When summer finally arrives in north Indiana I spend as much time as I can on or near the water. The season is short so I make sure I am ready to get in the water when the temperature warms up.
Usually, each summer, we find our way up to Mackinac Island for a few days. (No swimming there!) Then, further south, we manage a few days around the beautiful little town of South Haven. There are trips up to Warren Dunes State Park in southwestern Michigan...a place we have visited since we were teenagers. It's a good place to swim, to lie on the sand and read a good book, and to watch the setting sun set someplace over Wisconsin in a blaze of orange glory.
In a recent years, though, I get down to Koontz Lake in Marshall County. It's about an hour's drive from us. My in-laws live on the lake there, and I enjoy skiing behind their boat every chance I get. It is one of those small moments of life when I feel so alive I about joy right out of my skin! Good water, few other boats, and the sun low on the horizon as the fishermen come out...it is a sweet time to ski! So I ski every chance I get...or I get in the water with my 14-month old granddaughter, Ella, and we play.
I guess I'm saying I've gotten my money's worth out of the lake this summer. I've savored it...soaked it up.
This Sunday afternoon we went down. The cooler nights have made the water to chilly too slip into. So while a gentle rain fell I took my Bible, calendar, notebook and pens out to the ski boat...and sat in it while it was cradled above the water by the Shore Station. I sketched out some sermons for the coming year while listening to the rain, watching each raindrop create a circle where it hit the surface of the lake, and drank down a Coke Zero. (How's that for product placement? And the folks in Atlanta didn't pay me a dime!)
It was good. Really good. The rain slowed to a stop, the sun came out, and I noticed the neighbor a few doors down working in his yard.
I first knew him when he was younger, had a full head of dark hair, and two young children. For the last 4 or 5 years he and his wife have been rebuilding their lake home. Every time I walk past I see 2 x 4's stacked up in the yard, or insulation piled high waiting to be installed, or boxes of siding. It's been like the Great Wall of China...a never-ending project.
The thing I realized, as I sat in the boat this past Sunday afternoon, is that I haven't seen him out in the water...or in his boat. All summer. He and his wife have built this awesome deck on the front of the house, overlooking the lake, but I've not seen them out there with a good book and a cold root beer. Everything has been work.
Now, the season is ending and he is still trimming shrubbery. Working on the yard. Getting the place ready for his retirement...in three or four years.
He'll be ready then. But it seems, from where I sit in the boat, he has missed this season.
One of the occupational hazards of preacher types is you connect things you see in life to scripture. So as the day turned sunny and I watched the man work in the yard, I found myself thinking of the Parable of the Rich Fool Jesus tells in Luke 12. The guy's farm was doing very well. Instead of sharing the excess grain, or enjoying life, he said, "You know, I'll build some more barns and silos. I'll pile up the grain and then I'll be set for life. Then, I'll take some time to live and love." The man thought he had planned well, Jesus says, but the problem with his plan is that very night he was going to die.
God hates for us to miss life. "You fool!" God says to the man. "This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?"
Remembering that parable, I shook my head as the neighbor made one more trip to edge of his property with an armful of yard clippings. "You fool," I thought to myself.
Maybe I see it clearly. Maybe I've got it right.
Or maybe I am just a guy who would rather ski or read a book or watch the White Sox come back against the Tampa Bay Rays than do yard work. Maybe I've got my own blind spots. Maybe there are things I am missing as badly...as completely...as my friend who never seems to stop and notice the lake. Missed opportunities to love...to serve...to learn...to grow...to heal.
Maybe the fool is on the hill...working in his yard. Barely noticing the sun bouncing off the surface of the water on this autumn evening.
Or...it could be...the fool is in the boat. Able to see what the neighbor is missing and unable, for the life of him, to catch a glimpse of the holy and good things of life he is missing...putting off...until. Someday.