Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

My big brother and sister, assigned by the language school to look out for me, invited me to spend a weekend with them at a hotel on the beach at Puntarenas, Costa Rica. Most of the holiday has faded into oblivion except for this episode.

Big sister and the kids were happy just to enjoy the pool, but big brother wanted to go out on the river that backed onto the hotel property. I’ve never been a fan of small boats—I don’t swim and deep water terrifies me—but I allowed myself to be persuaded. The river fed into the ocean, but the tide was in so we thought we shouldn’t have any difficulty going upriver to see if we could find some native villages. A little local colour always looks good in missionary slide presentations.

We had managed to get quite a ways upriver when the motor on the boat sputtered and died. Big brother couldn’t get it started no matter what he tried. To our consternation, we discovered two things: we didn’t have any paddles, and the tide had turned and was gradually pulling us out to sea.

I could see a watery grave in my future.

Desperate times demand desperate measures so big brother jumped out of the boat. He thought that perhaps he could push us toward the shore, which we could easily see. He discovered that the water was just over chest high and he could touch bottom, so he told me to get out of the boat and help him.

I could still see a watery grave in my future.

I did as I was told, soon conscious of the current pulling us and unidentified “things” brushing against my body. I hoped they weren’t taste-testing. We didn’t seem to be making any headway against the current. But from upriver we heard the sound of a motor and soon we could make out a boat chugging its way downstream. Waving seemed like a good idea, so we did, along with a little shouting for “auxilio” (help), which also seemed like a good idea.

The craft pulled up alongside of us, navigated by two grinning fishermen (grinning at these stupid “gringos” to be sure!) One of the men jumped into our boat and proceeded to take the cover off the engine. He looked here and there and then removed the spark plugs. To my absolute amazement, he licked the plugs, one by one, dried them off, and then stuck them back in the motor. He could taste water in them—and who knows what else! As I write this, it still sounds incredible and impossible, but when he pulled the cord on the motor it started up once again with the sweetest, fullest, sound you can imagine. After duly expressing our thanks, the fisherman headed off in their original direction and we headed back to the hotel with me vowing I’d NEVER get in a small boat again!

The trouble with that vow is that if you don’t get into, and out of the boat you can’t walk on the water.

Remember the famous story of Peter in Matthew 14:22-33?  Jesus sent His disciples across the lake in a boat. He went up the mountain to pray and while He was there, a storm came up and threatened to swamp the boat. No matter what they did, a watery grave seemed imminent. Then Jesus came to them, walking on the water. They wondered if it was the Grim Reaper. Jesus identified Himself and immediately Peter wanted out of the boat. If it wasn’t the Lord, well, the fisherman figured he was a dead man anyway. If it was the Lord, there was no safer place to be but alongside Him.

Peter began his walk on the churning lake. And as long as he kept his eyes on the Lord and not on his circumstances, he did just fine. When he was distracted by the wind and the waves, he lost focus and that was when the trouble really started. Now he was not only in the middle of a stormy lake, but he was also sans boat. Doing the wisest of all wise things, he screamed “auxilio” in his preferred language and Jesus came to his rescue.

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt? (Matthew 14:31, NIV).

We laugh at Peter’s failure at both faith and focus. But we should also marvel at the faith that took him out of the boat in the first place, and at the focus he demonstrated for much of that watery walk. There would have been no miracle and no lesson learned if Peter hadn’t taken the plunge—literally.

But you know, there is another lesson to be learned here. Sometimes we think we are taking a step of faith when that step is really not as full of faith as it should be. I got out of the boat but I never did let go of it. I hung on for everything I was worth. I wonder what would have happened if I had had the faith to not only get out of the boat, but to let go of it and at least walk IN the water?

What am I still clinging to instead of really, honestly, completely, trusting God to keep me safe on the tumultuous seas of life? Is He whispering in my ear: “you of little faith, why are you doubting?” It gives me pause for thought and maybe, just maybe, might help me loosen my grip on the boat. Then the real miracle will take place.


Lynda is a missionary, speaker, educator, writer, editor, and cat lover. She was born and raised in Timmins, the heart of gold mining country in northeastern Ontario, Canada. Lynda has served with Fellowship International for more than thirty years, first in Colombia, a brief stint on home staff in Toronto, Ontario and, more recently in Venezuela. She is currently on staff at First Baptist Church in Timmins, Ontario where her primary focus is spiritual formation. The author of Divine Design for Daily Living, a 365 day devotional journey through the entire Bible (published in Spanish and English),  Lynda blogs http://lyndasgrainsofsand.blogspot.com , maintains her own website http://web.me.com/lyndalee1/Northern_Breezes/Welcome.html , and has been seconded by Fellowship International to serve on the Communications team of The Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Canada.

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