In one of my college classes years ago I was asked to write a non-fictional story about an event in my life. What I put on paper was my testimony of how I personally came to Christ. It’s my pleasure to share this story with you:
As morning broke and the sun began to rise over the mountains, one could tell that the storm had passed leaving a cool breeze that taunted the summer heat. Days such as this were what my best friend, Billy, and I lived for.
I lived beside a beautiful mountain river that begged for attention. The calm ripples in the water led to large schools of trout that would entertain two adolescent boys all summer long. The trees that towered over the clear waters provided shade from the heat while allowing a sweet summer breeze to come slipping through. We were the products of purely innocent fun playing with Mother Nature until the sun slipped away.
The storm that passed the day before turned our calm playful river into a raging pit of chaos. The water level was higher than either of us had ever seen and was as brown as the dirt that stained our clothes. For two young boys to look at such uncontrolled power ignited emotions that neither of us had ever experienced. We were not about to stand back and let Mother Nature get the best of us. We were going to face her head on.
We had rafted this same river more times than either of us could count, but this would be our biggest challenge yet. This was monumental. This was our chance to become men.
We went to my house to share the news with my dad. He had rafted with us many times before and knew how excited we were to push in on this day. At first he was hesitant, but to hold two young boys back from facing manhood would be a paternal sin. He agreed and we were on our way.
As we headed for the river we picked up a wooden boat that a friend of my dad had custom built. It was as long as a car and as blue as the ocean. It had never tasted the chill of water, but would get more than a mouthful on this day.
As we approached the area where we always pushed in, we peered out into the river with pure shock. The once familiar calm and clear water that we waded in and fished for many summers was now bursting with waves higher than our heads. The water no longer hummed its sweet silent tune…it was roaring with anger. It was almost as if bears were hiding underneath the waves thrashing and growling about. It was almost enough to change two young boys’ minds. But we were no longer boys…we were young men, and men do not back down.
We placed the nose of the boat into the water to get set. Then we fastened our life jackets and each grabbed an oar. Billy hopped in first as he got in the front of the boat. Dad and I eased the boat in a little more as Dad got into the center. I jumped in behind him as we pushed off.
The crashing of the waves was drowned out by the thumping in my heart as we paddled away. Nervousness turned into excitement as we battled Mother Nature’s waves like 3 grown men. Water ripped and slashed at the boat testing our will and strength. We were determined to push through and not give in. The fight was in our favor as we continued farther and farther downstream.
Just as we began to get comfortable by realizing that we were winning, something happened almost as if someone snapped their fingers to wake us from a dream. One of the towering trees that once gave us comfort from the summer heat lost a large limb as it landed directly in front of our boat. Instead of completely falling into the water and drifting down, one end of it became lodged in the tree as the other end extended down into the water creating somewhat of a ramp going up from the water into the tree.
Dad yelled to paddle left to try and miss the branch so we did so with every ounce of energy we had. The boat turned sideways and refused to traverse the waters due to the force of the downstream rapids.
Realizing that we were going to hit the branch, Dad shouted, “DUCK!” and without hesitation I ducked into the boat and tightened my life jacket.
Feeling the boat ram into the limb sent a jolt through my body almost as if my heart had rattled my soul. I felt the boat slide up the limb until it rolled completely over…on top of me.
Since I was tucked into the boat, I could see the boat rolling over on me and I could feel the ice cold river hit my back as the body of the boat slammed me down into the dark brown waters. Being caught completely off-guard, I was unable to take a deep breath before being submerged. I knew I had very little time to find a way out.
The life jacket, intended to save lives, was pinning me up under the boat and the force of the rapids was keeping me from being able to pull myself out from underneath.
I was fighting with every extension of my body trying to find some way out. I reached with my hands and feet trying to find an edge of the boat to pull myself free. I was taking in water and looking at nothing but mud, dirt, and water. Everything I fought for was slipping away. My strength was slipping, my air was running out, and my will was almost dissolved.
All of a sudden, I couldn’t hear the rapids or see the fury in the water. Everything was calm. I closed my eyes and asked God if this was it. As I closed my eyes all I could see was a pure white. I had heard of people seeing light at the end of a tunnel before, but this was nothing like I envisioned. There was a sense of peace and calm that I had never felt before. It was then that I extended my left hand out to the side of the boat and grasped the edge as if to reach for Father.
As I opened my eyes I saw the towering trees. I heard the roar of the water. I felt the cool breeze blowing through. My dad was standing over me with a sense of relief that I had never seen in him before. Billy was to my side happy to see that I was ok. Somehow I made it. Somehow I was alive. How did this happen?
As we walked home, Dad spoke of the events that unfolded when I went under. Dad and Billy were thrown from the boat as it started to capsize as I stayed tucked into the boat. Dad saw Billy and pulled him to the shore to make sure that he was safe and then asked where I was. Billy did not know and the both of them saw the boat tearing down the river upside down. Without hesitation my dad began to swim downstream to catch the boat. It was heading towards a curve that fed into a large rock wall, and he knew if he couldn’t beat the boat there then the chance of me surviving would be slim.
By some miracle he made it to the boat and reached underneath to find my outstretched hand on the left edge. He pulled me free and broke for the shore as the boat slammed into the rocks. Once on the shore, he proceeded to pump the water out of my system through CPR, which eventually brought me back to life.
As we continued the long walk home, I kept thinking of how this day would forever change my life. There are times when our lives are flipped upside down so hard that we begin to smother. We lose sight of where we were headed. We start struggling to find a way out on our own. We exhaust every ounce of energy just to get back to where we were. When it all fails, we begin to lose hope. When hope begins to drain, there is something that lies even deeper than we can possibly imagine. Something that has the power to move mountains, divide seas, and save lives. Something that is there for the taking, yet rarely appreciated until life-altering events begin to turn our lives upside-down. In our darkest hour, one thing is always there to come to our rescue. Faith. That realization led me to desire a life worth saving.