It’s been several days since my return from Sweden and Scotland. Of course, the experience was incredible. Many times throughout the trip, I couldn’t help but chuckle aloud to myself at the crazy predicaments I got into. I met many people from all over the world in my hostel stays. I walked a lot. I got lost a lot. I took a few pictures here and there. I drove on the other side of the road in a grand tour of Scotland and I must confess: I might just be a better driver in the United Kingdom than the United States! I learned a lot about myself as I moved from day to day in Sweden where I understood nothing and was influenced by only my own thoughts. My time in Scotland was life-altering. So many adventures, stories, and life-lessons I could tell, but one surpasses them all…
It was one of those moments you see in the movies.
After a windy morning cooped up in my bed and breakfast, I decided to bear the elements and get some exercise. Heading out for a jog, I planned on running to the north beaches of the Isle of Iona. Only a mile wide, by three and half miles long, and a population of only a hundred and fifty, Iona rests on the western coast of Scotland. With the perfect soundtrack accompanying me, I ran north along the narrow, one lane road – one of the three roads, or rather paths, on Iona. Small, white farm houses were sprinkled on either side of me off in the distance. Not a soul around. Green pastures were the majority of what surrounded me, though along my right side the ocean kept up with my every step. I couldn’t stop thinking about how perfectly the teal blue of the ocean complimented the soft green of the earth. With the wind pushing at my back, I ran strong for a while, hoping to catch a glimpse of the ocean I knew lay ahead. Eventually, I came to the end of the road, with no where to go but through a small gate that led into yet another expansive green pasture, this time roaming sheep dotted the landscape.
In awe of the vast green that surrounded me, I eagerly ran like a child through the pasture, perfectly manicured by the sheep. The wind was picking up, causing me to run ever faster. I knew I was approaching the ocean, but was unable to see it due to a large hill in the distance. Nothing around me but a dark, stormy sky, a serene pasture, ocean to my right, and a few munching sheep; I smiled as I ran, laughter and giggles bubbling out of me. Finally, I caught a glimpse of the ocean in the distance. Dodging and leaping over large piles of dung, I reached the summit of the hill that had been blocking my ocean view. Panting, I took a deep breath in through my nose, the moist ocean air filled my lungs,f as I laid eyes on one of the most gorgeous scenes I have ever seen.
Wide-eyed and grinning, I exhaled slowly through my mouth and drank in the view before me: a soft, lime green valley below that opened up to a rocky peninsula, capping the end of the island. From there, deep, aqua blue water as far as my eye could see and crashing waves surrounded. In the distance the ocean’s spray blew off the smaller waves and evaporated into the misty air. The perimeter of valley along the shore was lined with tall, uneaten grass that danced in the wind just as quickly as my excited heart was beating. I can only imagine the light of elation that sparkled in my eyes as I took a several strides down into the center of the natural amphitheater. There, in the middle of it all, I stood. In awe. Overhead, the threatening, black clouds padded the scene and the cold wind didn’t cease. I had to lean back quite hard to keep from giving into the wind’s force, but I didn’t care. The sight was breathtaking. I felt as if my heart was going to explode with joy. Tears rushed to my eyes and spilled over, running down my cheeks and onto my smile. With my body quivering in the strongest wind I have ever felt, I instinctively extended my arms toward the heavens and worshiped.
Up until this point, I was frustrated with myself. I felt like an imposter – traveling to a foreign land to seek peace and serenity to “be still and know that God is God.” What does that mean anyway? To know that God is God? I admit, I wasn’t quite sure I knew when I left; I just knew I needed to be still and the rest would fall into place. And in that moment, it was easy to be still. There He met me. I couldn’t help but stand in awe. In awe of God. In awe of His beauty. His earth. His love for me that is as deep and as wide as that ocean that stood before me. My spirit, something with which I had never truly engaged or acknowledged, was alive and taking over. I was soaring in a way I have never felt before. It was my spirit, not my flesh. And so there, on the north shores of Iona, I sang. Uninhibited, my spirit sang and praised Him.
I wish I could better describe to you what this moment was like. I’m not the best with words, which explains why I’m a photojournalist. But just know that I was transformed. On a teeny, tiny spot on the map, I was transformed. The lens with which I view this world is pretty different. In that moment, I became wholehearted. I can’t really explain it any better than I had a wholeness restored in my life. With no external influences surrounding me, I found affirmation and completeness that were secure in God. His presence of love, peace, and joy was all that was there. I know it sounds crazy, but I could have died in that moment and been completely satisfied and fulfilled. I needed nothing more. And so there I stood. Still. And listened to his basic truths wash over me: that He is good, He feels, He loves, and He knows all. I couldn’t stop thinking of this resounding joy in my heart – how I wished everyone could experience this kind of joy. I prayed for way to spread this joy to others. I prayed for my family. I listened to Him tell me, “I love you René. I’ve brought you this far and I will never let go of you.” And I knew, without a doubt in this whole world, that God is God. What that phrase meant was undeniable. And that knowledge was enough to keep my heart dwelling on His majesty forever.
Thank you for your support… The e-mails that poured in meant more to me along this journey than you’ll ever know. I know I will see a few of you blog readers in person and would be happy to tell you more if so desire. But for now, this is it. This was one of the best days of my life…
Photos from the journey will be on the blog over the next few days. One favorite from Iona (unfortunately, not of the aforementioned scene) is below.
With a different kind of joy,