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?

“Idk if I can do this anymore 😞”

But God bends down to listen

Psalm 116:1 I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!  

Isaiah 40:29-31 The Lord never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

Opening my computer this morning, the top post on our neighborhood website is “Life is really getting to me… idk if I can do this anymore😞.” So far, 162 people have commented.

Is that you, too? Omicron and all its permutations and impact + the complications and darkness of winter + too many deaths to grieve properly + political slander, misinformation, etc. + fill in the blank for your own life.

One thing I am writing in that blank is my disappointment about canceling, due to Covid, our Feb. 7-14 trip to Bolivia to attend the wedding of a dear friend and spend time with many others. Our anticipated ten-day break from Pittsburgh winter will now be only three days, as we still plan to travel to Houston for my brother’s wedding Feb. 6.

When I woke up this morning and saw snowflakes drifting down, my first thought was how beautiful they were. My second thought was how treacherous, for elderly people and those with physical disabilities. Several peoples’ names came to my mind. How often Karis slipped and fell in snow and ice, despite my best efforts to keep her safe!

Lord, keep your beloved ones safe today, physically, emotionally, relationally, spiritually. THANK YOU that you care. That you bend down to listen to our sorrows and distress and fears. That you understand. That you renew our strength.

Psalm 116 says in verses 10 and 11, I believed in you, SO I said, “I am deeply troubled, Lord.” In my anxiety I cried out to you. The Lord invites us to come to him, to pour out our troubles, our worries, our disappointments, our frustrations. Hold them all out to the Lord.

And then be still, and receive from him comfort, direction, and renewed strength.

Wonderful, Merciful Savior