Sunday, July 19, 2015

Friends

During the course of this summer, I have slowly fallen in love with Center Hill Lake here in central Tennessee.  Yesterday morning, it was just as beautiful as ever.  I was helping out with the teen Sabbath School for family camp at ICC and we were out on the lake with kayaks and canoes.  The sun was shining brightly overhead and there was hardly a cloud to be seen.  Large herons flew inches off the water while little songbirds flitted about the lakeshore.  Everyone was laughing and splashing each other to cool off.  Monique was leading out and she wanted to illustrate God’s saving grace by having us submerge the canoes and then flipping them back over.  I was with two teen girls and one of them earned the nickname of Tippy by the end of our trip.  For her, the goal was to see just how far we could put the gunwale down into the water without actually sinking the canoe.  Honestly, we did quite well but sitting in the water at such an awkward angle is not conducive to long-term floating.  Suddenly, we found ourselves underneath the canoe instead of on top of it.  To further illustrate our helplessness, we tried to empty the canoe ourselves.  The three of us literally got under the canoe and tried to use the buoyancy from our PFDs to get the canoe high enough out of the water to empty it.  It didn’t work.  We tried scooping water out, but every time we flung water over the side, our movement would cause another wave to fill our sunken ship.  So I realized there was only one thing for us to do.  One of the girls slid onto our upside down canoe, grabbed my hand, and through half a dying whisper said, “I’ll never let you go, Jack.”

We called for help from one of the canoes that were still upright.  They quickly pulled next to us and we were able to slide our canoe on top of theirs.  They helped us flip it, empty all the water out, and then successfully get back into our “dry” canoe.  I’d like to say that we stayed dry and got back to the boat ramp without any other mishaps, but then again, I’m glad I can’t say that.  Life’s not about being perfect and staying dry, it’s about having fun and living in the deep end.  We definitely came paddling into shore as if we were just floating in formation with paddles in our hands, since our canoe was floating just beneath the surface of the water.

As the illustration pointed out, life can often be like our canoe adventure.  You may be resting on the mountain of Perfection, living the dream, when suddenly everything goes wrong.  Your life becomes swamped with doubts, temptations, heartache and failures.  You strive your hardest to right the wrongs, to clean up the mess, to empty the baggage that’s holding you down.  Yet you fail.  You fail over and over again.  It is only when you stop struggling alone and call for help that you can be saved.  And that’s when you realize that some of the biggest blessings God places in our lives are friends.  People who are there for us no matter what.  People who can help us piece our lives back together, emptying the water out of our sunken hopes and dreams.   One of my favorite songs by Andrew Peterson contains this heartfelt cry.  “Give us hearts to find hope, Father.  We cannot see how the sorrow we feel can bring freedom.  And as hard as we try, Lord, it’s hard to believe; so give us hearts to find hope.  Give us faith to be strong.  Give us strength to be faithful cuz life is not long but it’s hard.  Give us grace to go on, make us willing and able.  Lord, give us faith to be strong..”  I have personally found that no matter how dark the circumstances, no matter how hopeless the future, God will bring light and joy through it all.  And He’s often done it through my friends.

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