By Chrissy Tatum Williamson
I used to be afraid of thunderstorms. When I say “used to” I’m not talking about when I was a small child. No, I mean well into my twenties. Okay, who am I kidding, I still don’t like them very much. April will vouch for this when I also say, I’m not super crazy about getting wet. I don’t like to get in the pool (I love to sit by it), won’t get in the ocean (love the sand), and when it starts to rain, I am the first to run for cover. This is why it is so strange that I found myself overwhelmed with laughter as I slowly paddled my solitary kayak back to Grancy’s lake house on Thursday afternoon in a rainstorm.
Some of you know that I spent some time in June at High Rock Lake for my first-ever writing retreat. After looking at the GBC worship schedule where I input the sermon texts and titles and seeing that I was very quickly approaching the end of my planning, I realized something had to give. Weeks of writing on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and yes, even early Sunday morning had me feeling worn down and the complete opposite of creative (or inspired?). So, I consulted with the staff and we all agreed it would be better for everyone if I could make time to get ahead.
Car loaded with commentaries, at-home clothes, and an appropriate ration of dog-food for my trusty side-kick, Penny, I hit the road for Aunt Nancy (aka Grancy)’s lake house. I decided the best course of action would be to work on the sermon for the coming Sunday. I’d get that out of the way so I could focus the rest of my time on advanced plans. Topic for this week: wonder. Text: Sarah laughs (Genesis 18). Turns out the sermon didn’t come in one sitting, they rarely do. Instead I spend a few hours here and there toying with the tension of fear and wonder, control and release, disbelief and laughter. These are the emotional dynamics at work in the text and it is no coincidence (I don’t think) that these are the dynamics at work in our lives… well at least in mine!
Thursday night after I finished the first draft of the sermon on Wonder and sent it to my dear friends who read and provide feedback on my work each week (bless them!), I realized the tuna steak I’d set out to thaw still needed more time. So I considered watching something on Apple TV before I looked out the wall of windows facing the lake and realized that would be a huge waste of all the surrounding beauty. I sprayed on some sunscreen, clipped on my life jacket and got in the kayak to explore the lake. It wasn’t long before I realized the lake was quiet, quieter than it had been all week. There was literally no one else out there. I took my phone out of the zip-lock bag I’d stored it in for the outing and started taking pictures, trying to capture the wonder of a still, summer lake. Just as I picked up the phone to call Justin, wanting to marvel at it all I noticed some drops of rain starting to fall. I ended the call quickly, saying I’d call him back, and started paddling away from the shadow of the cloud, toward a sunny spot. Well, the cloud seemed to chase me. The harder I paddled, the harder the drops of rain fell. I started to worry – at least I thought it was worry – that I wouldn’t be able to escape this storm, but that I’d be caught in it, vulnerable and alone out on the water. Then it happened.
I started laughing! Laughing! Not a chuckle, but a bonafide laugh! It was the funniest thing, that I, of all people, would be found alone on a kayak in the middle of a lake, in a rainstorm. Realizing that the emotion wasn’t worry, wasn’t even fear, I slowed to a halt letting the wind and water float the small boat back toward home. As I floated in the current it hit me. … this was wonder. Here it was, the very thing I’d been writing about this week. Wonder, the sister of laughter, curiosity, and uncertainty. This was wonder, right here on the other side of fear. Wonder, blowing through like a pop up summer rain storm. Wonder, a gift of beauty and promise, right there in the middle of the lake.
As I floated on the wonderful waves I found myself remembering some words I’d found but didn’t end up using for the sermon. Maybe they were just a gift for the preacher this week. I offer them to you as both prayer and promise:
Loving God, Creator of the Universe, thank you for the ways wonder dances through our lives like raindrops on the still surface of a quiet lake. May we see and delight in its beauty now and forevermore. Amen.