A Story About Sinking — St. Peter's Fireside | Vancouver, B.C. 

by Alastair Sterne
July 9, 2012
6 min read

Have you ever been in trouble in the water? I’m not talking about the fear of swimming in the kiddie-pool. I’m talking about legit watery attack—kracken style. A few weekends ago, my family and I went to Saltspring Island to celebrate the Canada Day long weekend. It was great. Julia was there, my parents where there, my sister and brother in law and my nephews were there. The weather was, well, good enough. Good times were had by all. We stayed in cabins along the St. Mary Lake.

Last Sunday, my nephew took a row boat out and left it on the beach instead of docking it. He then took a paddle board out and left it on the floating dock in the middle of the lake. He swam back to shore, and then proceeded to take a paddle-boat out only to leave it beside the row-boat on the beach.

This happened over the course of an hour or two. When we asked him to take all of the boats back to their rightful place, at the dock, he thought it would be a good idea to take the paddle-boat … wait for it, with the row-boat attached by rope to drag behind the paddle-boat. Why this was a good idea can only be chalked up to the mind of a 12 year old boy. He then charted his course towards the floating dock, where presumably he was going to pick up the paddle board.

Well, the wind picked up.

So Tony, in a paddle-boat, with a row boat attached, is drifting to the south-end of the lake—powerless against the force of the wind. He was unable to get back to the dock, let alone to the shore. We are watching this from shore, and at first it was pretty comical, but then the wind started to pick up some more. So rather than laugh from shore, I went out to help him.

The only feasible option, although not logical, was to take a kayak out to where he was. The theory, was that I would attach it to the row boat that was attached to the paddleboat, and then together we would paddle it all back to the shore.

Sound like a good idea yet?

The only problem was that I overestimated my own strength, underestimated the strength of a windy lake, and completely overestimated the help of a 12 year old boy. I presumed that I would be able to get in the row boat, with my nephew, and row us back to the dock with the paddle boat and kayak attached to the back.

Or so I thought.

Well, I arrived. The first thing I had to figure out was how to get out of the kayak and into the rowboat. So I had to wedge the kayak between the rowboat and the paddleboat to steady it, while convincing my 12 year old nephew that it wouldn’t be funny to tip me into the lake. Once in the row boat I had to jerry-rig all the boats together, and help my nephew get into the rowboat without capsizing us.

All the while the wind is drifting us further and further away from our dock.

We attempted to row, but at best we stayed in one spot (which was horribly emasculating for me). We decided we might be better off to relocate to the paddle boat, to see if Tony and I could paddle the other boats back to shore. This worked for a moment. Until water started flooding in from the front. The paddle boat began to capsize. So quickly we got up and stood at the back of the paddleboat, while using the kayak oar to try to dish water out from the capsizing boat.

In a moment of panic, we jumped back into the row boat rather than sink into the lake. We re-calibrated our plan, once again. The new plan was that Tony would get back into the paddle boat. He did, dished the water out, and began to paddle, vigorously towards a private dock, where Julia helped him pull the boat up onto shore. I got back into the rowboat and rowed with the kayak behind me towards a private dock, even further away. I tied up the rowboat and then kayaked back to our dock.

This was quite the ordeal.

What fascinates me is that during this whole fiasco, it didn’t even cross my mind to seek God. Granted my life wasn’t legitimately in danger, but the situation was certainly beyond my skill and ability. Yet I persisted in depending upon my own strength, my own strategy, my own ingenuity.

Isn’t in strange how quick we are to depend on ourselves before depending on God? Our faith often stops short of admitting vulnerability, or admitting our need—even in comical ordeals where we are in over our heads.

There is a story in Mark’s gospel (Mark 4:35-41) where Jesus is asleep in a capsizing boat as the disciples fear for their lives. They wake him, and he rebukes the sea. “Peace! Be still!”. Instantly the winds and waves are calmed.

The beauty of this event is that it tells us bluntly that God is present in our distress. Weakness, vulnerability, risk, helplessness are apt soil for us to experience the kingdom of God. The moment we relinquish control, the moment we admit our need and turn to Jesus for mercy He is there, He cares, He speaks, and He has the power to get us through.

Jesus is an ever-present help in times of need. There is no good reason to refuse his care and help, it just requires that we let go of our egos. How great is it that the only One who has the power to forgive sins, to calm storms, and to raise from the dead, is for us even in the small stuff?

When we are sinking in the big or small storms that disrupt our lives we can be weak, we can fail, we can admit our need and sink instead into the grace of God.

about the author
Alastair is the lead pastor at St. Peter’s Fireside. Once upon a time he was a touring musician of a forgettable indie band, and a Creative Director at a few design agencies. He is the husband of Julia, the father of Ansley and Maggie, and quite skilled with "the photoshop." If you're feeling up for it, you can follow him on Instagram.

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