Softly the evening came. The sun from the western horizon Like a magician extended his golden want o’er the landscape; Trinkling vapors arose; and sky and water and forest Seemed all on fire at the touch, and melted and mingled together.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (from Evangeline, pt II, sec. II)
The iconic red and white lighthouse stands erect and proud at the end of the long black pier. Beyond the lighthouse the sun sets into the sea, alive, glowing orange, casting reds, purples, and long streaks of gold into the clouds, long streaks of gold onto the effervescent waters of the lake. A rainbow in the sky, to the northeast, opposite the glorious sunset, stands gracefully, perfectly arched, the promise of hope and divine limits set upon destruction and deluge. In the east, breaking through clouds, a full moon rises to remind us again of our neighbors and of space, of time and infinity, and of man’s drive to perform the impossible—we gaze in awe and can almost hear the spaceman say through the time warp: “This is one small step for man, one giant step for mankind.”
Back on earth young lovers cuddle on the darkened pier. He, a tall good looking sailor, sailing the seas for his country, whispering, confiding, all gallant chivalry and dressed up like a real man in a time of equality and sexlessness. She, very young, petite and pretty, curly blonde hair in cascades, a retro flower-printed dress from another time, engrossed in her sailor, engrossed in dreams, in hopes, in the future. No smart phone technology to mar the moments of young love.
Children run over the long, white curving powder of beach, joyous hands reaching down and sending up sprays of sand here and there into the sky, catching the last rays of the golden sunset like sparkling diamonds. More friends, a couple of fishermen, lovers, losers, walkers, some watching the children play, one man turning to eye the energetic toddler, just learning to walk, just feeling sand for the first time. He forgets himself for a moment and says “Oh, he is lovely.” His companion smiles softly and they walk on.
I see my son, running there on the dangerous edge of the pier, then in the sand, lanky now, all muscle and energy, bonhomie and belligerence, braggadocio and swagger. He’s the same boy I saw that far off day in an orphanage in Eastern Europe. The one I fell in love with, his large brown eyes wistful then, dreamy, even at one year of age, gazing up at us as we slowly shut the door and left him behind, kept sadly apart by paperwork and politics. Almost grown now, with his own set of dreams and hopes and desires; almost grown now, with his own set of disappointments, disasters, and regrets. He needs me. He needs us. We need him. I hear his laugh, see him run and love him.
Later we stand on the pier discussing God and His existence in the light of the full moon, the golden sun gone now to light other worlds. Standing there, sober, pensive, thoughtful, discovering doubt and struggle in the face of a friend, feeling kinship and support from friendship, from the sunset, the deep meaning and endless washing of water over the soul, the rainbow of promise in the cloud reminding us to hope in the face of hopelessness.
And in this twilight evening we feel a deep sense of longing to experience the deeper things of life, the things that matter, the hope that stands eternal in the heavens, heralded and sung by the rainbow, and kissed by the sliver of blood red sun slipping silently down to the southwest. And in this longing we find belonging, a sense of family and love and a feeling that there is more, much more to the story of life. God is surely there, and where God is, there is fullness and joy.
We continue to stand there, the pier dark now, occasional flights, like little white arrows, twinkle and move above, having departed the distant Chicago metropolis just moments before. Cars come and go, windows open, music drifts on the newborn autumn breeze. The moon, large, round, white, continues to sail on, charting its well-known route through the ether. The rainbow is gone, along with the sun, the children sit now, watching, waiting, tired from the day.
And suddenly, in the shadow of God’s greatness, silhouetted like the little lighthouse at the end of the pier, the soul feels its incredible worth. Sunsets will someday fade and burn out, fizzling into the nothingness of eternity, the rainbows will arch and shine in other worlds than ours, the moon will turn to blood, dissolve, and disappear. The soul, however, will remain, the essence of God in us, worth more than all those glowing orbs that we admire, worth more than anything. In this instant I receive a glimpse, a small glimpse through the porthole of heaven and see God looking down, looking into my soul, the soul of my son, the souls of my friends, my family. And in this glimpse I hear His voice: “I sent you the sunset, the rainbow, and the full moon just to say hello and tell you that I love you and that I care.”
That night on the pier in Michigan City, Indiana was truly incredible and we hardly knew what to watch, turning to take it all in at once. A most gorgeous sunset, to the west, an amazing full rainbow to the north, and a full moon coming up over the landscape to the east. I will never forget it.
BF – 2016