by Sally Ann McLean

For our 24th wedding anniversary in late October, my husband Allan and I treated ourselves to a special night out: an evening in Seattle, with dinner at the Space Needle Restaurant followed by a performance of the symphony at the Opera House.At the restaurant, we were fortunate enough to have been seated at a window table, and as we were enjoying the view and picking out landmarks before the sun set, I commented to Allan, “The city looks so orderly from up here – and so clean!”

He agree. “Just what I was thinking.”

Before arriving at the Space Needle that evening, we had walked from a parking garage on Mercer Street, past the Opera House and the fountain and the carnival games and the monorail station.

On our way, we had seen some graffiti and some litter, and we had noticed an elderly woman across the plaza. We could hear she was playing a quiet tune as she fingered a recorder. At her feet was the lid of a cardboard box, presumably placed there to receive cash donations from passers-by.

But from our dinner-table perspective, several hundred feet above the ground, we could no longer see the graffiti and the litter and the beggar woman.

We knew that all those things were still there, but at that height they were no longer recognizable.

It was a mystery: they were there, but they were not there.

I wondered if the way God views our sin is something like that mystery. I don’t mean that God is so far away that He is not able to see our ever-present sin but that His vision is mitigated by His love for us, the love that sent His only Son to be the atonement for our sins. Such a love, beyond all means of measurement is a mystery—a mystery which calls not for our understanding but which engenders our gratitude.

We finished our meal, and as we walked back across Seattle Center to the Opera House, we took a path brought us to the unfortunate woman playing the recorder to earn her supper. We did not pass her by but stopped to leave an offering at her feet. Her gracious “Thank you!” warmed us on our way.

The woman was no longer a stranger but a lady who smiled with eyes full of Christ’s light. The graffiti and the litter had been covered over by the beauty of what God had shown us that night.