canoeing, Duane Scott, Emily Wierenga, family, imperfect prose, Margaret Feinberg, memoir, Redemption's Beauty, Scribing the Journey, Shelly Miller, White Mountains, wilderness, Willimantic River, Wonderstruck
My brother has often told me that when he encounters difficult things in life, he maintains perspective by measuring them against a canoe trip he once took with my husband. As hard as his circumstances might be, he says nothing else comes close to the misery he experienced that day.
The day had dawned with brilliant spring sunshine, the kind that allows a person to believe winter might finally be over and done with for good. The sun’s warmth had begun to coax glimpses of green from the dead and gray of thawing ground. Birds seemed to have remembered their songs. As we drove toward church that Sunday morning we passed rushing and tumbling streams, filled to overflowing with runoff from melted snow.
“It would be a great day to canoe the Willi,” said my husband. I could see he was picturing the particular section of the Willimantic River he had in mind, beginning in the town of Willington, Connecticut, and flowing downstream through several other villages before reaching the Eagleville Dam.
While at church, he talked my brother into joining my daughter and him on his afternoon adventure. After returning home I helped him load the canoe onto his truck, together with paddles, life vests, and all the other equipment they would need. I followed my husband in my car to my brother’s house so I could leave a vehicle downstream where they would finish their paddle. My brother climbed into my husband’s truck clad in a t-shirt, jeans and flip-flops. He decided, at the last minute, to grab a hooded sweatshirt, just in case the temperature dropped.
Which it did.
As the afternoon progressed, the strong morning sun yielded to gray and cloudy skies which proceeded to unleash cold, drenching, bone-chilling rain. Although the precipitation never changed over to snow it gave a powerful impression that, at any moment, it just might. My brother yielded his hooded sweatshirt to my daughter who sat in the middle of the canoe as he and my husband paddled.
I believe the memory of the cold which settled deep into his bones continues to haunt my brother. That canoe trip with my husband set a benchmark for misery which, in his experience, has yet to be surpassed.
The works of God’s hands do not contradict his written word; they serve it by breathing color onto the black-and-white of the printed page.
I believe that is mostly true, albeit metaphorical. God’s Spirit breathes life into the words of scripture, opening our eyes to its truth. And creation doesn’t always bear faithful witness to its Creator. Although formed in perfection and declared by its Creator to be good, this world is corrupted by sin. Creation itself is in rebellion against the One who called it into being.
Yet God continues to point toward the works of his hands, even in its fallen condition, to illustrate the truth of his word. In chapter 003 of Wonderstruck, Margaret Feinberg wrote:
The psalmist reminds us God’s faithfulness is woven into the canopy of the heavens, his loving-kindness displays itself throughout the earth. The subterranean depths of the ocean speak of the wisdom of God’s judgments, and the horizons herald how far God removes our sins. God’s rule reveals itself in day, night, and seasons: his voice rumbles in the thunder.
On the days we begin to question God’s power or sovereignty, the psalmist points to the hail, fire, wind, and snow as elements that obey God’s command. In the moments we start to question God’s saving grace, the psalmist recalls the miracles of salvation in the sea and storm to remind us no one resides beyond God’s rescue.
Last summer my husband invited my brother on another outdoor adventure, this time for a hike in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. They summited four peaks and, near the top of one, encountered fifty mile-per-hour winds. My husband pursues these kinds of experiences and continues to invite others to join him because they drive home for him realities about God’s power and sovereignty. He says these wilderness adventures serve to remind him:
We’re not as big and important or as in control as we think we are. We tend to think of ourselves as something important but, when you’re standing out there in those conditions, you realize you’re just a speck.
Yet a speck deeply loved and cared for by One powerful enough to sustain all of his creation.
Although he describes it as one of the hardest things he’s ever done, my brother said he enjoyed last summer’s hiking trip with my husband. After completing some steep climbs and enduring some harsh weather, they were treated to some stunning views.
And, he is quick to add, it was by no means as miserable as that spring canoe trip.
Joining Shelly Miller @ Redemption’s Beauty and Duane Scott @ Scribing the Journey in their book club discussion of Wonderstruck, by Margaret Feinberg. And with emily wierenga’s community for imperfect prose:
Source cited: Feinberg, Margaret (2012-12-25). Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God (p. 53). Ingram Distribution. Kindle Edition.