One stifling hot summer night, I awoke to a familiar but dreaded sizzling sensation in my legs. My old nemesis, multiple sclerosis, was visiting, eating internal function -- like termites inside a tree. It was a time of great fear as the disease seemed to threaten everything! Unable to go back to sleep, I transferred from bed to wheelchair and went outside and stopped under the boughs of a cluster of Manitoba maple trees in my backyard. All was still.
My little house sits at the bottom of the hill that Beaumont was named after. I looked the hill to see the reassuring and steady light of an illuminated historic Catholic church. It's been there for over a century. Everything was peaceful, barring that horrible sizzling sensation. I crawled into a hammock tied between two massive maple trunks and gazed up into the dark serenity of a starry sky. It was my sacred little place in the world where I spent countless hours throughout many years: contemplating, reflecting, praying, searching, looking to understand rather than to see. It was beneath the canopy of maple branches that the Christian hope within me swelled within my chest and rose as an offering to God.
There was a sudden gust of wind that swayed the
branches above me. Leaves rustled as though to whisper, "Do not be afraid, I AM with you." Ecstasy then shame. Ecstacy filled me to know He was near -- then shame to realize my life was deeply stained by sin. Confession. Forgiveness. Divine embrace.
As suddenly as the visitation came. it vanished and all became ordinary again. The yard remained bathed in moonlight and the great old church on the hill still shone in floodlights. The sizzling sensation in my legs remained but ceased to matter.
Any passerby would have been oblivious to what had just happened. For a brief instant, it had seemed that a sweet essence of Eden opened then mercifully closed: The whisper in the breeze was too much for anything more than those brief seven words. In that twinkling
but earth-shaking moment, centuries melted away and indescribable Joy filled my heart. I wept, not because my body was wasting but because I had been touched by the Holy Spirit.
Saint Paul's words made perfect sense:
"Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inner man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,
Two years ago, a violent storm brought down the maple trees. If the evil one was trying to destroy my sacred place, he failed. I realized that sacred place was within me all along. The trees were only a setting. The maples are gone but the blue moonlight still washes over my little house on the Canadian prairies and the old church at the top hill and reminds me that nothing can separate me from the love of God.
My forever home is not here. Heaven is my home.
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