I was thinking of the importance of truth this morning, a well-pressed concept in the manner of dried roses hidden in the erstwhile leaves of a book entitled Long Ago.
We were different back then, untainted by the prerequisite jading that arrived upon us through age and experience. Yet the scattered proof remains relevant throughout it all: life revolves around ten per cent of the things that are beyond our control, and ninety per cent in how we deal with those self-same situations.
But then again, I may just be full of myself this morning…
You’d have to have known the boy. Tall and skinny, loud and obnoxious, neither a bully nor one to be bullied; he was merely one of my friends. It may have appeared differently to those on both sides of the popularity bell-curve, but he was obscenely average in everything that mattered most to teenagers back in those days. The same careful estimations of him carried over from me—he was neither my best friend nor my worst—just somewhere stagnated in the middle. I guess that’s not so bad, really, in anyone’s world when you’re both honest about it.
School had released us for spring break despite it being only toward the end of February. The break was well earned by the season as the temperatures were unusually warm that year. We decided to go fishing in a pond not far from home, although going fishing mostly meant hanging out and doing anything but. As an explanation, I do not remember cleaning any fish that evening. Maybe we didn’t catch any, or maybe the events of the day spoke a different language and had taken us down another path. The pond belonged to a man that used the land for weekend excursions from a far away city, and infrequent ones at that. As a disclaimer, we had permission to fish there—or at least I did.
The owner kept a wooden pirogue on the banks of his pond, and a problem arose from the capacity of the small boat. It had been proven (scientifically) in the past to carry a maximum of two passengers at a time, while we had three on our impromptu fishing expedition that morning. So we flipped for it, and the loser had to fish from the banks while the other two set sail on a day that bordered majestically upon the magnificent. We displayed no fear—in the manner of teen-aged boys—assured in the knowledge that nothing could go wrong because we were immortal and invincible. But this is the point where truth came into play despite our efforts to deny it. Did I mention the weather was unseasonably warm for February?
With a slight breeze blowing steadily across the water, we found we had to constantly paddle to remain in the better fishing areas and to keep from being pushed into the primeval, untamed side of the marsh. On that side of the small basin abode a mature weeping-willow tree, whose winter-naked branches gnarled out over the water toward us with violent-looking tendrils. It would reach for rods, lures, even clothing if we happened to venture too close. We did.
Just as I reminded him that it was his turn to paddle and we needed to get out of harm’s way, something fell out of that tree and landed across my shoulders, softly sliding down my back and into the bottom of the boat. I had no time to express the words—they came on their own as I reverted to a stutter that had not been present since I had passed my second or third year as a denizen of existence: “S-S-S-Snake!”
Snakes weren’t out in February. They were cold blooded reptiles, everyone knew this truth, and it was too cold…
I bailed over the side and within moments was well on my way, swimming frantic strokes toward the beach we had originally began our expedition from. My bank-bound friend who had lost the coin toss earlier awaited me, laughing, but not too hard, and helped me get my water-logged body out of those algae-encrusted waters. Meanwhile I turned to look back for the boat, and my other tall and lanky friend remained onboard in the back of it, which caused the front end of the boat which I had earlier abandoned to rise up at a 45-degree angle. In my recently-vacated place coiled a very agitated snake, doing all he could to either find his way back up into the tree or escape into the relative safety of the water. The boy in the boat began laughing at the snake, the boat, me, and his predicament—but his laughter was short-lived. The snake, seeing no way out through the steep sides of the boat turned and began to slither in his direction!
Now Jesus walked on the water. I expect Him to be able to do so. I mean, He is the Son of G_d. And He invited Peter out onto the water to do the same—Peter did so and it was a miracle. A lot of people scoff at the Gospel accounts of this feat—although I know better because I’ve actually witnessed it.
Just about the time Mr. Moccasin reached his end of the boat, my friend took off and visibly walked across the water, screaming insanely at anyone or anything that would listen with his hands held dramatically over his head in homage to the powers that be. He crossed the water in the same manner that I did, the same route and the same direction, yet when he arrived on the bank he was dry from the ankles up. Now, explain that one to me. The truth is I saw it, and at the time I could not be convinced or convicted otherwise.
Sometimes the things we are certain of, like an absence of snakes in February or the dry pants of a friend after an apparent swimming session, can be proven false by others. Snakes can be stirred from winter by an unusually warm spell. My friend had his own explanation involving a submerged log that proved believable once we investigated it further. Still, there are other spiritual truths that are justifiable despite a lack of evidence other than by faith alone. But these others, like Peter’s experience, are still reliable and they are static and accountable—even if only to the believer.
It is of these particular spiritual truths that we are advised by the writer of Proverbs to: “Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.”