It was a magical moment for me - one of the most magical in my life thus far, in fact. I’ve found that one can go about describing these kinds of strange/perfect experiences in greater and greater detail for hours on hours always drilling down to more precise details that made everything happen just so, but I’ve also come to learn that despite all the analyzing, this kind of thing does not happen because the stars align - this connection to the eternal only happens because the collective attitude of the people involved are all yearning towards the same noble thing: The fully conscious and fully alive indwelling of the true real Heaven right here on Earth, right now as we live and breathe.
But before the description, a little background:
My wife and I are in a little community group (which we just call “group”) that has been meeting in one form or another for over six years. It started as a men’s group, which grew into a weekly couples group, which grew into a really large weekly couples group, which then split into two smaller couples groups, one of which is the one we’re in. None of us have ever gone to the same church, had a leader of any kind, or had any official curriculum to go through. We just meet weekly at someone’s home and talk about life and Jesus. Our smaller group has been together for over four years now.
After the split we had six couples in our group, but after a surprising and heartbreaking divorce, we are now down to five. I honestly still feel the phantom pains of that now non-existent couple. We also started out with no kids, but by this October, our little group will have seven.
We’ve come to know each other well. We’ve seen marriage, divorce, pregnancy, miscarriage, counseling, lost jobs, aimlessness, and trials upon trials. We’ve cooked each other dozens of meals, watched each others kids, given each other money, and prayed for each other’s deeply personal issues.
So that’s the background. Now the glimpse:
(Play this video now, as you read)
Last week our group (and all our kids) took a trip to the beach - Gulf Shores, Alabama. We left Little Rock last Saturday and got home yesterday (today is Sunday). We rented a six bedroom house on the beach with a pool and a big deck and pretty much everything else you could want in a beach house. One couple couldn’t make the trip, so all-in-all there were eight adults and five kids (between the ages of one and three) crammed into our big/little awesome house.
Each couple had a specific night to cook dinner, and on Wednesday night, it was the Beaumont’s turn. So on Wednesday, just like everyday at the beach, we spent the morning at the ocean swimming, playing, reading, etc. Then several kids would go down for naps, then lunchtime, then more naps, then more swimming, reading, playing, etc. We would also have sporadic dance parties during the day - which was pretty much anytime I felt like the parents needed an energy boost and the kids needed an energy drain. I would crank up the tunes, put a couple children on the coffee table, and the whole room would dance like kids. Kid dancing is the only way to truly let loose. The music was all over the board, but for some reason the trip song became “The Safety Dance” by Men At Work - you know the one: We can dance if we want to… Anyway, on Wednesday evening, as the Beaumont’s were getting dinner ready, I put on some James Taylor.
Everybody was bobbing their heads as they picked up the house a little, got the kids out of their swimsuits, cleaned up high-chairs, etc. Claire was cooking dinner, and Claire has this supernatural peacefulness about her (especially while cooking) that seems to set everybody at ease, even in the midst of a hectic evening with a bunch of hungry people around. So I think everybody was vibe-ing off that, and the beach, and the water, and weather, and the fish tacos we were about to eat, and the key lime pie that was to come after that, and fact that our kids were only going to be awake another hour or so, and because the adults were going to play Catch Phrase on the back deck after the kids were down, and because everybody was bobbing their heads to James Taylor. A few of the kids were crying as dinner was wrapping up, and in our group, everyone is responsible for everyone else’s kids - so if you see a kid that needs something, you handle it. I looked down and saw little Evie Casterline crying, so I picked her up and danced around with her a bit. Right after that, James Taylor started singing Your Smiling Face through the speakers. Then Ben announced that dinner was ready and that he was going to say a prayer.
And this is when it happened.
It was the part of the song when everything drops out except the drums and bass and everyone is clapping and the lyrics go “No one can tell me that I’m doing wrong today, whenever I see you smiling at me” and I turned around with Evie in my arms and her mom reached out to see if I was ready to put her down and I wasn’t. I love that kid. I love all the kids. Everyone had gathered around the kitchen island to pray and someone else was holding my son and I was standing next to two people who have become like a brother and a sister to me and everyone had their arms around each other and we noticed that we were all bouncing together to the beat of the song and we were all smiling. We were all fully exhausted and fully energized by the glory of the people around us. Some kids were whining and some kids were talking and a couple of kids were already eating. The sun was going down and James Taylor was singing and the food was hot and the pie was in the oven. Our feet were bare and some of us were still shirtless and damp in our swimsuits. The beach was still out there, still visible. The surf was coming in and rolling out. The pool out back had floaties and water guns and a volleyball floating in it. Wet towels hung on the rails of the deck. And there we all were - bobbing together with the song, and somehow singing the words to each other silently.
“Whenever I see your smiling face, I have to smile myself, because I love you.”
Still bouncing together, Ben said a prayer for our food that could have lasted 1,000 years and it would have been alright with me. Jesus was there, just happy watching whole wild troop of his perfectly imperfect kids. The prayer ended and we all looked up to see each other still bouncing together. I noticed a few people smile at me and I looked down because I teared up for a second and I didn’t want anyone to see it and ruin anything by asking me what was wrong.
Nothing was wrong with that.
Not a single thing.
It was a moment of pure timelessness. Pure glory. Pure love and acceptance. The sharing of food and the community of friends and family. It was, if there is such a thing, my own personal heaven, with everyone that I cared about most at that exact second.
It is there.
It floats out there, waiting to be grabbed.
Grab heaven and drag it into your life.
Be it. Be the one.
It’s up to you.