Growing up in Minnesota we would go boating for hours on the river or on Lake Minnetonka. It was our favorite thing in the world to do. I could sit in the front of the boat all day long while we cruised on the water. It never got old. Boating with my parents are by far my favorite memories. I miss my dad for many reasons but one of the things I miss most is going with him on a boat trip. I have heard people say that heaven is whatever your idea of heaven is. If that is true there is a never ending river and an open bowed boat with my dad driving it right now. The very thought of that makes me smile, even if it isn’t true.
Our cabin in Washington sits right on the lake. If I take ten steps from our front door I will be in the water. It is a great, clean, spring-fed lake. It is the perfect size lake to swim, kayak, paddle board and tube. It is not however a great size lake to go boating on. It is fun to driving slow and looking at all of the houses and cabins, but I like to go fast :).
For years I have been begging my father-in-law to take me on some “big water”. Our cabin is close to the Pend Oreille river which runs right into Lake Pend Oreille, the second largest fresh water lake in the country. Every year the guys would talk about the lake and how it is 1100 feet deep in some parts and I would beg to go on it. The response was always the same “That would be fun- someday”.
Well this year my “someday” finally came! My father-in-law bought a new boat and he was ready to try it out on some big water. We launched the boat in the river and had an eighteen mile boat ride to the lake. The river was amazing. It was so wide and the houses alongside were huge. Some of them even had their own tram running from their house to the lake. I was smiling from ear to ear with tears running down my face as I was flooded with memories of boating with my dad. The only thing that would have made the moment better was if I could have shared it with my mom and sisters who also share the love of boating.
The river was amazing, but the lake- the lake was absolutely breathtaking. It was huge! The mountains surrounding the lake were magnificent and with each turn you felt like you were in another part of the country. If you told me I was in Alaska, or the Puget Sound I would have believed you. I felt so small and the world felt so big and it was all so perfect.
We stopped at a little marina so we could use the bathroom and get some snacks. I saw a tank top that read “My Happy Place- Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho.” I had to have it as I couldn’t have been anymore happy than I was at that moment. I put it on for the return trip and as the boat headed home I had the same smile and another tear or two over the perfectness of the day.
We got through the lake and entered the river. We had eighteen miles back to the boat launch. One mile in the boat made a horrible sound and then stopped completely and shut off. Tom tried to restart it, but it just sputtered and died. It was out of gas! Though the gas gauge read more than a quarter tank, the boat told us differently. The gauge was obviously broken. We were stranded in the middle of the river.
We will bypass, for today, the whole “Well didn’t you fill up with gas at the marina just to be safe” conversation. That is another lesson for another day. I will jump straight to the “What do we do now?” part of the story. After about two minutes of all of us staring at each other in disbelief while ignoring the “Why didn’t you guys just fill up the tank when we stopped at the marina?” elephant in the boat,the guys started waving their arms at a boat nearby. At first the people simply waved back thinking we were just following friendly boat etiquette but when the guys kept waving they finally stopped and said “Do you need help?”
Their boat was an expensive bright orange Wake Setter boat with all the bells, whistles, gadgets, and more. They were out trying to surf behind the boat when we flagged them down. The driver seemed nice enough but the others in the boat simply seemed annoyed with the thought of taking time out of their day to help the idiots that ran out of gas on the river that runs into the country’s second largest freshwater lake.
The driver said he would drive the four miles north to the next marina to see if they had a gas can or some other means of helping us. That was the extent of their offer to help but beggars can’t be choosers so we thanked them and watched them ride away.
After what seemed like eternity we all came to the conclusion that they did not go look for help. We thought it more likely that they turned the corner of the river and said “So long suckers!” and went about their Friday afternoon fun. I asked my father-in-law if the boat had a paddle. He dug it out of the hull and I took it, smiled, and said “I have been training the entire summer for this moment.”
I climbed on the bow of the boat, sat down, and started paddling. Now paddling a twenty-two foot boat seventeen miles down the river would be quite a task, and I did not think for a million years I would accomplish that task. I did however, take great pleasure in seeing my hours of paddle-boarding amount to something as we worked our way down the river, and I preferred taking an active role in my rescue rather than just sit there like some helpless damsel in distress.
I also knew that when another boat saw a middle aged woman sitting on the bow paddling the boat, they would know we were in need of rescue. Rather than flag down someone that doesn’t want to help, this would give someone that is willing to help an opportunity to come to us.
Sure enough, within a few minutes two boats approached us, one on the right and one on the left. The one on the left was heading our way and offered to tow us to the marina. It was an Italian family (judging by the beautiful dark skin, hair, and sweet accent) with a small yellow boat named Vintage Whine. We attached to their boat and began the thirty minute tow to the marina. We kept commenting on how awesome it was that they would do this as it was now about eighty eight degrees of pounding sun and we could tell they were miserably hot. So awesome to come across such generous people.
We will also bypass the part of the story where we get towed into the marina that is also a riverside bar and grill and were faced with approximately one hundred sympathetic, yet condescending, smirky looks for the poor idiots that did not fill up the tank when they stopped at the marina on the lake to use the bathroom. There is no need to discuss that. There is nothing amazing about that part of the story.
What was amazing is the fact that the gas attendant pointed over to the sheriff boat and said “Someone came a few minutes ago to call the sheriff and tell them you were out of gas and where you were located”. We looked and saw the sheriff and then we saw the bright orange Wake Setter parked along the dock. What do you know, the nice guy with the crabby crew pulled through after all. He did in fact rescue us, just not in the way we thought.
There have been many times in my life that I have cried out to the Lord for help and felt like I have waited forever for that help. There have even been times when I felt like there may never be a rescue at all. However, time and time again God has proven faithful and has rescued me. Whether I was in distress due to my own idiotic mistakes, or the victim of someone else’s, He has always rescued me.
In the times that I feel I need an immediate tow, but God had a different rescue plan in mind, I often find that my character develops, my faith grows, and ultimately when the rescue does come, my relationship with God is strengthened. Sometimes those lonely cry for help times are the best ways to grow your faith and your relationship with God. If life cruised along perfectly down the river all the time, I have the feeling I would drift away from Him and forget how sweet it is when He is my rescue.
If you find yourself up river without a paddle in life right now, I assure you that God is aware of your circumstance and has heard your prayer. I also assure you that the prayer has been answered and help is on the way. Though you may feel like you need an immediate tow, He ultimately knows the best rescue for your situation, and the answers are on their way!
He grants the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cries for help and rescues them. Psalm 145:19
Love, Grace, and a Tow Rope Rescue To You All,