The evidence is indisputable, even when it’s all wet.
For the past 5 summers Max has been taking kayaking lessons, which I affectionately refer to as my exercise in letting go. Each year I stand on the shore and watch as, one by one, Max and four other young adults are helped into pencil thin boats that sit on top of the water. All of them require assistance. A few need to be carefully lifted and dropped down into the mouth of the boat in a trust fall of limp limbs. Bright orange pontoons grace the sides of several boats to help maintain balance when bodies do not. Our children are more vulnerable on the surface of the water, yet in their faith and frailty, there is strength. To witness this, one can believe anything is possible.
Standing with the other parents, we gasped a little as our children paddled in rhythmic circles and floated out into the open bay. While I may clutch my heart, I can sense Max’s freedom as he glides across the deep. Something happens to him on the water’s surface – he is agile, focused, his language rushing forth like a wave. It’s as if he leaves part of his autism in his duffle bag on shore along with his towel and a change of clothes. Too often Max is dismissed because of his disability, his value and purpose and dignity brought into question, but here on the water one could easily mistake him for an instructor.
I watched as the boats floated along the horizon, the line between sky and water almost indistinguishable, both bleached with light. Max looked so tiny, engulfed in the vastness of blue, every thought of autism dwarfed by the brilliant pink sky rising above him. I sat on a bench and watched as God painted His canvas around me, the marks of His hands stretching across the sky with curls and smudges and streaks. Crests of yellow-rimmed clouds dropped flecks of gold onto the waters surface. I leaned in a little closer, as if all of creation was whispering, “Open your eyes! God is near! Come closer!” The evidence of God is all around us, even in a life many would push aside. And as it turns out, my son was about to become Exhibit A.
Just as the sky was growing dark, Max and the other students paddled back toward the dock, tired but exhilarated. Max had his paddle up over his head as if finishing a marathon. “I did it, Mom,” I heard him yell before adding that he needed a roast beef sandwich and ice cream, immediately. He had just pulled up to the dock with his instructor beside him when I heard the dreaded sound.
My eyes darted across the water. Max was upright. But then I saw his instructor’s boat completely upside down, with the instructor underneath! I could hear Max gasp. A moment later, the boat flipped back up as if it were entirely planned. The instructor just shook his long blonde hair from side to side, casually sending a spray of water around him. I’m sure in some circles that move is considered cool. We parents must have looked like a line of bullfrogs, our eyes bulging at the sight.
I knew Max would panic. I could see his hand outstretched as he spoke to his instructor in what appeared to be an effort to help. But then I realized that all of the other instructors were staring at Max, wide-eyed. I leaned in a little closer –
“Because you love Jesus,” I heard Max say as he kept his hand up toward his salt-soaked instructor, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
I put my hands up over my mouth and turned toward one of the other parents, another Christian. We both fell into each other as if we’d been hit at the back of the knees with holy joy.
The instructor sat there dazed, encountering a bit more with his underwater roll than he’d expected. He fumbled for a response as the other teachers just looked on, waiting. And then, with water still dripping down his face, I saw an acknowledgment of the evidence, an acceptance of Exhibit A. “Thank you,” the instructor said to Max, as he slowly, softly, smiled.