Joel rides his bike


Out past the edge of town,

Where the houses are few and the land turns to cornfields

Until he finally reaches

A pond that lies off the side of the highway.

When he gets there, he lays his bike down on its side,

Takes off his backpack,

Unzips it

And finds a notebook inside.

He checks items off the yellow legal paper with a blue marker.

It’s Superman blue.

He is ready.

At home, there is a scatter of comic books on the floor where he was laying.

And a Bible.

It looks like a teenage Rapture.

He took off so fast he even left the TV on.

It might still be playing the show with the slicked-back preacher who looks directly through the screen and says,

"Claim your miracle.

If you believe, you will receive."

At school, Joel has been learning about the scientific method:

1. Ask a question.

2. Gather data

3. Form a hypothesis.

4. Conduct an experiment.

5. Report your results.

This is step 4. Testing his hypothesis.

Before he came here to the water,

Joel rode over to the church

Where he knelt and prayed every prayer he knew--

To be saved, to be washed clean, to be forgiven, to be justified...

For God to give him faith.

Now he stands at the water's edge.

He closes his eyes and tries to picture Jesus standing across the water, asking him to come.

Just as He said to Peter one stormy night in the Bible.

Just before Peter stepped out in faith...

Joel takes a deep breath, then a step, and


Right into the water.

Surprisingly cold.

On the bank, wringing out his socks, Joel already knows what he did wrong.

There was no need for him to walk on the water today.

There was no one to be saved, nor even to witness it.

No one commanded him to do it.

Just a boy testing God.

Joel looks out across the flat Midwestern land all around him.

Seemingly infinite in all directions, under that giant sky.

He remembers what Jesus said, about saying unto a mountain, be moved, and it will move.

Joel wishes he had a mountain on which to practice.

He picks up his stuff, gets on his bike and just rides for a while,

heading slowly back home

and waiting for his shoes to dry.