A friend of three years, I met for the first time yesterday. I mean I really met her. I was moved by her.

C.S. Lewis called these moments “inklings”. An inkling is a small, beautiful moment in which one can say he is as close as possible to perfect happiness.  A moment where we have not a trouble or worry in the world and exist entirely in that moment and that moment alone.  C.S. Lewis encourages us to look at these moments which we carry with us our whole lives, on a grander scale: in comparison to what heaven has to offer each of us.  An inkling is literally the smallest fraction of a decimal of the perfection we can experience in heaven.

We were hiking under the speckled shade of tall trees with leaves of a bright green hue. So bright were they, that I had to squint to gaze up at their compliment to the rich, blue sky above them.  It was quite the cliché  day, with not a single cloud to break up the blue sky.  The sun was heat across our skin as we came to clearings between the layers of the trees. We were thankful not to be hiking in the direct sunlight on that 98 degree day.

She is tall and thin. Lanky or lean in frame. She has naturally rich, chestnut hair which is always worn in a bun, but most likely spills past her shoulder blades.  This day she wears cutoff dark jean shorts that hit mid-thigh, a gray tank top, and a pair of black Keds. The simplicity of her outfit brings out her natural beauty that much more. I’ve never seen a touch of makeup on her face. It wouldn’t be needed. She has porcelain skin. The kind women on magazine covers are airbrushed to posess and the type an average woman yearns for, with not a wrinkle or a blemish to be found upon it.  Her large, brown doe eyes hold merriment and dreams in their retinas, just the faintest twinkle in her eye. Her beauty flows across her skin and through her veins, inside and out. It’s the kind of beauty that I would never envy, never want for myself. It’s not like seeing a gorgeous girl at a concert or a restaurant and beating yourself up for not measuring up to that standard.  No, this girl’s beauty impacts your life, because it’s not purely physical. I would rather watch as her beauty impacts the world around her and absorb the rich compassion she has to offer.

“Have you ever noticed that sometimes plants and leaves are so green, they seem artificial? Like someone took the time to run them through photoshop before I walked by them or something.” I’m saying this as I stare up at the kaleidoscope effect the overlapping ceiling of leaves has in the forest.

My friend laughed, furrowing that space between her brows and looking up at the canopy of leaves and sun against blue. She took a few strides to consider before smiling and replying, “Actually, I don’t think I have. I just never looked at it that way I guess.”

I knew she understood what I meant, though.  She’s like that. Considering everything you say. Open-minded and open-hearted. . .you know the type.  Something stands out most about what I said though and it’s troubling me all over the place. The sort of thought which can coil your stomach and jumble your beliefs.When did I start recognizing beauty as artificial and man-made? When did I stop looking at a photograph and saying, “That’s pretty, but it does no justice to seeing it in person.”

Maybe hiking with her shadowed the rest of nature’s beauty that surrounded us.  She carries around this natural beauty that radiates from not just looks, but her soul. Maybe what she has to offer the world can heal and restore it.  Perhaps her existence shines on everything, in such a way that everything is revitalized by it.  She walks in a sphere of light. It’s hard to describe, but it’s as if her own world exists just within that bubble of light. A world of affection, compassion, love, and spiritual healing. There’s a spiritual presence in that sphere and perhaps it’s my own intimate relationship with God that reveals this magical nature of this girl to me.  It’s calming, as naturally she doesn’t share it with only herself.  She shares it with everyone she encounters.  She doesn’t realize she posses’ this circle of light and it’s that unaware, entirely natural kind of trait that a person has which makes him or her special.  A person who is humble in their rare way of living and who uses their gift to make the world a happier place. That is a person who is genuinely beautiful.  They don’t boast, they don’t expect, they don’t manipulate others. The simply enlighten, impact, and love those who they encounter. She the only person I have ever met, to whom I could compare to a young Mother Theresa.

“Hey, how are you?” She said to every person or group of persons we past on the trails that day. Not a soul was unacknowledged. Not a body untouched by her smile and warmth.

She won’t pose for pictures. “What if each snapshot harbors a piece of my soul? I can’t get that part of myself back, it’s there for good.” At that comment I stopped in my tracks so suddenly, I stirred up a bit of gravel along the trail at my feet.

“That’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard anyone say,” looking her in the eyes as I said it. It was a kind of pivotal moment in my understanding of this girl. Because she believed what she said.  She wasn’t saying it to be “different”, as is the trend since the hippie movement of the 60s.  She wasn’t saying it to get a reaction or to influence my view of her.  In fact, she was probably a little shocked by my response, as her large brown eyes grew a bit wider, “It’s really weird I know…”, but I cut her off and told her it was far from weird. It was real, it cut deep to the core of the turmoils within our human nature.

