The Kingdom of God on Balsam Lake

Cabin life is fun. I enjoy the grilling while being with family. I like the outdoors and the fire that is always stoked, ready for a conversation. Loveless starts to get warm in July, but even on the first outing to the cabin kids are screaming and splashing and diving and swimming in the chilly waters. Loveless Lake is anything but loveless, as I’ve witnessed it, the waters that border the Western edge of the family cabin ripple story after story of the love that’s been shared from one generation to the next as we each escape normality to be together.

This story has been told a thousands different ways, yet here it is again in the 1001st way.

“Come play with us, Uncle Justin!” Sage screamed to me from the floating apparatus. The 6 feet by 20 feet floating foam pad that sits somewhere between the pontoon boat dock and the raft that is anchored 30 feet from shore is a playground for all sorts of childish shenanigans. There is no way to stay dry on this floating, yet simultaneously sinking, foam land mass.
I didn’t want to get wet. I didn’t want to be cold. Wet and cold are two states of being I don’t like. I like warm – I like dry – I like comfortable and easy. Sage was calling me right out of what felt good into something I didn’t want.

Sage, and her two brothers, Jude and Foreman, along with my son Soren were all playing on the foam pad. “Come on Uncle Justin!”

“Ugh, fine,” I said to myself. I went in to change into my swimsuit and quietly prayed they would be off the lake before I got out. Swim suit on I walked out the door. No Luck. I would soon be wet. And cold. Two things I don’t like.

There is only one way to overcome a wet and cold lake – a deliberate and brainless jump. Life is like that more often that I’d like it to be. Rarely can we get through the things that make us most uncomfortable by dipping our toe in. If you only put a toe in you’ll never get through the cold and wet. You have to jump.

Did I mention I hate cold and wet? I do.

Still, I jumped.

There are rare things in the world more shocking and reinvigorating than a cold lake on a hot day. When you cannonball there is a millisecond that your body is surrounded by a bubble of water as you plunge into the wet and cold water (HaveĀ  I mentioned I hate being wet and cold? I have?). That bubble is a lie, an illusion. The bubble says, “I’ll keep you safe from the wet, the cold. I can protect you from the discomfort you’re about to experience.” Then with surgical like precision the bubble jukes you out of your shorts and allows the cold, wet discomfort to envelope you like a blanket of “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! COLD!!!!!!”
Once you’re in though, oh what fun it is!

Seriously, the adults who sit on land all day are sooooo boring! We should really be wet and cold more often.
The kids and I did silly dances. We sprinted from the dock and long jumped back onto the foam pad. Over and over we fell into the cold, wet lake; having the time of our lives.

I eventually got out of breath and take a break to have some coffee and enjoy the good endorphins I was basking in. Moments later, towel draped on my shoulders, coffee in hand, a voice called out. “Uncle Justin!” Again, I’m not her Uncle – but family is family – and roles are determined by responsibility not blood. We’ve all had a family member that acted more like an enemy than we care to experience and many of us have experienced friendship that was thicker than sorghum molasses on throwed-rolls from Lamberts; often sweeter as well.

Sage caught up and caught her breath to say, “Thank you for playing with us, Uncle Justin.” Stunned at her gratitude for such a simple act of being present, I recovered in enough time to reply, “Sage, thank you for inviting me.”

I’m finding, now more than ever, that being present for people is the most precious and gracious gift we might endow upon those we love and those who annoy us. To be fully available, fully aware, fully intent their best interest in one infinitesimal moment infinitely priceless.

Running on a foam mat on a lake in Wisconsin was where I was invited by a child to participate in the Kingdom of God. Then I was thanked for being available.

The Kingdom is present, the Kingdom is now, the Kingdom is here. Am I? Are you? Are we?

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