Deep and Wide
My intricately engineered campfire flickered playfully against its backdrop: a serene Canadian lake aglow with reflections of the evening’s sunset-streaked sky. Only the flames’ leaps and crackles interrupted the otherwise absolute stillness and solitude.
My dad, brother and I had flown to this remote lake several days previous in a small four-passenger aquatic airplane.
“See you in a week!” the pilot called cheerfully as he waved good-bye and taxied into the wind.
We watched the buzzing airplane recede over the treetops like a tiny yellow insect in the southern sky - our only link with the lifestyles we'd left behind. It slowly faded away until we could no longer hear its engine. I muttered to myself, “Hope you come back to get us!” In that moment I realized just how much I meant it.
The untouched Canadian wilderness delivered adventure in many forms. We were shocked to discover an engraved stone marking an Indian baby’s grave on a high knoll in the midst of dense forest. It was easy to spend hours fishing for walleye and trophy-sized northern pike in this fisherman’s paradise. Once at mid-day we cooked lunch over a fire built on a big rock in the middle of rushing rapids – a feat of pioneer genius!
But this evening a subtle stirring replaced those other adrenaline-provoking, bold encounters. As pine smoke filled the air, a separated-from-the-rest-of-the-world sense of awe and expectancy flooded me with its own quiet anticipation. There was something eerie, something other-world-ish about this place, this moment, this feeling that washed over me holistically as if in preparation for a divine “kairos” moment.
I stirred the fire with a piece of driftwood, and glowing sparks shot every which-way, providing a light show that would put any fourth of July sparkler to shame.
Not a breath of air stirred; the huge body of water before me lay perfectly smooth in a state of primitive, untouched natural beauty. Woodlands marked the shorelines; not a sign of human life could be seen anywhere. As I huddled near the fire for warmth and studied the lake’s expansive openness, I imagined Jesus peacefully walking on the water - step-by-step-by-step - all the way across the vast acreage.
My mind wandered back to my townhouse in downtown Chicago, where my wife and three children were most likely immersed in their usual evening routine. Our two-year-old middle child had been diagnosed with a serious and rare genetic issue only several weeks before. The doctor’s prognosis suggested our boy would most likely never talk, and would require constant assistance throughout his life.
The wild, untamed lake with its fathomless depths seemed to represent the circumstances of this little fellow’s young life as well as the monumental challenges before him. The Canadian wilderness - with its unknowns and uncharted territories, icy temperatures and potentially stormy seas, isolation and wild animals - could swallow him up in an instant. I realized the obstacles of “normal” everyday American life might, in fact, seem just as huge when seen from his vulnerable perspective. And yet in my mind’s eye Jesus kept walking on the water’s surface, peacefully strolling without disturbance … while carrying my fragile blue-eyed, tow-headed boy securely in His arms.
A couple of loons began wailing in the distance with mournful-sounding pleas as if prayerfully crying out to God. The fire snapped and popped its accompaniment; the water grew blacker, my images deeper.
A knot grew in my throat as the fire played before me. I pictured my fragile but beautiful little son, complete in his own deficit-defined way, walking on water with Jesus under a sky blanketed with stars.
A magnificent meteor shower lit the heavens with firefly-like streaks, mirroring and magnifying the sparks flying from the fire.
The Light of the World would illumine the dark and needy places in our little boy’s heart similarly, perhaps especially when we least expected, or could predict, His intervention. He would enable our entire family when we grew weak or weary or confused, protect us from despair, and redeem our suffering in meaningful and productive ways. He would lift us above the inky depths where we might otherwise drown in seas of discouragement, and chart the path where we, too, might walk with Him across wild and dangerous territories as deep and wide as Canadian big water.
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