I’m writing this post as I sit on a bench looking out at Lake Michigan. A short while ago, the sky was awash in a watercolor sunrise. Now, the sun is above the horizon and gentle ripples on the water are crowned with glints of silver. A weathered wood pier juts from the narrow, sandy beach. It is vacant except for a flock of gulls perched like statues on its end. About 50 yards off shore, a lone kayaker paddles north. I envy him out there on the water, alone with God, oblivious to life onshore.
If you’ve never seen Lake Michigan, you might be surprised by how huge it is. North to south it stretches 321 miles. Its maximum depth is 925 feet, and at its widest it reaches 118 miles from shore to shore. From where I sit on the Wisconsin side, Michigan lies across the lake about 75 miles to the east. You can’t see it unless you are lucky enough to experience a superior image. (If you’re curious about what that is, click here.). I’ve never seen one, so for me the water appears to have no beginning and no end.
As I sit here, I imagine old wooden sailing ships floating by, their sails unfurled swelling in the wind. The first ones sailed on Lake Michigan in the 1600s when French trappers came to trade with the Indians. Several years ago, I sailed on the lake in a reproduction of one of those ships. We sailed east, and I watched the land disappear behind me. The ship’s huge sails billowed overhead, and I was clearly aware that there was no sound except for water lapping against the wooden hull. We may as well have been in the middle of the ocean, because in all directions there was nothing but water. The very first words of the Bible came to my mind: “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” (Genesis 1:1-3) Sailing there on Lake Michigan, I imagined how Earth was in the beginning before you, or I, or ships or anything else existed except water and our Almighty God.
The kayaker lifts his paddle now, and for several seconds his craft glides on the peaceful lake. A silver trail glistens from the stern, the sunlight reflecting off the narrow wake. I watch and remember that sailing on Lake Michigan isn’t always this smooth. The lake has a dark side. In a heartbeat it can turn angry when a nor’easter blows in churning the water and forming waves ten-feet tall. The water demands respect. Its rage has caused fear in the hearts of many an expert sailor. If you have any doubt, watch this:
“Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.” (Matthew 8:24-26) I wonder how many sailors have remembered those verses and prayed to the Lord as water washed over their decks.
Water is mentioned more than 700 times in the Bible. Often it connects life here on Earth with our Father who lives in Heaven. In Genesis, the first book of the Bible, we read that life on Earth began when God spoke, “Let the water teem with living creatures.” (Genesis 1:20) In the New Testament we learn from John the Baptist about the significance of baptism with water as a symbol of our relationship with God. Later in the New Testament, Jesus says, “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14). If you read the Bible from cover to cover, you will discover many examples where water plays a significant role in man’s relationship with God, and you will also discover this — the story ends where it begins — with water!
The last chapter of the last book of the Bible, Revelation 22, tells of “the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God.” (vs. 1) Ironically, just as the first verses of the Bible mention water, so do the last. In Revelation 22:17, we read: “Come! Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” Is this just a coincidence? Absolutely not! In this same chapter, Jesus explains it all. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”
I can no longer see the kayak. It has sailed on to a new place. I look out at Lake Michigan, and although I know that land is only 75 miles away, as far as I can see the water has no beginning or end. The sun has risen in the sky now, and like the Spirit of God it hovers above the waters of this mighty Great Lake. I am thankful for life and for the gift of living near this beautiful body of water. Most of all, I am thankful that I have tasted the Living Water that connects my life here on Earth with eternal life in Heaven.
Dear God, Your spirit is a well of living water that fills me and refills me over and over again. Your spirit has no beginning and no end. Thank you, Lord, that I have drunk from this well. Now, help me to share it with others.