomes unattached to the eyeball and must be repaired. This requires surgery, of course, followed by an indefinite period of blurry vision in that eye. My first surgery was on September 5. It did not “take.” My second surgery was last week.

I am not allowed to wear an eye patch as the eye heals. This means that I’ve been seeing the world through one normal eye and one blurry eye for six weeks so far. Of course, this has made moving through my days more challenging. Harry and I are spending this week in the woods of southern Indiana, and, as you can imagine, the drive down here was more than a little disorienting!

We were driving on one of the country roads near our little house, when we experienced one of those transcendent moments—catching sight of an albino deer.

We’d never seen one before, and to say it was startling is an understatement! Its appearance, as it was about to enter the dark woods, seemed other-worldly. So unexpected, and so improbable. For most of the trip, I’d been struggling to take in the scenery. I could see sudden bursts of fall colors—but little detail unless I closed the bad eye.

But as we rounded a curve, there it was! And I was able to see it so clearly!

For a short while, I was lifted out of my situation and made aware of God’s presence in the world. In all of Creation. In me. As I look at this picture, I’m moved by many things. The absolute beauty and perfection of this pure white creature. (No wonder indigenous peoples have long believed albino animals to be sacred.) The presence of another

deer, a brown one, tells me that the albino isn’t being shunned by normally pigmented deer. The fact that it has survived this long in spite of being more visible to predators like coyotes and bobcats.(And yes, bobcats do live in the Hoosier National Forest.)

Research tells me that albinism is observed in only one of 30,000 deer! We were gifted with a rare glimpse into the limitless creativity of God. One that—not to put too fine a point on it—I was able to see clearly, when I really needed to see it!

I can only imagine what other revelations are just waiting to be discovered by anyone with eyes to see and the inclination to live mindfully, watching for signs of God in our world.

Thanking the Creator who maintains that small gap, that thinness, so that we are able—even in our separation from God, even in our struggles with life—to come closer to the One who made it all.

My Lenten word for this year was GRATITUDE.

Amen, and amen.

May God’s presence breakthrough into your life, in ways that both astonish and amaze you, when you least expect it.


Lou Ann


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