It’s just a picture that’ll be thumbed through like its nothing. They’ll see a couple of blurry men water skiing and move on but I read a long story of loose letters strung together over a whole bunch of years, then tied up like a smooth braid in the end.
Its stories like these make me shake my unbelieving head, yet still believe in a God most powerful to write them.
That’s Daddy there on the left, all seventy-one lived years of him, gliding on wet next to Husband, the hard-to-make-out, good-looking slick-head on the right.
Yeah, that’s them side by side, riding waves, maneuvering in and out the wake, a coming together of two men led by one machine, one engine, one driver.
And really that’s the way it all happened. It was one God that’d brought them together in the middle of the wakes and waves; one Driver that’d led them through all those bumpy waters.
Two men who never dreamed they’d both worship the same God soon enough, who never knew they’d pray together at meal times and family gatherings, who’d hug each other like they really meant it, who’d pair up on smooth boards and keep riding waves—voluntarily.
It wasn’t always this way, you know. It wasn’t always this cordial.
Can I just say that my prayer for the past few months has been: “God, let our story be Your Glory!” And this is it . . . His Glory right there balancing on Lake Gladewater on two sets of skis.”
I might as well insert the caption above their heads with an arrow pointing down that reads:
“Yep, here it is, God’s magnificent Glory!
Here’s the modern day parting of the Red Sea, the being spit out alive and well from the belly of a great fish, the unscathed deliverance from a fiery furnace. Behold a contemporary miracle being pulled behind a 1999 eighteen foot Glastron.”
Okay, yeah, my dad water skiing like he is twenty-one instead of seventy-one seems a bit of a miracle itself and quite admiring to say the least as he puts all us kids and grandkids and great-grand kids to shame out there sometimes fast floating like a flamingo on a single leg or taking off back and forth across white lines rolling.
But the real miracle goes beyond all that and I get to witness it curve and bend, swing wide and return, glide smooth and jump bumps—the two of them in a dance of sorts, friends now.
I watch them and remember my crushed fifteen-year-old heart when Daddy dragged him to the juvenile detention center. I remember the phone yanked off the wall to keep us from talking and the police getting their two cents worth in and putting it on paper, those probation prohibitions that hammered my heart and held me home and held him back.
The police and Daddy knew we were double trouble and the only way to keep us apart was to make it the law, to slap it on thick and send him off a while. And he was what they called a “bad boy” and I wasn’t much better.
But some people have to learn the hard way, and God in His brilliant love lets them. He loves us enough to let us decide if we’ll run to or from, come close . . . or wander away.
And I’d decided to wander.
And it all but strangled me ragged, it did. Thrashed me around like a raggedy Heather-Lee-Ann.
Time passed and they let him go and we picked up where we left off which wasn’t a good thing because all we knew to do was hurt each other.
And waves they rolled over like drowning blankets and I fought to stay above the folds, to keep the pain above the creases, to make it work despite the hurt.
And it’s that dogged determination to wander that welcomes sweeping waves, that makes us susceptible and vulnerable to ripping rip-tides and carries souls right out into the darkest places.
Sometimes it’s our own stubbornness, our own heads hard and skulls thick that we fight against, kicking ourselves senseless and we come up gasping and barely breathing, bruised and broken in a million places. And so often while we’re battling ourselves we’re blaming others, our childhood, our parents, some hurtful words, that relationship. We blame anything but our own having-to-have-things-our-way, our own willing wandering.
But there is a great God and His Glory. Because you see, it doesn’t matter how we come straggling up from the depths, just as long as we come up, just as long as we surface. He’s still there, that Spirit Light hovering above, attracting us to warmth beams, responsible for the pull.
And when we come to that earth-quaking realization that we have no excuses and we reach out of the cold and troubled murk with all our mustering measly might, He lifts us up and sets our feet down easy and we walk on the same water that once battered us good. We overcome the very waves that destroyed and devastated.
So we had a kid and got married and had another. We kept fighting and kicking and trying to love again and turns out Daddy had been right all along about a lot of things . . . a lot of things!
Except this one profound statement he’d made when I was about nineteen—“A leopard doesn’t change its spots.”
No, it doesn’t, and nine times out of ten we’d better beware of the leopards in our lives.
But there is a great God and all His Glory. And if He can make a donkey talk, well, He can sure cause that one willing leopard to change no matter how spotted it is.
It is His Light that sheds light on our created darkness, His Light that saves the most thrashed up marriages and walled up hearts, that heals the most ragged situations rendered hopeless. It’s the only thing makes Love be what it should because it is love itself. Light is love and love illuminates and breeds and multiplies in places it’s been invited into and it busts down brick-stacked layers of bitter.
It calms water swells and gives us stable skis and brings a father and son-in-law together for everyone to say, “What a story that picture tells!”—when they know the story.
The singular purpose of it all? His Glory! To lift up the mighty capable Name that’s above all others. It’s God’s greatest Gift and deepest Love that takes two ridiculous teenagers and scarred up young adults and changes them. That redeems their ragged past so He can be praised for it, so they can truly experience it and then worship Him together in awe of it!
Because the thing about it is . . .
Loose letters come together when we come to Him! When we stop wandering and start willingly surrendering.
And they create a story for His Glory.
And we get the honored privilege of playing a role, of being the main characters . . . in His beautiful Glory Story.
And that’s how a picture’s not just a picture but a long and wonderful story He decided to write.
- The Gift of Friends
- Sleep Tight to Moon Light