A family friend stopped by the other day. As our first day wound to an end, I extended an invitation to experience the sauna. His reaction told me that he was curious but had no idea what was involved.
There is an old Finnish story that relates a sauna experience to church. A sauna ritual is steeped in tradition. It is an institution with commandments. There are customs that one takes care not to break. When everything comes together, individuals are transported to places they have never been before. When they do not, it is simply hot, boring, and stifling.
As we walked out into the cool evening, I decided to let the instructions come naturally as needed. There was no point in assuming anything, simply put, he did not know. If he broke tradition the responsibility rested with me. The awareness that I was going to leave a mark on a blank canvas focused my thoughts. What was important? How much could he handle at each stage?
The early instructions were a mix of information and direction. “You will want this bottle of cold water. It can get hot. You will tend to get dehydrated. This will help.”
With a puzzled look, he accepted the bottle.
“Here is a small towel. It helps protect you from the hot seat. You may want a second one to wipe the sweat from your eyes.”
“I am used to heat. I usually do not sweat.”
“No doubt. I suggest taking this with you just in case.”
As I gently added some water with white birch oil to the rocks, I offered a suggested on how to protect his head from the heat that would soon wash over us.
“Wow, I am sweating. This feels good. I never knew.”
“I hear you. Follow my lead,” as I reached for my water jug.
Even as I spoke, I could hear the whisper of a Wisdom Father in my ear; “Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived.” (1 John 2.6)