Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The boathouse: Memoir gives way to devotion

In keeping with the series I’m doing on memoir, I wanted to discuss how pictures, places,and  moments can stimulate memories. I was going to give an example of how this boat scene generated the memory of a rite-of-passage moment for me: the time when my father handed me a slender knife and took me around the back of the shed by the public boat landing.

“It’s time you learned to clean the fish you catch,” he said, and without further ado made a clean slit along the back of the head, detaching it from the body.

But that story wouldn’t come; I hear your collective sighs of relief.

What comes instead is an insistence of a reminder of His Presence—His undeniably real Presence in solitary places as well as stormy seas. Maybe someone needs it today.  Maybe just me.
I slipped inside the door of the boathouse and absorbed the cool quiet of the shadows. Boats purposed to carry fishermen, and kids, and lovers bumped gently against their moorings, silent beyond the reach of the day’s brilliance. For a moment, I stood, anchored in the well-being of a soul alone in the presence of the Lord.

A few minutes later, a car full with family, fishing gear, and large dog, pulled up. They, energetic with the prospect of an outing, transferred their loads from car to boat. The shadows scattered in the activity, and I turned to join my own husband and hyper pup.

The memory of the moment won’t leave me. I stare at the picture I took and try to hold in my hand the longing for oneness, the conviction to feel, not just say, that it is absolutely well with my soul, even when I’m frustrated, or annoyed, or fearful.

Two nights in a row I dream about being in little boats inadequate for the seas. In one dream, I’m thrown overboard into dark tumultuous waters. There is a man treading water with me, and although I see the danger, I am not afraid.

The next night, I dream the waves on each side are higher than the boat that flounders in the deep trough.  Again, there is a man with me, and although the situation looks frightful, I am concerned but not afraid.

Now I realize the stuff of dreams isn’t something to hang your theology on, nor fill your memoirs with, but two in a row with the same theme get my attention. My first thought is that since I am not consciously aware of any present fear or danger of wave-size magnitude, maybe the dreams are a warning.

This, of course, makes me fearful. My eyes fixed on the waves overlook the Presence.

Then, on Sunday, the pastor directs our attention to John 6. The part where Jesus withdraws to a solitary place to be alone with his Father.  

The part where He walks on a stormy night sea to reach his disciples who are straining against the waves.

The part where He says: “It is I; stop fearing.”

My boathouse, dreams, and sermon meld into a heart offering.

Lord, I pray you would fill this feeble faith with the knowledge of you, in my solitary places of worship, in the bustle of daylight, in the dark and danger- filled waves against which no one can stand in his own strength.  May I not doubt that I AM is with me.

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