Years ago, before I was married and moved, I lived in Muncie, Indiana, near the campus of Ball State University. I also happened to live near a historic neighborhood of streets lined with large oaks and old homes (mansions to me) where many of the influential families of Muncie lived. Given my love for architecture, and especially historical architecture, it was so much fun to walk through that neighborhood, especially at night when I could maybe get a glimpse inside the lit up windows. And then on the other side of that neighborhood was a Catholic Church that always reminded me of the pictures I had seen of old European cathedrals. The church had extensive grounds and at the back was a garden area with statues of the saints and a gazebo. I spent many hours in that gazebo that overlooked the manicured gardens. From the gazebo, I could also see in the distance the old structure of the church, with a spire that seemed to reach up to heaven. Add a full moon to the experience and it was nothing short of transcendent.
There was a period of time in Muncie, after I had graduated from Ball State and many of my friends had moved away, that life was really tough. Looking back, I can see how formative those years were for me. God was processing me, sharpening my sense of values and call, and deepening me. If you've been through a season like that- a dark night of the soul- you know how dang hard it can be. Walking to the Catholic church after dark, through that old historic neighborhood, became a real haven for me at that time. Looking back, I realize it probably wasn't the safest thing for a young woman to be hanging out in lonely dark places at night, but I can say that I met God in significant ways in that garden behind the church after dark. Even though its been many years since I've been there, I can still see it clearly in my mind because it became such a special place to me. A place where I met God.
After I moved away from Muncie, for many years I felt the loss of a place that I could go and experience God in such meaningful ways. A place that seemed like it had just been tailor made for me to spend time thinking and praying.
This morning, however, as I was taking a walk on the Mill Race it occurred to me how that path really has become a place for me to walk and experience God, especially in the mornings. This morning was just perfect: the crisp, early fall air was filled with the bright sunshine of a crystal clear day. Although the path isn't nearly as private as the gazebo in Muncie at night, it really is such a gift to have a place to go that I can expect to meet God, to hear God's voice and to know his presence. For whatever reason, it seems like its taken a long time to feel as though I have found a meaningful place to go to be with God, but I can say I have finally found it. And I am so glad.