On our second day of camping we wake to high winds, torrents of rain, and muddy water spilling inside our tent.
“We’re packing it in!” my brother shouts as my sons and I stumble out of our tent, rubbing sleep from our eyes. He and his wife are frantically scrambling around in the pelting rain dismantling our campsite as large rolling waves pound against the rocky shoreline, causing my brother’s boat, secured to a tree root, to rock wildly from side to side. Geysers of white spray splash inside it.
The day before, while the others took turns water skiing, I spent the day lying on my back in the boat, watching dragonflies come and go. I had only come along on the camping/water-skiing outing because the thought of my young sons out on a lake without me caused me concern even though I knew they would have been in good hands with my brother.
Ironically, however, I had quickly developed a fondness for camping despite a bad case of arachnophobia and a fierce aversion to confined quarters (in this case a tent). I enjoyed the soft sound of a night breeze. I enjoyed lying on a cot under the stars, watching the beam of my flashlight bounce from tree to tree as I kept a careful vigil for snakes. And I enjoyed the knowledge that we were the only people in a dark and wooded and wild place far from civilization. It was all so thrilling.
Until the Threatening Storm
We are midway back across the lake when the boat engine coughs once, sputters, and dies. For a dazed second we all sit there, frozen in disbelief and terror. Our speed as we plowed across the waves had provided a state of balance between the force of the waves and the moving boat. Now adrift, the boat rises and dips dangerously with each swell.
“Out of gas,” my brother shouts over the din of the storm as he lifts the auxiliary gas can from the stern of the boat and struggles to fuel the engine.
No one speaks. My eyes are focused on my brother—as though looking anywhere else will give credence to the fact that one of the large swells lashing the boat may capsize us. His expression appears to be one of calm determination; however, I see his own fear mirrored back at me. Barely visible through the cold gray dawn and pouring rain, I see the boat ramp on the other side of the lake, a mile and a half away. I consider the more than 80 feet of water below us—the entire towns put under water when the lake was filled. For one terrifying moment I see our lifeless forms floating among the empty churches and schools and stores and houses there. I slide a hand over each of my sons’ hands, squeeze tightly. I have never felt so afraid. Or alone. I pray. Silently.
Cry Out for Comfort
I do not cry out for Him to save us, only to comfort us. I do not know why this is. Perhaps it is because I have never expected Him to be a capricious fixer of all things, only called upon in crises (this in spite of knowing He welcomes our petitions for help). Perhaps it is because of my own guilt in having so often neglected my relationship with Him in times of non-crises.
We did not perish that day during the storm. My brother got the gas tank fueled and the boat safely to shore. And whatever the reason for the grace He bestowed upon us that day on the lake, for me, it led to a renewed humility for His love. I now take a few moments each day, not just to ask of Him, but to appreciate, to thank Him, if for nothing more than the hard patter of raindrops in the trees during a storm, or the way the pink-gold sun melts against my living room window at the end of a day.
Barbara Weddle writes from Kentucky.
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