The Water Shimmered So. 

Your Father begged me to teach you to steer clear of that lake,” Mama said. “I know it looks clean, cool, and inviting–lots of fun. But if you swim in it, it leaves a terrible stink on you. It’s dangerous. You need to stay away from it”

I shrugged. “Okay, Mama,” I said, as I slipped out the back door, letting the screen slam behind me.

That lake stood between me and school, so I passed it twice each day. It called me, on those scorched autumn afternoons when I could feel tiny tributaries of sweat trickling down my neck as I walked home from school.

For a week, Mama’s warnings kept me dry. But oh, it was so hot on those October afternoons. It couldn’t hurt to dip one toe in, could it?

Slipping off my Keds and my socks, I squeezed my eyes tightly closed and clenched my fists, expecting to call up some horror with my disobedience. I gingerly lowered my right foot into the water.

Nothing happened. 

Mama didn’t look up as I let the screen door slam behind me. “You been in that lake?” 

I drew in my breath. “No, Mama,” I answered, sliding onto a stool at the counter.

She wiped her hands on her blue apron, poured me a glass of milk, and looked at me half crosseyed. “Are you sure?”

I studied the Formica. “Sure,” I mumbled.

“See that you don’t. Your Daddy made me promise to teach you to stay away from the lake.” 

It was hot that fall. Indian Summer, they called it. On the worst days, when I couldn’t bear the heat, I’d remove my shoes, cast one slippery glance up the road, and dip my feet into that cool lake.

Oh, it felt so good. How could it be wrong when it refreshed me so? Anyway, nobody knew. I saw to that, carefully scanning the surroundings as I came upon the shore.

Before I knew it, I was wading knee deep, every day. Sometimes even in the mornings, on my way to school, I’d wet my feet along the edge. The lake whispered its invitation every time I drew near. But it was okay:  I knew exactly how far I could go without really getting wet.

I had this idea, see, that so long as I didn’t submerge myself, I wasn’t really disobeying. 

My eighth grade year passed by and I kept my little secret about the lake. Summer came, delivering singeing days and firefly nights. I had my habit: Every day, after I’d finished the morning chores, I went walking.

And every day, I found myself at the lake. 

Well, it didn’t take long, that scalding summer, for me to give in. It started like it always did: I sat down at the  water’s edge, slipped out of my sneakers and peeled off my socks, looked one last time up the road for a telltale cloud of dust.

Nobody was around. Nobody would know.

I stepped into the lake. Oh, it felt so good. I waded a bit deeper, then just a little deeper, then just a bit deeper–and then I plunged, thinking I would swim.

Something went wrong. The bottom of the lake wasn’t sandy anymore. No. Away from its edges, it oozed slime that slipped up between my toes, sucking at my feet. The water, crystalline on the surface, was murky, greenish brown down below. How could this be? How could the lake that looked so pure from its shore be so full of muck? 

I panicked, fighting the muddy suction, desperate to lift my feet, to return to dry land. I flailed and kicked and fought as aquatic weeds entangled my legs. Struggling, I took in a mouthful of fetid water. I spit and sputtered. Looking up I realized I was farther from shore than I’d meant to be. I had a battle to fight. And no one could help me, because no one knew I was in the lake. 

I felt hands, sure and solid, on me before I saw him. Even today, I don’t know where he came from, but suddenly, I was hoisted up, clear of the nasty water, clear of the weedy snares, clear of the sucking mud. He carried me to shore and set me, gasping, on the grass. I heaved, bringing up more foul water.

The sun seared my skin dry in minutes. Slowly, my breath returned. My rescuer stood over me, wordless.

“Boy, do I ever stink!” I said, too self-absorbed to be grateful. “Mama told me this lake leaves a stench, and she was sure right. What do I do now? I can’t go on home, smelling like this! Mama will know!”

“Do you believe I saved you?” The tall man asked me. His voice fell soft around me. I expected a deep, gruff-sounding voice to match his strength.

“Believe it? Well of course I believe it! I was about to drown when you–you–where exactly did you come from?”

“My father sent me.”

“He sent you for me?” This story was too weird. I couldn’t make any sense of what the stranger had to say.

The man nodded. He had this funny gleam about him. Not light, exactly, not a fragrance, exactly, but he seemed, well, shiny. Fresh. New.

“Well, thanks for saving me,” I muttered. “But I’m going to get it when I get home. My mama warned me about this stink. She’s going to know in a minute that I’ve been in the lake. Everyone will know. There will be hell to pay. What do I do now?” I wailed. Mama was stern.  Big as I was, she wasn’t above using the strap to drive her point home.

“I spilled blood to save you,” the strange man said. “Bathe in it.”

“What?!? Ewww! That would just make me stink even worse? Your blood? In this heat? Are you crazy?”

The man looked me in the eye. His strange glow unnerved me–I couldn’t return his gaze. As I lowered my eyes, he said, “Do you believe I saved you?”

His voice, sure and soft, hung in the air between us like a thing I could touch, pick up, hold on to.

“Well, yeah, of course I do!”

“Are you sorry you went swimming?

“Um, yeah! I nearly drowned!” I smirked. What kind of dumb question was that?

“To believe in me is to be bathed in my blood,” He said. “Calm down, stay out of the lake, believe, and the smell will disappear.”

Suddenly all my adolescent bravado evaporated. He fixed those eyes on me and something inside me collapsed into itself.

Something else inside me swelled up, like to bloom inside my chest.

I rose and walked down the dusty road, heading for home, clean.

6  If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
1 John 1:6-7 (NASB)