When I was growing up on a farm in Ohio, there wasn’t a lake or a pool nearby so I never learned to swim or develop an affinity for being on or in the water. (I know that sounds incredible to most of you.)
On rare occasions where a family outing included a pool, I enjoyed walking around in the shallow end. Think of putting my head in the water or trying to swim or float? Never.
When I was on a double date just before college, the other couple had access to a boat. I had no idea the plan for the day was boating and water skiing. By mid-afternoon they convinced me to set aside my fear (maybe terror) and get in the water because they were sure I could learn how to water-ski. They told me it was easy and I would love it.
Minimal instructions followed my entrance into the water, but I managed to get on the skis as I leaned backwards on the water. When the boat powered up and took off, I think I actually got up on my feet. I am not actually sure because in seconds I was back down in the water holding onto the ski rope for dear life while being pulled through the water at an alarming rate of speed. Somehow everyone neglected to tell me to let go of the rope! When I finally did I was soon left behind by the boat and was hoping the life vest would really keep me above water.
Of course these folks wanted me to get back on the skis and try it again. That was NOT going to happen. My response was, “Help me get into the boat.”
Since that not-so-fun afternoon, my husband and I have occasionally been on a boat with friends with my strong stance I would stay tucked as safely as possible inside the boat.
On a recent weekend in Tennessee visiting our son and his family, a day on the lake on a pontoon boat was planned to bless our beautiful daughter-in-law for her birthday since she loves the water and boating. So with assorted things packed, we set off for the day. Our son had borrowed a jet ski (a.k.a. wave runner) for everyone to enjoy. I started hearing comments about whether or not they would be able to convince me to ride on the jet ski. I knew they had to be crazy. There was no thought in my head that I would do such a thing after my experience with water skiing.
By early afternoon I was enjoying watching our son and his family all take turns riding the jet ski with several of them seeing how fast they could go (at one point about 54 mph). The pontoon boat was able to zip along as well and at several points there was almost a race going on between the two watercrafts. The weather was lovely with some sun, a slight breeze and just a bit of choppiness to the water.
Then came the imploring that I get on the ski. First one and then another of our son’s family asked and assured me he or she would take it easy and I would be fine. I wasn’t biting, but when my husband started urging me to take a chance with my grandson I couldn’t believe my ears. He knew very well my anxiety and fear about water, but he persisted as my grandson idled on the jet ski next to the boat.
With more than a few qualms, I finally agreed. That meant I would need to get out of the boat and maneuver onto the ski one way or another. Did I mention I don’t do these things, that I am a grandmother in her seventh decade of life, and prefer mountain vacations?
With much gentle coaxing and teasing I managed to get out of the boat onto the jet ski with a promise from my grandson that he would not go as fast as I had seen everyone going. I just needed to hold onto him. On that point there was little question that I would agree.
My grandson is nearly 20 and a college sophomore. He continued to assure me all would be well and off we went…. slowly at first until we were up to a bit over 25 mph.
The funny thing was that within a few minutes I was actually enjoying the ride and having a great chat with my grandson. After a short while, he asked me if I wanted to go back to the boat. Oddly enough I told him we could keep going.
As I reflected on the afternoon, I couldn’t help but think about Peter. He could only discover the Lord’s provision for him when he was willing to get out of the boat. (Of course he took it much farther because he was going to walk on water.)
I could only overcome my fear and experience His provision for me by getting out of the boat.
Some of us are impulsive and easily throw caution to the wind at trying new things. But for many of us, our biggest challenge is to get out of the boat.
It is only when we get out of the boat that we discover what He wants to teach us about Him or ourselves.
Peter was afraid when he saw Jesus walking on the water, but something inside him really wanted to be able to do what he saw Jesus doing. Jesus told Peter and the others not to be afraid and Peter stepped out of the boat. He was doing just fine until he looked down and took his eyes off of Jesus.
Some part of me wished I could do what they were doing, but it would mean taking a risk.
Fortunately, I wasn’t trying to walk on water, but getting on the jet ski meant trusting those who were encouraging me to try it. They would care for me and protect me unlike that experience so many years ago.
And you know what? They did.