There are moments in life that one remembers because of the impact that that moment had on them. These moments are milestones of which we can look back on and compare our lives too from before and after. Moments like these rarely come in life, but when we have the privilege of experiencing them, there is no other feeling or action or word that can take that moment away. It belongs to us; it stays with us forever. We dream about it and we would do anything in the world to go back to it. Unfortunately the reality is that we can’t ever go back to it, because it’s gone. What if we could? What if there was a place? What if we knew that every time we came to this place we would have a life changing experience? What if we could choose to have a moment such as this forever? I have had such a place and my life will never let me forget how it has changed because of that place.
In the summer of 2009, I went on a trip to Long Beach, California. It was a 10-week missions project with a group called Campus Crusade for Christ, and we were there to minister to the homeless and children who were at high risk for gang violence. All 40 of the students that came to long beach signed up online and agreed to go on this project even though most of us did not even know any of the other 40 students. When we got there they told us all about the things we would be doing over the summer and walked us through the schedule of weekly events. The weeks were jam packed with things for us to do and on top of our ministry we had to get a job and work so that we could afford to eat and have transportation. When the project director, Bruce Henderson, got to Sunday’s list of activities, he began to introduce “the night of reflection.” Bruce said that this could possibly be the most important time of the week for us and encouraged us to make it a high priority. He said to find a place somewhere around in the city where we could have an alone, completely quiet moment alone for about an hour and a half. This is where we would be able to sort of wind down from the past week as well as mentally and emotionally prepare for the week to come. Not only would this be a place for mental and emotional reflection but primarily a time to get closer and more intimate with God.
I didn’t fully understand what this meant at the time. I went into this time very confused. I didn’t know what to expect or even really whether or not to expect anything. I did know one thing though. I knew that I wanted something meaningful to come out of it. I needed to find a place. The first Sunday night came around and for the most part everyone knew where they were going to have their night of reflection except for me. It was about 9:00 and all was quiet as my feet took me down the steps of our crumby hotel to the beach. As I stepped off of the last hard wooden step I took off my corona flip-flops and walked onto the cold California sand. I turned right and began to walk. About 30 yards off from the beach I found this pile of sand. After a short brainstorming session I fell to my knees and began to start digging a dip into this pile of sand as if to make a recliner of sorts. It took me a while, but in about 15 to 20 minutes I found myself relaxing in the most comfortable state that anyone could ever be in.
There I lay silent. There was no one to be seen but the view that I did see was truly incredible. If I looked to the right I could see the lights of the city and the harbor of the Queen Mary, An old English Ship that was turned into a hotel. If I looked straight ahead I could see the Pacific Ocean as far as it could reach. It seemed to go on for an eternity. And even though the waves where wild, crashing against the shore directly in front of me, I could see the reflection of the moon and the stars in the sky above me. Speaking of the sky, it was clear. The stars were so bright that I could put together all of the constellations; if only I knew what they all were. I could not help but be in awe and amazement and I have never been more sure that the world we live in, in all of its order and beauty, was created by one more powerful than us.
I experienced this every Sunday night for an hour and a half, if not more due to the beauty set before me. I thought about all sorts of things while I was there. Bruce was right. Finding a place to reflect helped me a lot and made summer project much more meaningful too me. But above all, I felt closer to God than I have ever felt before. He showed me who He was through nature. He showed me that he is all-powerful, creative, loving, comforting and gracious. He brought me to a place of peace that I had never experienced before and will never cease to experience again.