“I did this biography on my mom earlier this year. And I realized so many things about her that just make her this amazing woman. For the first time, I thought back to that time when I was a child. When my mom lost the baby and. . . I was so young that I forgot what my mother must have been going through, too. That  it was actually the most traumatic thing she ever went through and I sorta got caught up in how I felt about losing a sibling. It’s taken me this long to be able to think back on that and realize how deeply affected she was by the loss.”  Her eyes are windows in that moment, I see a beautiful kind of sadness through their panes. She has told me once before about the miscarriage, the funeral in their backyard.

And it’s those moments with her that make me realize why I’m so inspired by her. It’s those moments she reveals another unique piece of her puzzle. A puzzle piece many of us are missing today.  She knows the difference between life and death, but not in the way that sounds.  Sure, we all understand the physicality of life and death, but she understands what makes a soul alive and what makes a heart beat. She understands that just because you never knew a person’s soul deeply, it doesn’t mean that it never existed. In fact, she understands that the souls with paths which are cut short, which are never given their rightful chance at physicality, are the ones to be mourned for the hardest. The ones that should devastate us the most. She doesn’t tell me all these things, but I understand them between her words and just behind the glass of her eyes.

She stops three times during our hike, grabs my shoulders and turns me pointing into the thicks of trees and I hear scampering and snapping twigs, “Look! Deer!” Her voice bleeds elated and focused emotions. She loves animals, but she loves deer the most. At least that is how it has always seemed to me. Their gentle nature is not so unlike her own and it calls to her. Their nature pulls her in, captivating her in stillness as she watches their fleeting brown and white speckled fur coats.  In fact as a child she adopted a baby deer she found in the backyard, left there by its mother to fend for itself before it even knew how to walk.  It let my friend hold it, it let her feed it, it let her mother it.  She took it to the park, teaching it to walk and set up a place for him to sleep. The mother deer acted as a birth mother would in a human adoption.  Allowing the adoptive parents to take full control and care of the child, but dropping by occasionally to check up on the child she wasn’t able to take care of.  She fed her baby at night and disappeared back into the forest, allowing my friend to nurture her child by light.

Eventually the deer grew up and went out on its own. It was not the last my friend saw of it, though. It came back, on three separate mornings.  Once, she was sitting in the bay window of her family room reading a book when her mother walked into the room, eyes bulging and finger jabbing at the window behind her. Panic stricken, she whipped around to gaze at what her mother pointed at and she was met face to face with her adopted childhood pet, fully grown. An adult. It stared at her. It locked eyes with her for a few minutes.

“Did you go out and see it? I’m sure it would have waited for you!” I say.

“No. . .no, we just stayed like that. Frozen in this locked gaze, and I could tell he just wanted to come back and show me that he’s doing well. Maybe that he misses me, I don’t know for sure. But Sam, it was one of the most moving things that’s ever happened to me.”

I told her it must have been God. I’ve always thought deer have held a gentle, spiritual nature within them. They are everywhere, as God is. They are meek and unbothersome, as God is. They fall prey to our violence daily, as God does, as Jesus did. They are in the headlights, they are shocked by the oncoming car or the oncoming bullet.  They are surprised by the destruction our existence forces upon them, they are shocked by harm we bring against them. Wether voluntary or involuntary. My friend agreed.

“Actually, I feel the same way. I think that the little deer was sent to me by God. I don’t know why and I don’t know what it means, but I could feel it,” she concluded.

And when she says these things, you know they’re true. Maybe it’s because I believe in the supernatural, I believe in the coincidences for the reasons, I believe in the unseen realm within our own. Brought to light by small miracles, small movements of God’s hands. My friend said it was one of the greatest experiences of her life and one she will never forget.  It shouldn’t even be possible for one to have a relationship with a wild animal in such a way, and yet there she was day after day at the park, teaching her adopted pet how to walk. God supplied her with an inkling, the kind not many can handle.

Which makes it that much easier for me to view my friend as an inkling in my own life. She is an inkling in everyone’s lives, because she is called to it. She can’t control it, denounce it, or hide. It radiates and it’s beautiful, to say the least.  She dreams of missions around the world, of devoting her life to these causes.  She is torn between if she is called to show the world the light, or show her home the light by being a nurse. No matter where she goes, no matter what hike she takes in life (be it on a trail with me or along a trail of mud huts in Ethiopia) she will be an inkling.