Healing at the Lake, Part 1 of 2, by Karen Johnson, Hershey, PA

But God … Where are you?

Psalm 42:1-2 As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him? Day and night I have only tears for my food, while my enemies continually taunt me, saying, “Where is this God of yours?”

I invite you to join me at the end of a dock on a bright, sunny day. The sun is dancing off the lake, and the air is just hot enough to make the cool water inviting. I turn around and, with total abandon, fling out my arms and fall backward into the lake. The water welcomes and envelopes me, filling me with a thrill of excitement. I dive deep, then swim back up to break the surface. The sun is bright in my eyes and warm on my face, even as my body in the water shivers with delight.

Shutterstock: PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek

I look back and see Jesus running down the dock. With a whoop of joy, he dives into the lake. He comes up next to me with a big grin as He flicks the hair out of his eyes. We laugh and swim and frolic in the water. I am aware of a smoggy, oppressive tinge to the air, even on this sunny day. While it weighs on me, I ignore it for now and focus on the warm sun and the joy and freedom I feel as I glide through the water, a cheerful companion at my side. My gangly pre-teen body feels strong and graceful.

But as I break through the surface and flip over to float on my back, I sense a chill in the air. The smog has thickened into a black fog that snakes over the dock from the land. Suddenly, I am standing on the dock, wrapped in a towel but shivering and cold. My hair hangs in wet hanks and drips down my back. I am enveloped by the dank, dark fog.

I slowly trudge up the dock towards the house. As I start up the grassy slope, my attention is caught by a stream I never knew was there at the far edge of the lawn. Curious, I investigate. A brook tumbles down the hillside towards the lake. I love water in its many forms, but I am strangely devoid of emotion as I see this cheerful little stream bubbling over the rocks. I turn back and plod towards the house.

As I near the door, the fog thickens and is like a swarm of bees coming at me, piercing and smothering me. I know I’m in trouble. I suddenly find myself inside, sitting at the table, being berated for staying outside too long. The harangue goes on and on and on and on as I am told how selfish and inconsiderate and rebellious I am. How dare I enjoy the sun and the water when we need to pack up and get ready to leave? Who do I think I am to leave the work to everyone else?

I sit there, shivering and cold and alone, absorbing into myself every word that is said. My dad is there, but he doesn’t defend me and seems powerless to make the onslaught stop.

When the tirade winds down, I am instructed to go to the kitchen to make sandwiches for the trip.  I love to help, but instead of delight at contributing to a team effort, I stand at the counter, bread slices spread out in front of me, mixing a batch of tuna salad, hating myself. Sobs quietly rack my body and I want to hurt myself to get rid of this horrible guilt and shame and anger. 

At the same time, I am aware that this entire scenario was totally unnecessary. I was given permission to go out and play.  I was a child, out on the water, with no way of telling the time. All that was required was for the adult to pay attention to the time and what needed to be done and cheerfully call me in when it was time to get ready to go.  I would have reluctantly left the water but happily come inside to help. I love to help!

Another thread weaves through my thoughts and weighs down my heart: sadness for the pain that consumes those I love. Pain that would cause a mother to so berate her sweet daughter and cause a father to look on so helplessly. Is God powerless to do anything for any of us?

Under this cloud, we drive away from the weekend at the lake. God, where are you? Why is there no connection between the delight on the water and life in the house and in the car as we drive away? Where is the peace and joy your Spirit is supposed to give us? Why can’t I find you? Why is the girl who frolicked in the water such a miserable failure yet again?

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