Note: I’ve put my “Blog a Book” children’s series on hold for a bit. I plan to start back on it this summer, so stay tuned!
I vividly remember the sky: blood orange as the sun set over the harbor. And the people — a river of faces dotted with bright umbrellas that bobbed and swayed in the broad human current. Staying afloat in that river of humanity during the day felt almost impossible as everyone rushed to work or meetings, shopping or social gatherings. The noise, the constant zigzag of movement, the bombardment of light and smell and sound on the senses often felt overwhelming. But in the brilliant blood orange evenings, I could stand on the edge of the harbor without getting knocked over. I could look at the familiar colors of sunset, feel the warm breeze, and pretend that I wasn’t so alone. Pretend that someone was back at the hotel waiting for me. Pretend that someone, anyone, back home would be free to answer a phone call if I had been brave enough to make one. But I was alone.
Hong Kong was very different in 2006. My hotel room had one English TV channel that played the same five or six black and white movies on repeat 24/7. I left it on whenever I was in my room just to hear familiar American voices in the background though I quickly tired of the actual movies.
I had left Brad on the other side of the world, adamant that we were not meant for each other. He’d written me a letter before I left, asking me to reconsider a relationship, but I had set it aside, unanswered. I didn’t have time for a relationship. But now I was completely alone on the other side of the world. If I believed in karma, this would have been it.
But extreme loneliness wasn’t my only struggle during my stay in Hong Kong. Between airline tickets and an extended hotel stay (due to a mistake in paperwork), I had almost maxed out my credit card. I was afraid to spend too much money on restaurants, so I bought fruit, peanut butter, and British digestives at a local grocery store every few days. Chocolate covered British digestives (now available at your local Kroger!) are delicious, just in case you wondered.
Having very little money and no friends did allow for some important things, though — sight-seeing and prayer. The sights were incredible. I don’t think I will ever forget the beauty that surrounded the city or the beauty of the city itself. The isolation, however, was almost unbearable. But, in the midst of the loneliness, I talked to God. What felt unbearable became bearable when I was with him.
Talking to God for extended periods of time, however, can have unexpected results. And one night, as I prayed, it did. I suppose you could call it an “out-of-body” experience although I was always aware of myself and my physical surroundings. Maybe it was the isolation playing tricks on me — to this day, I’m not really sure. All I know is, as I prayed, the items around me began to feel less tangible as if reality itself was melting away. After a while, in my mind’s eye, a dark curtain slowly appeared that had been drawn back. I couldn’t see beyond the curtain despite it opening, but I could sense something or someone beyond it. To this day, I have no words to really describe it. It felt like this curtain had been drawn back to reveal a greater reality — almost like a more tangible dimension — that was overwhelmingly powerful, but perfectly natural at the same time. A more “real” reality than what we live in, but not yet tangible to me as a human being. It was something that my soul understood, but that my mind could not comprehend. And then, again in my mind’s eye, I began falling through the darkness away from the curtain off of an enormous cliff. I was still aware of the hotel room around me, but it seemed dim and distant. The sense of falling was terrifying. And yet, as I fell, I sensed something underneath me — an enormous something that fit around my whole body, but it did not stop my fall or lift me up. It was more of a felt presence, somehow guiding my free-fall through the darkness. Slowly, the feeling faded and the normal (tangible) reality of my hotel room replaced that awareness. I looked at the clock. I had been on my knees in prayer for at least two hours, but it seemed like just a few moments.
Looking back, I think that was the night I finally came to terms with my mortality — that there was a beginning and that there will be an end to my life here on Earth. Of course, I had thought about my mortality many times before, but that was only ever in terms of depression and hopelessness. But that night, I sensed what can only be described as a vast spiritual reality — a reality that, in my limited experience, only occurs in God’s presence. A reality so vast, so incalculable, so powerful that it was beyond my comprehension. And yet, it was a reality that my soul understood; a reality that I had been created for, but separated from since the Fall of mankind. A reality that will one day include my soul AND body in the presence of Jesus. A reality that no words can adequately express in this life.
So what did I do after that feeling of immensity faded? I worshipped. I worshipped the God who created me and I worshipped the Jesus who saved me. I stayed on my knees praising God for I don’t know how long. Because, really, what else could I do?
13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”
Amen and amen. Even so, come Lord Jesus.