I woke up on the hottest day of the summer and received a text from my wife saying there was a heat warning and to not be outside very long. The news said it could reach 110 degrees, so I stayed in the apartment with the air conditioner on, all the lights off, and a glass of cold water at my side. (I must have had 10 glasses of water that day.) The evening came on quick and before I knew it, Suzie and I were making our way out of the apartment and heading down to the waterfront.
Suzie had a surprise in store for me….it had been planned for weeks. She made me a card with a sail-boat on the cover and a proverb that read, “It’s not the towering sail, but the unseen wind that moves a ship”. It quickly brought to mind the Bible verses in John, chapter three, “You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next. That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’ by the wind of God, the Spirit of God.”
I knew then, that I was about to go sailing. This is far and away the most opposite thing I would ever consider doing, but I had been feeling low lately and Suzie knew that I needed to do something random to get my mind off my problems.
I had been praying that God would allow me to talk to someone about faith in Him. I am used to standing on stages and singing over people, organizing outreach projects in Buffalo, and handling multiple people at one time, but I hardly ever get an opportunity to talk one-on-one to a person about faith in Christ. I needed a dialogue with an atheist.
Upon entering what our sail-guide referred to as the “living room of the boat”, I could feel in my gut that something special was about to take place. He introduced himself as “Crazy Larry”. He was excited that this was our first time on a sail-boat so He talked of His love for sailing and how He had sailed all over the world… in fact, Larry, along with his wife and kids, lived on a sail-boat. He spoke of sailing the same way Henry David Thoreau talked about Walden Pond…. as if there was salvation in it. A life lived out on the open water with no fences , lawns to mow or houses to fix… it’s a simple way of living… where your thoughts are your television and books are your sub-titles.
We talked about our jobs and music, and before long the subject of God came up. He said He had been an agnostic and was now atheist. Catholicism scared him and evangelicals were too fanatical. I spoke of my love for church… not of any specific denomination, but as a whole. You know, the idea of what church was intended to be and not how it sometimes comes across to those who don’t believe the same way. He responded by saying, “We have a long sail ahead so try and convince me that God is real.” The first words I could think of to say were, “The difference between realists and dreamers are that realists know where they are going, but dreamers have already been there.”
When I said this he laughed, but not a mocking laughter, more of a taken-by-surprise laughter. I said to him, “If you were to replace the dreamers with faith-believers, we would have to live in a place we have never seen nor been.” He replied, “I need to see it to believe it….something palpable.”
As he was changing the sail and I was steering the ruder into a great gust of wind, I said, “Martin Luther King said that we cannot see the wind but we can see the effects of the wind. I don’t know God as much as I can see what God is doing through me and all around me. The more I get into theology the more I find that I’m left with more questions than answers. Larry, the Bible says that the things I cannot see are eternal and the things I can see are temporal.”
As we continued to talk about the mystery of God I said a silent prayer using the words of my song “Just Say”:
Jesus speak to Larry your hope,
and carry Him.
Will you be the ark,
that floats him…up above the storm.
I said to Larry, “The more I try and figure God out, the more distant and far away He seems… but the more I trust Him and believe Him, He is closer than words can say….
We continued to sail into the sunset and soon our time out on the water was coming to a close. As we were docking I immediately thought of my grandfather, Pappy McClurg. Pappy will pray for anyone, anywhere, at any time…. unabashed of his faith, so I asked Larry if I could say a prayer to bless his boat and his family. Suzie laid her hand on Larry’s shoulder and I began to pray. I prayed that his boat would be a sanctuary where He could meet with God. I asked God to allow Larry to ask Him questions… directly… like Job did in the Bible. I prayed, “God, I know that You’re not mad at Larry for being an atheist…You just want him to come to You with all his questions and doubts. God, would You open Larry’s eyes and reveal Yourself to him?”
As we walked off the dock we heard a little girl shouting, “Daddy! Daddy!”
We were able to meet Larry’s wife and daughter and share with them about our wonderful time out on the lake.