Trust in the Lord

Annette Nay, Ph.D.

Copyright 1999

My husband and I took our two canoes out on Skilak Lake on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska. It is a glacier fed lake whose water is so cold that it prompted authorities to post signs stating that within fifteen minutes after entering into the glacial water a person will succumb to hypothermia and drown.

My husband had three children in his canoe and I had three in mine. We canoed out to the middle of the lake. It was a beautiful day and the lake was smooth as glass. We paddled around for a while enjoying nature before the children got tired and wanted their lunch. We were about mid-lake when we started back towards the shore.

About a mile from shore, the winds began to pick up. At first the waves were fun little swells that lifted the canoe up and down like a carousel ride. Within a matter of moments the once placid lake turned into a caldron of seething water. The waves grew higher than the canoe and began to break over the sides. Between the each wave were deep troughs. I became acutely aware that we were in imminent danger of capsizing. I wondered how many of my children I could get back into the canoe after I righted it before I drown in the icy water. Even worse, I wondered which of my children I should try to save first, because I was afraid I wouldn't last long enough to save them all. My mind balked at the thought of trying to choose.

Then all of a sudden that thought vanished and was replaced with a clear firm plan that I knew was not my own. I became aware that I needed to paddle the canoe across the troughs to meet the waves head on so they wouldn't tip the canoe over from the side.

The waves were running parallel to the shore, so we had to canoe almost parallel to meet each wave with the bow. I pointed the bow as much as I dared towards the shore but we were not making much progress in that direction. When we had to paddled too far to the left or tight of the shore we would quickly turn the canoe 180 degrees to the opposite direction, between waves, in time to meet the next wave properly. I was so afraid that we wouldn't get the canoe turned quick enough and the next wave would dump us over.

As we paddled, the waves got higher and the troughs got deeper. I was praying constantly that the Lord would help us get safely back to shore. We had zigzagged the canoe back and forth five or six times when a large motor boat came within 120 yards of us. I was sure they had seen the danger we were in and had come to save us. I was so relieved. The boat came a little nearer when it abruptly turned off and headed towards shore. I was so surprised that I almost forgot to yell for help. By the time I did, the motor on their boat and the splash of waves drowned out my voice and I was never heard.

My hope was crushed. My energy abruptly left me. I was sweating profusely. All I could do was to pray again. My energy returned, but I was terribly tired. I steeled my determination and continued on. At this time we still had a half a mile to get to the shore, but since we had to zigzag back and forth the distance had to be at least twice that.

I didn't know if we could make it, but I knew I would keep trying as long as I could paddle. I continued to measure the exact moment for my eldest son and I to turn the canoe to met the next wave. The drain on my energy was both physical and mental. I was so tired, but I kept focus at the task at hand. I was so focused that I lost track of time. It seemed that we had been paddling forever, but I couldn't stop. I had my babies in the canoe.

Somehow we finally landed the canoe on the beach. I was completely drenched with sweat and I could hardly get out of the canoe. I crawled out and thanked the Lord that our ordeal was over and we were all safe.

Annette Nay, Ph.D.

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