When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to do was to go fishing with my Dad.
Every year, we’d grab our poles, pack up our waders and load up our tackle boxes for a weekend trout fishing adventure at Montauk State Park. We’d leave late on Friday night (Dad was always packing at the last minute) and the two of us would drive the three hours to the park, where Grandma and Grandpa would be waiting for us in a rented cabin.
In the morning, we’d all head to the stream and try to catch our daily limit, which was five in those days. My Dad taught me several lessons on the stream:
“Concentration” — I was always getting my fishing line tangled in the reel or snagged on a log. When this would happen, Dad would shoot me a look and say, “What’s the word?” My embarrassed reply: “Concentration.” Then he’d proceed to untangle my line. This happened over and over again.
“When you’re on the stream, you’re quiet.” — I’ve always liked to talk. And taking me to a fishing stream didn’t shut me up. Dad told me that loud noises would spook the fish and would distract the other anglers. So, I did my best to be quiet while fishing.
“When you’re wading in the water, step only where it’s brown. That’s the sand and you’re safe. If it’s blue or dark green, that’s a hole. Don’t step in the hole.” — This piece of advice came back to haunt me.
One time, Dad and I were fishing above the small dam and waterfall. I want to say I was about 9 or 10 years old. It was one of my first times in waders and I did my best to step everywhere that Dad stepped. I was so conscious of only stepping where it was brown. Brown equaled safe. Above the dam, there was a large hole where a large amount of trout would gather in the depths — in the blue and dark green. Through the clear spring water, you could see their black figures hovering above the bottom of the stream.
Dad was to my left, about ten feet away, facing down stream away from me. I was fishing the deep hole, with my feet planted firmly in the brown sand, a few feet away from the blue and green which indicated a steep drop. Suddenly, while I was reeling, my line stopped. Snagged again. Quietly, I tried to work it loose. Sometimes if you change angles, you can get your line loose. So I moved forward a bit, still making sure I was on the brown. But something wasn’t right.
The sand under my feet started sliding toward the hole. And so did I. Every time I took a step back to regain my footing, more sand gave way and I started slipping faster. Suddenly, I felt very cold. I had slipped so deep that the water was higher than my chest waders and the icy water started pouring in, filling my boots and making it impossible to take a step — and impossible to stop sliding. I was scared.
At this point, you’re wondering why I didn’t scream out. Well, my Dad had told me to be quiet!
So I whispered. Gently.
I was holding my arms above my head, but the water was up to my armpits.
“Dad,” I whispered again.
I couldn’t move. I started to cry.
When I screamed, my Dad turned. He took two big steps against the current, grabbed my arm and, with one swift jerk, pulled me out of the deep water and dragged me to the bank. He put his arm around me and told me it would be okay. He helped me take off my waders and, soaked and shivering, I watched as he dumped them over and I saw all the water pour out.
Then he said to me: “Why didn’t you say something sooner?”
“You told me to be quiet,” I replied.
This is a true story. I know that my Dad saved me that morning. I tried to save myself and kept failing. All it took was for me to cry out for him for help. And he did it, without flinching. That’s what parents do.
This story has been on my mind a lot lately. As a Christian, it makes me think about my relationship with God, my heavenly Father.
So many times in my life, I’ve been in situations where I seem so helpless. Have you been there? Maybe it’s a besetting sin — that one you just can’t shake. Maybe it’s financial. Maybe it’s depression. Frustration. Stress. A job situation. No job. Marital problems. Illness.
I think about how many times I’ve been standing on what I thought was firm ground, but it began to slip out from under me, and push me toward a deep hole. And it’s in those times that my first thoughts are: I can get out of this. I can stop this. I can change my behavior. If I just do this, everything will be alright. If I just move this or hide this, nobody will know.
But we can’t do it, can we? I’ve been in these situations so many times in my life, and when I try to get out on my own, I always fail. Often I’m alone — or think I am. But, as a Christian, I know deep down I’m not alone. Jesus is with me, waiting for me to call out to Him for help. And when I do, he doesn’t flinch. And he does more than simply lend a hand or throw a rope.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” – Matthew 7:7
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” – Acts 4:12
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:25-33