Friday, February 5, 2016

Tippy Canoe and the Lifesaver

The mild spring breeze kissed our cheeks as we sat on the beach, feet slightly submerged in the still chilly lake. Laughter erupted occasionally, but sometimes we just lay back on the warm rocks in contented silence, enjoying the peace and calm and sunshine of a perfect Sabbath afternoon. We were on a weekend campout at a nearby lake, Seton, with a whole group from the high-school that I work at. We had just canoed about 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) from our remote campsite called “Long Beach” across part of the lake to an outcropping we called “Sandy Point.” Now we were relaxing and appreciating the company and the sunshine.

As the sun slowly sank westward, we all figured it was time to head back. Climbing into our canoe, and laying our life jackets on our seats for comfort, my friend Alexandra and I attempted to paddle in a direct line across the little “bay” to the campsite. But as we paddled, the sky darkened as clouds began to cover the sun that had once shone so brightly. And the air that had been so warm quickly cooled as wind began to pick up. The glassy lake surface was now choppy as gusts of wind whipped up the waves. We were about a third of the way back when one of the school’s speedboats headed towards our group of canoers, “Start paddling towards the edge of the lake,” the driver yelled. “Looks like a big storm is blowing in and it’s not safe to be canoeing out here in the open water with all these waves.” He sped off leaving us a wake of waves to bounce over. The lake edge was parallel to us across the inlet and not exactly in the direction we were paddling.
“But if we head straight towards the shore, that will put our canoe parallel to the waves,” I pointed out. And anyone who knows anything about canoeing knows that’s a sure way to flip. Well we’d just have to slowly angle our way towards shore instead. The wind and competency of the canoers had separated our group and Alexandra and I were not near any others. As we gradually worked on angling towards shore, our canoe was no longer plowing directly into the waves. Unexpectedly a rogue wave caught our canoe, driving it parallel to the waves. And in an instant, without even a second to react, I was plunged into the frigid waters. Gasping as the glacial waters closed around me, their cold fingers crushing the air out of my chest, I struggled in the waves. But where were my expensive Chaco flip-flops? And where was my favourite Nalgene water bottle? I fought the waves to reach them. “You should grab your flip-flops too,” I shouted over to Alexandra. But as I clutched my treasured possessions, Alex’s chattering voice reached my ears “w-w-w-e sh-sh-ould probably put on our l-l-l-ife-jackets.” Why hadn’t I thought of that? I guess I’d been too busy recovering my things. But it did seem like a very smart thing to do as our body temperatures rapidly dropped. I swam towards my lifejacket that was quickly floating away. It also seemed like a smart thing to call for help. And now with my lifejacket securely in place, I screamed “HELP” as loudly as I could towards the distant canoes of our friends. Could they hear me? I hoped so. But yes, one of the canoes was turning and coming our way. Relieved, I watched as they paddled closer. But every time they tried to approach and help grab our flipped and sinking canoe, the waves tore us apart. And they had to be careful not to tip themselves. Helplessly I watched as the wind pushed them farther and farther away. But hope was not lost; a speedboat was rapidly making its way towards us. Warm hands pulled our shaking bodies into the boat and blankets were wrapped around us. Soon we were back at Long Beach and after changing into dry clothes I sat and warmed myself by a crackling campfire. It sure had been an unexpectedly adventurous afternoon. But I realized there was something to be learned from my experience.

As I struggled in the water, my first reaction was to grasp my possessions. And while I was attempting to reach them, I was rapidly floating away from the most important thing, my lifejacket. And I think we do that in our day-to-day lives as well. We become so focused on our treasured possessions, on wealth, on positions, on fleeting happiness, on entertainment, on adventure, on the next best thing, while we drift away from the Lifesaver. We forget that these things we find so important are only temporary, that we are sinking in a world that will not last, that there is greater purpose and reason for living, that there is a God who loves us infinitely and wants to save us. While we are attracted to other things and drifting away, He is right there waiting in the hope that we will “seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us.” (Acts 17:27)

Will you reach out for the Lifesaver today? Will you let him change your priorities and your life and bring you peace and joy in a way you never thought possible? He’s right there waiting!

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