It has been many years since I have had the pleasure of sitting in a jon boat with my Grandpa Tharpe. Most of my memories of those times have faded to black and white over the years, and many have faded farther still and drifted off into nostalgia. Once in a while, though, a scene comes back to me as if it was yesterday, in blazing color, with all of the sights and sounds intact.
One of those times came back to me a few weeks ago while I was fishing. I was fishing for bass, making artful casts under logs and into the nooks and crannies where the bass tend to hide, when I made an absolutely beautiful cast directly into a hornets nest. It was a bit of a scramble for a while there, but I got out more or less unscathed. A sting or two under my vest, but that was about it.
Once I regained my normal breathing pattern, my mind went back to a time when I was with Grandpa sitting in a jon boat on the Chipola river down near Apalachicola, Florida. We had just passed by some honey bee hives on the bank, and Grandpa was explaining to me that such bees were gentle and easy to handle, when all of a sudden my normally taciturn Grandpa started screaming like a little girl and violently boxing his own ears.
It turned out that one of those peaceful bees that Grandpa so admired had taken offence at the close proximity of our boat to her hive and dive bombed right behind my Grandpa’s right ear. In so doing she, the bee, got stuck behind the earpiece of my Grandpa’s glasses and proceeded to take advantage of the secure place she had found to begin flailing away at my Grandpa with her stinger.
To say I was surprised would be a colossal understatement. My Grandpa never moved very quickly. He was well known for pacing himself, and yet here he was beating himself up with the speed and agility of Mohammad Ali right before my eyes.
My Granny, on the other hand, was on the back seat doing her best to keep from falling out of the boat as laughter completely consumed her. In between gasps she kept yelling at Grandpa to take off his glasses, as she could see the bee, but Grandpa was in full panic mode and never heard a word she said.
Eventually, in a shower of pieces, parts and lenses, the glasses did come off; the bee was released to fight another day, and calmness descended once again upon the floodplain.
Grandpa looked around sheepishly, gingerly exploring behind his ear with his fingers to assess the damage. Granny was desperately trying to keep a straight face and losing the battle miserably, and I was simply speechless.
I tell this story not because of any deep theological meaning. I tell it mainly because it makes me laugh and allows me to feel young again, at least for a short time; but there is a lesson to be learned in all of this.
Life is unpredictable. One minute you’re peacefully floating down the river, and the next thing you know your ear is on fire, and you don’t know why.
When that happens we are all faced with a choice. We can panic, beat ourselves silly and accomplish nothing, or we can give it over to God.
In the world in which we live with the wars, the terrorism, the hunger, the financial malaise, and the like; it is very easy to lose sight of our Savior and panic. It is very easy to succumb to the “Chicken Little” mentality and run around screaming as if we have no God at all; but what kind of witness is that? A poor one, I dare say.
We have a God who is greater than anything in the Universe. He is greater than Wall Street, greater than the terrorists, greater even than our sins.
We have a God who yearns to surround us with His love and power. He longs to protect us. All we need to do is turn to Him. He is waiting.