From our cabin there’s a long sweet swim to a raft anchored a few football fields out.
It belongs to the Reeves, dear generational friends who are like family. Their men do all the work of hauling it out and in each summer, of rescuing, repairing, and returning it to the depths when storms on Green Bay overpower it. Those four foot waves can break the heavy chain to the anchor as if it were a string, carry the six hundred pound raft to shore, and toss it up on the rocks as though it were a child’s inner tube. Sometimes we stand inside the safety of our cabins and watch, in awe of the storm, in awe of the power of God.
It’s work to keep a raft floating on this capricious bay of Lake Michigan, so I am thankful these men do. I’m also thankful that they hospitably urge us to swim to it whenever we like!
Swimming in an open bay is a balm to my soul. Plunging into the water, the cares of life are washed away. I’m weightless and free as a fish, moving and gliding through an underwater world. Calmed by the silence and soothed by the caress of the water slipping over my skin, I’ve had some of my clearest thoughts during this swim and my best conversations with others.
So it was this last Fourth of July weekend. My daughter Sally and I had been reading on the dock, the sun warming our shoulders, when she stood up, stretched, and asked, “Ready to swim to the raft?”
Sally Brestin Hale and Dee Brestin
As we side-stroked our way through the flat-calm bay, she asked, “Mom, do you really think, as Ann Voskamp does, that all of life is grace?”
“What does she mean by that?”
“That everything, even the really hard things in life, is part of God’s grace.”
I swim, contemplating my response. Slowly I say, “Yes. I know it doesn’t feel like that when things are shaken. Yet looking back, I can see not only that He was with me through the worst things, but that He taught me what is eternal and what is not.”
Sally is silent. Her world has been shaken more than the worlds of most thirty-somethings. She plunges under the water and swims. When her blond head emerges, ten yards out, she flips on her back and floats, looking up at the billowing clouds in the deep blue sky.
“I can accept that He was with me, and that He brings good out of sorrow …”
“I don’t know. Ann Voskamp says a good God plans everything.” She quotes Amos: “Does disaster come upon a city unless the Lord has planned it?” (Amos 6:3)
We swim in silence. Hard thoughts. I am remembering a video we watched from Tim Keller’s The Reason for God on suffering. He talked about how a six-year-old may not understand a parent’s reasons for depriving him, and he may truly suffer. Then Keller asked the panel of six articulate people who were not Christians, “Is it possible we are all six-year-olds when it comes to understanding the ways of God?”
I say to my daughter, “Honey – I surely would never attempt to explain the holocaust or your own personal and terrible pain. But I know He is sovereign, and nothing slips through His fingers without Him willing it. I know it was God, and not Satan, that originated the conversation that would shake Job’s world. And at the end of the book of Job, God never gives Job a reason. He simply points to the seas, the stars, and the seasons as evidence that He knows what He is doing… And Job is silenced, broken, repentant. I think it really may be true that we are six-year-olds when it comes to fathoming God.”
She nods, though sorrow is in her eyes. I think of how she screamed when her dad was taking his last breaths, “Daddy – don’t leave me!” How she punched a hole in the wall when he did.
“I know He weeps with you, honey. When He shook Mary of Bethany’s world, even though He knew He was going to bring her brother back to life, He wept with her. He did have a purpose in allowing Lazarus death, but that didn’t mean He didn’t care about the sorrow it caused. Could Keller be right – that we are six-year-olds, at best? Think about how Sadie [her one-year-old] responds when you pull her away from something that could hurt her, like you did last night with the fire.”
We both smile, remembering Sadie’s familiar slow break-down pattern, especially if Sally has uttered a sharp, “No, Sadie!” We know a storm is on the horizon when Sadie’s bottom lip protrudes and trembles, for next her astonished blue eyes will fill with rain, and finally the tempest bursts, releasing heartbroken sobs, shaking her whole body. She really is suffering. In the midst of her pain, however, she is smarter than many of us, for her chubby arms lift to the very one who caused her pain, the one who is so eager to scoop her up and hold her close, who will sway and whisper, “Hush-a-bye my little one. Mommy loves you so.”
We reach the raft, climbing the ladder to lie in the sun, contemplating, as best as six-year-olds are able to do, the profundity of God.
(And a follow-up video, from Dee’s teaching series on “Idol Lies” is found here: http://deebrestin.com/idol-lies/, lesson six.)