My hair was wafting in the coastal wind as I climbed the stairs following a crowd on a sunny autumn day. Seagulls were squawking, flying in circles nearby. I finally reached the top of the tower on the hill, panting, excited. Here I was, standing at the southwestern tip of the African continent, on a white tower more than 200 meters above the sea, the famous Cape Point. Surrounded by the vast sapphire blue and kissed by the salty wind, I was deeply captivated by the beauty. I took a deep breath and quieted my heart.
Then, I heard a small voice saying to me, “I will give you something more beautiful, better than this.” That voice in my head was my moment with God, backdropped by the most beautiful ocean and the crashing sound of waves.
It was my first time visiting Africa, for a conference and mission trip. It was also the first time for me to travel outside of Asia. And just a few days before, I’d turned 26. And that special moment, I counted as my birthday present from the Lord.
“Something more beautiful and better? What could that possibly be?” I pondered on the word over and over as I treasured it in my heart.
Three months later, I landed on another new continent, Australia. Six months later, I backpacked with friends walking on the streets of Mexico City, in the continent of North America. In the novelty and exhaustion of my intensive travels for work, I kept reaching out for God and his words for me. And the moment at the Cape Point kept replaying itself in my mind. Wherever I was, I wanted to know and experience that better Something.
For over ten years, my mission work took me to many countries and places, met with many cultures and faces. I grew in my travels, from one location to another, from my early twenties to early thirties. Regardless of the jet-lags and having to say goodbye too soon, I loved traveling in my bachelor years. I looked forward to one more new place to see and friend to make. I was eager for Something more beautiful and better.
Until life settled me in one place. From Barcelona where I’d studied theology, I moved to Geneva after I married my husband. Newly-wed to motherhood was a rather short trip compared to my seemingly endless bachelor journey. As a single woman, I’d felt so ready to be married, while when being pregnant for the first time, I felt totally unprepared to be a mom. Would I be able to travel again? How would I quench my desire for beauty and novelty in the ordinary mom life?
Ten years after the Cape Point moment, four years living in Geneva and two children later, I think about all the exotic places I’ve been as I stir-fry veggies in a pan, fold the laundry, change diapers, or giggle with my toddler son. I think I’ve got a deeper understanding of God’s word for me on that hilltop tower.
English poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning beautifully wrote,
“Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God, But only he who sees takes off his shoes;The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”
The magic of life, the breathtaking beauty, the heart-warming conversations with a new friend, the meaning of existence we eagerly search, or the worth of ourselves we try to validate, they may be found in those exotic new places, but they don’t hail from there. They’re quietly hidden in the Presence of God, waiting to be discovered even in the mundane of daily dinner cooking.
Dear reader, how are you doing today? Are you feeling weary and tired with the work in front of you, whether it’s housework, office work, or your studies? Are you feeling dull or dry in your spirit? Or are you searching for Something to satisfy your empty soul? Can you just take a moment to be still and ask God’s presence to come and fill you right now? There’s nothing that can satisfy us and refresh our perspective like His presence does.
May we pay enough attention to see the Fire in the common bush daily, and take off our shoes.