Wednesday, August 10, 2016

What I Learned at the Water's Edge

The Message at the Water's Edge at Camp

Then behold, men brought on a bed a man who was paralyzed, whom they sought to bring in a lay before Him.  And when they could not find how they might bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the housetop and let him down with his bed through the tiling into the midst before Jesus.  When He saw their faith, He said to him, "Man, your sins are forgiven you."
Luke 5:18-20 NKJV

The Child:  I shuffle along, kicking up the dry mountain dust, coating my tennis ball in a thick clay-like film.  My white cane hits a gnarled tree root that rises up out of the ground.  The cane is stuck in the root and its handle slams painfully into the my hip bone.  I let out a groan and wince from the sudden jab of pain.  I hear my mother inhale sharply in response to this, and know she is frustrated again by the surroundings and the difficulty we are both experiencing.

The Mother:  I see my daughter tripping along the rock, rooted, dusty path down to the lakefront.  Last night I was in tears in our cabin at camp.  I was sweaty, sticky with bug repellant, and tired from the numerous trips to our cabin from the car full of our sleeping bags, pillows, baggage and more.  I didn't have a daughter who could carry her own things, so I needed to carry both of our belongings myself.  

A View of the Lake at Camp
I was hurt by the "looks" at my daughter from these new peers who did not know her.  The looks communicated fear from some and pity from others.  None of these felt good to my heart, and I heard the rush of fear rumbling through my head as I experienced a feeling of rejection that I had not known in several years.  

Now, the next morning, we are trekking down to the lakefront ahead of the rush of kids in order to try to safely navigate the rocking, dusty, uncertain path straight down into...what?  For what?  I feel my daughter stumble and my shoulder burns with pain as I squeeze my right hand around her wrist and strain to help her stay on her feet.  I take in a sharp breath to try to lessen the intensity of my pain and keep my eyes from tearing up.

The Child:  I'm trying to see where I'm going, but the sharp contrast of shadows and light on this slab of smooth rock amidst the California pine trees create too much noise for me to make out anything clearly.  But I see the sapphire blue of the mountain lake and I wonder how cold the water is.  I feel the sun beating on my neck and back as I slide on my bottom down the smooth rock and take the hand of my youth pastor.  My mother side steps her own way down the rock as well and lands on the path next to me.  I hold out my left hand so my mother can take it again.  Even though my mother holds on too tight and it cramps my fingers, I also fear trying this alone, because there is too much I cannot see, and my cane is becoming heavier and heavier with each passing moment.  How much longer will we have to walk until we come to the water's edge?  Is this journey going to be worth it?

The Mother:  I'm relieved that she agreed to scoot on her bottom down the rock, otherwise we would have certainly fallen on our tailbone and that would have been a disaster.  How on earth will we ever get down here again to swim later today?  This is impossible!  I asked her last night if she wanted to go home.  I offered to just pack up and leave and we could camp in our living room.  But she wanted to stay.  Will this put an end to that desire?  Seriously, this hike better be worth it.  I look down the meandering dirt path which seems to stretch on for an eternity.  Are we going to have to walk through those bushes I see up ahead?  I grab my daughter's hand again...I wish I didn't have to hold her hand, but with as much as she's dragging her toes and tripping over rocks and roots, I can't risk letting her do this alone.

The Child:  I hear a buzzing and stop dead in my tracks.  "A bee!"  I shout.  My mother tells me it's just a fly, but pulls me along quickly because I know she's afraid of me getting stung as well and having to give me the shot because of my allergy.  I hear the sound of a guitar rising up just in front of me and to my right, toward the water, but I can't see where the sound is coming from.   I think there will be music at the water's edge.  I love music, and so does my mother.  Maybe this will cheer her up.  She had cried last night and told me she was frustrated and was ready to go home if I was...but I'm NOT ready...I want to be here and make friends and sing and dance and swim.

Worship at Camp
The Mother:  I continue to let my anger ease my aching heart, "A child in a wheelchair would never be able to come here.  No wonder so many families with children with disabilities don't attend church.  I don't see any ramps leading up to the cabins, and I don't think there's any accessible way down to the waterfront."  My feelings of entitlement continue to grow as I lodge my complaints within my own soul and let them boil inside my head.  I see my daughter roll her ankle on another rock as she tries to quicken her pace.  She is growing impatient with herself and this entire ordeal.  How much further?  I'm beginning to feel hopeless.

The Child:  Ouch.  I roll my ankle, and then stumble forward.  I just want to get there and be able to sit down so my mother can stop squishing my hand.  Finally, we have a rock to sit down on and I see our worship team outlined agains the cool blue waters of the lake.

The Mother:  Finally, we've reached the waterfront...but we have to go back UP to get back to camp when this is over.  "Dear, Lord, give me strength.  Help me see that this is worth it."

The Child and Mother worship at the water's edge after all the other campers arrive.  The youth pastor dives into his talk about WHY they came to the water's edge for this particular message today.


  • They are hot.
  • They are tired.
  • They are maybe hungry or thirsty after that hike down the hill.
  • The rocks aren't comfortable to sit on.
  • It is dusty and dry.

But hundreds and thousands of people would travel great distances and endure great discomfort to listen to Jesus speak at the water's edge.  They were hot, they were tired, they were hungry and thirsty...but they would do whatever it took to be in the presence of Jesus and to have a chance to hear him speak.

The Mother:  "Okay...God.  I hear you.  It might be hard on me to bring my child here.  It might be hard on me to see her stumble and fall.  It might rip my heart out to see how strangers react to her before they get to know her.  But it doesn't matter.  We came here for YOU.  Help me to be like the men who lowered their paralyzed friend through the roof to meet Jesus.  This is not about ME.  THIS IS ABOUT YOU.  You are worth it all.  Every tear drop, every lost minute of sleep, every scrape or cut.  YOU ARE OUR EVERYTHING.  

The Reader:  Heavenly Father, it's not easy being the parent of a child with special needs.  BLESS THOSE PARENTS WITH WHOM YOU HAVE ASSIGNED THIS LABOR OF LOVE.  We don't all enjoy some of the "ease" of parenting like watching your child grow up and marry or have a family or go to college or get a job.  Some of us don't know what it feels like to drop our child off at a playdate or a birthday party.  Some of us can't even fathom dropping a child off at camp and driving away until it's time to pick them up.  Some of us will constantly worry about what will become of our child when we are gone.  This is a painful and exhausting road, Father God.  We can NOT do this without you.  Remind us to see all our circumstances through the lens of YOUR will, not our will.  Amen.

~Tammie Hefty