Beauty n. state of being pleasing to the senses • Liturgy n. work of the people

by Rev. Jim Evans

On my sixteenth birthday my Uncle Bernard took me fishing. When we put the boat into the water that early July morning, it was dark. Twelve hours later when we took the boat out of the water, it was dark. Our day was the Super Bowl of fishing trips. Uncle Bernard and I together caught over 300 fish. We cleaned fish until 2:00 AM.

I remember everything about that day as if it were engraved on my brain. Partly because it was a monumental moment in my life. Turning 16 was a milestone. Turning 16 was a rite of passage in my journey from childhood to adulthood. And not just the dates on the calendar, but it was the journey we took. After putting the boat into the waters of Rice Creek that morning we hit the Tensaw River and began exploring the many lakes formed by the rise and fall of tides. The foliage, the rushing waters, the blue sky and the wind hitting my face as we motored down the river, are all etched in my mind.

It was then at the tender age of 16 that I understood Eden.

At one point in our day of discovery, Uncle Bernard told me he wanted me to drive the boat. I had never driven a boat before. But there I was in charge of the throttle. Almost immediately I swept us into a narrow slough and by cutting the motor to sharply I backed the boat into a stand of willows.

Uncle Bernard with characteristic patience said, “Well, is this where we are going to stay?”

That day of slipping up and down the Tensaw River presented us with a plethora of birds and snakes and alligators and drooping willows and dense hardwoods—a green so deep it could hardly be inhaled.

It was then at the tender age of 16 that I understood Eden. I did not know it at the time, but later when presented with a biblical view of Eden, filled in by theology and psychology and ecology, I realized how the great Tensaw River basin encompassed all the beauty of creation.

With huge logger head turtles, and giant catfish and electric eels and elusive bass and ubiquitous bream and birds of every color and configuration sweeping down with cries of praise.

I was fishing and my soul was fishing. I was alive and aware in ways I had never been before. I was a witness to elegant grace.

That’s what people of faith do—we bear witness to the grace around us.