A Fleeting Moment
He draws up the drops of water, which distill as rain to the
streams; the clouds pour down their moisture and abundant
showers fall on mankind. Who can understand how he spreads
out the clouds, how he thunders from his pavilion? See how he
scatters his lightning about him, bathing the depths of the sea.
This is the way he governs the nations and provides food in
abundance. He fills his hands with lightning and commands it
to strike its mark. His thunder announces the coming storm;
even the cattle make known its approach.
Many years ago, during my first long hike on the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire, I witnessed a fleeting moment of beauty that I have never forgotten. Late one day, after an easy ten miles of walking on mostly flat ground, I began to search for a place to rest for the night. About a mile or so beyond a small town, I happened upon a cabin about fifty yards off the trail. Inside, the uninviting shelter was cold and dark. I dropped my gear and settled in resigning myself to a night in the woods alone.
After a light dinner, I felt an urge to get away from the gloom of the shelter, and so I left it to take a walk toward an open field on a hillside that was surrounded by thick woods. As I approached the field, the light from the declining sun drew contrasting shadows against the bright yellows and greens of the long, uncut grass. It was a picture of tranquility, and I was glad to bask in it.
As I stood in the midst of this natural still-life, I became aware of three deer grazing above me on the hillside. They did not notice me, and so I quietly gazed on that scene of tranquil beauty. Time seemed to suspend itself: even the wind briefly stood still. Just as quickly, though, a soft breeze cut across the scene, and the deer lifted their heads in unison, sensing an intruder. They hesitated a moment and then vanished into the shadows of the surrounding woods. Once again, I was in what had been a bright place; now, though, dusk was transforming the soft summer scene into something more ominous as the waning colors of the fields turned gray.
Now, all these years later, I remember that scene as if it were an image painted by God Himself. I felt the warmth of God’s peace that day, but I had to turn back to the cold embrace of the lonely cabin. I did not know then that the journey ahead would often be long and hard. Yet, wherever life would lead me, I carried with me that image of momentary grace as sustenance for the journey ahead, regardless of the conditions, whether easy or difficult.
—Eric Kampmann, Signposts