Peak Moments

Mysterious Ways|June/July 2020

Peak Moments
I have a vivid childhood memory that stands out from the rest. A Wednesday afternoon in the Southern California town where I grew up. I was riding my bike home from a piano lesson.
Rick Hamlin

My Sunday school class was studying the Old Testament, and as the wheels of the bike whirred, my thoughts drifted to how God spoke to Abraham, to Moses, to Isaac, to Sarah. Could God still speak to people like me? “God,” I prayed, “could you please say something?”

Winter rains had cleared the smog so that the mountains glowed in the slanting rays of late afternoon sun. It was a good day. My piano lesson had gone well; I’d earned a smiley face from my teacher. I was coming to a hill that went by the ballfields of our middle and elementary schools.

I loved lifting my feet off the pedals as I went down that hill and coasting around the curve. Wind blowing in my face, the sun sinking in the west. That’s when it happened, a defining experience, an answer to my prayer.…

Years later, when reading one of my favorite authors, Thomas Merton, I realized that he’d had a similar experience. It’s what you would call a “peak experience,” one of those lifechanging moments that can happen to us all in our everyday life. For him, it happened in Louisville, Kentucky. That he was a Trappist monk, usually confined to a monastery in the Kentucky hills, focusing on a life of worship and prayer, and that this mystical experience happened “at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district” is one of the intriguing mysteries of the whole thing.

In obedience to his monastic vows, Merton rarely left the Abbey of Gethsemani, but he had come to Louisville that day to run a few errands. People rushed about their daily business.

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June/July 2020