As many throughout Australia battle fires and soaring temperatures, I’m privileged to be staying on Sydney Harbour. The sea breeze is soothing, the harbour waters are cooling, and the views are amazing. Yesterday I went for a paddle on a surf ski, joined by a little dog called Maliki. She’s one of three dogs here at the moment (including our Bonnie) and the only one who managed to clamber onto the slippery ski without falling off.
We headed out against the breeze towards Middle Harbour Yacht Club. After a while the winds built up, gusting around 30-40 kph. I figured we should turn back. We made the turn and, while side on to the waves, Maliki slipped off and started swimming away. I reached for her and promptly fell off also. Dog one way, ski the other way, and the current was strong. I let go of the paddle, reached Maliki and then had to swim to the ski and recover the paddle. Not that easy in high winds. Eventually, I got hold of all three, put Maliki back on the ski, and hung on gasping for breath. The lungs aren’t what they used to be.
Meanwhile, the ski kept floating away in the wind and the waves, with me in the water clinging on, until it bumped into a luxury boat anchored in the harbour. A man poked his head over the side and asked if I was okay. I replied that I was, but I wouldn’t mind a rest! So we tethered the ski and climbed on board. Maliki and I shared a drink with the three couples on board! These people were very hospitable, doted on Maliki, and wanted to know all about where we’d come from. They could see I was pretty breathless and encouraged me to stay a while, until all was well. I explained that I had lung cancer and that I was struggling a bit. They probably thought I was stupid to be paddling on the harbour in these winds, because they mentioned more than once that it would be better to go out in the mornings before the winds got up. Yes, I know! I know!
After the winds had died down somewhat, we made our way back to shore. Interesting afternoon! It didn’t seem that big a deal, but it’s a reminder not to take the sea or my abilities for granted. Sometimes little things can quickly grow into big things. I’d proven the day before how easily I could fall off a stand-up paddle board, especially when two or three dogs try to get in on the action. Next time I’ll take a son, or daughter, or wife to rescue me!
I’ve been involved in rescuing people from the ocean before. And I’ve also enjoyed the help from others when caught in a rip and strong seas. It can be pretty scary. The important thing is to recognise when you’re in trouble and not to be too proud to seek help. Better to look stupid and be rescued, than to drown trying to do it all yourself.
It’s like this when it comes to relating to God. We need to be rescued and God is offering help. We need to drop our pride, our self righteousness, our hostility, and our apathy toward God. He’s reaching out his hand. He’s asking if we need help. He’s offering to take us on board his boat. He’s promising to get us safely to shore. He simply calls us to turn and put our faith in Jesus.
My experience yesterday brings to mind an extraordinary event in the life of Jesus – an incident that shows Jesus’ power to rescue.
35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:35-41)
To be honest, I didn’t think to cry out to God yesterday. But some years ago I did cry out, and he heard my cry, and he rescued me from something far more serious than the wind and the waves. He rescued me from the consequences of my sin and his judgement. God delights in rescuing people and I’m eternally grateful.