God Is Here

I spent the first half of this week in Abilene, Texas at ACU’s annual Summit—a Christian lecture series. I heard Shane Claiborne and Kathleen Norris. Delicious. Provocative. Well-paired.

Wandering the campus just after Norris’s lecture, I turned a corner, expecting to find a parking lot. Instead, I saw this, perhaps the most beautiful piece of contemporary religious art I’ve ever seen:

The picture does it no justice.

It is, of course, a depiction of “Jacob’s Dream,” the angels ascending and descending a ladder, the angel reaching even past the last rung 34 feet in the air.

Immediately I thought, echoing the words of Jacob, “God is here.”

And I wanted to make an altar—but the altar was already made—stones piled upon one another, each stone bearing a word, words that led my thoughts to remember my own moments of exhilarating proximity to God.

I approached from the far side and circled the ancient-seeming monument—staring, reading, reflecting—until suddenly I saw something and then didn’t. I stepped back and watched as the piles of stones moved, and in the emptiness between them I saw the outline of a cross. Looking down I noticed my feet standing on the words, “I see.” And I saw.

Every element of this piece, this maze of an experience, led me to God. Even the baptistery pool tucked behind the more extravagant sculpture and “ruins,” whispered, “Find me.”

Later I took London and Eve to see it. They climbed the rocks and dipped their feet in the cool water. London recognized the strong, winged men as angels and smiled. Eve smiled because she always does. And as they played, hiding among the words “behold” and “declare,” I thought “God is here.”

As the sun set, I loaded God into a double stroller and walked away.