I remember in my youth, the anticipated journey each summer to Lakeview United Methodist Church camp, deep in the Piney Woods of East Texas. This was my escape valve from the life I was in at home. It was a good life. A normal easy going small town Friday Night Lights kind of place. But Lakeview, Lakeview was somewhere I could be someone different. No, not really different, but actually myself. Restricted at home by the labels of those who had known me growing up, who had attached conclusions about my abilities, intellect, odd fascinations with something other than the here-and-now, I longed for that week.
As we could not afford family vacations, every summer I would ride with a neighboring town's church, in their old gas-fume-smelling air conditionerless bus on the 3 hour jaunt through the meandering highways to the middle of nowhere. Crossing onto the camp property and over an old wooden bridge, there was a small island where you could see a large whitewashed wooden cross, proclaiming that this was a place where Jesus may be. It was also where a lot of pretty girls would just happen to be as well.
Nestled inside of this camp is an assortment of cabins. Girls on one side and Boys on the other, and never the two shall be found on the wrong side. Swimming pools, Tennis Courts, Softball Field and one of the neatest little chapels in the woods you could imagine. Towering over all of this were magnificent pines. Pines so tall they the would proudly rise to tickle the bottom of careless clouds floating past on the lazy summer days.
It was on such a day in this setting that I found God. I was walking along a path between the cabins and the chapel, and a sudden breeze on a windless day wound its way through the pine trees on my left, the pines twisting and swaying, their heavy branches loaded down with pine needles, and waltzed across my path. As suddenly had it arrived it was gone. No other wind, no other breeze. Just God walking with me, as if to show off and let me know he was there. It was surreal. I stopped in awe.
I went on to the Chapel, cutting through the hot hazy humidity known throughout the area, and no wind was to be found. I did not mention this to anyone else for fear of being labeled insane of course. But during chapel, the speaker asked if anyone had experienced this phenomenon and described it just as I had seen it. I and he were the only ones.
Years later I would find myself working in that same area, in a place where God was hard too see, and wondering where He was. Then this memory surfaces of my encounter with the living God who would take time to walk with me.
It was ironic. I had found Him there in my youth, and was searching for Him there in my adulthood.
Yes, I found God in Anderson County Texas. Or maybe, just maybe, he found me - twice.