by Kim Nentrup
It was God to you. The expansive, eye-filling Lake Michigan, with its moodiness and its billion diamond sparkles at dusk. Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, the sparkles became the different aspects of God, all the things one could ever learn about Him, and how they were significant, each one. You grieved each time you left the lake, because you knew that your mind could not remember the pure beauty of Him for a whole year, until summer vacation brought you back again.
It was the next summer you lost your faith. It happened slowly, like a trickle of water over a slate-bottomed creek in a drought. First, after an evangelist's wife confided in you that she did not believe in hell, you realized you also did not believe in hell. God was pure beauty--hell was an inconsistent ugliness. Then you read and read and read about the origins of the Bible, and started to realize that it was no longer truth to you. You talked to a preacher and confessed you didn’t believe Jesus was God at all. He looked at you with pity. Then you cried, sobbing over Jesus not being there with you anymore, not loving you unconditionally, not making all things work together for good.
You were sad as your husband and you drove up the long dirt drive to the lake cabin. You helped bring the luggage and baskets of towels and flip flops and linens into the house. Then you knew it was time. It was the annual first look. You had to walk about fifteen feet up a hill to see the lake.
You walked up that hill thinking that the lake might not even be there. How could it be? But as the blue sky revealed itself and the deeper blue line of horizon revealed itself and then the shore, and the grasses, you saw that it was there. And it was morning, and the breeze was just so, no longer the Holy Spirit caressing you, but still cool on your face. And you walked down the steps, all 64 of them, to the sand and kicked off your shoes.
There was a washed up log and you sat down on it, feeling the warmed sand, and you put your head in your hands and you cried. It was a grieving cry for an old friend who had died.
The sobbing went on for some time. You thought of the time that you stood talking to the ake and praising it for its magnificence. You wondered at how odd that seemed now. You looked to the left toward the lighthouse and saw it was still there. You looked to the right to the bend of the land and saw it was still there. It was all still there. It was there for you. It hadn’t left you.
You stepped into the cold July water, up to your knees, and let the tiny waves lap against you. You needed to dive in and be re-baptized in this water of disbelief. But you weren’t going to do that. You just felt it on your legs and said that would be enough.
Every year before, every time you had to turn to leave the lake and head for the stairs for a sandwich or a nap, or to leave for the summer, it was the hardest thing. The ake sang a siren song, once a deity singing comfort, but now, when you turned to walk up the stairs, you felt the breeze was just a breeze on your back, no longer God's spirit. The rush of the waves was not a whisper of truth, but a lovely sound of nature. The sparkles on the tips of the waves from the shore to the horizon were not points of holiness, but simple, heart-filling beauty.
You knew the lake would exist in your mind all year. It wasn't going to leave, and it was enough.