A Catholic Monthly Magazine

The one that got away

by Philippa Winch

by Philippa Winch

The Christmas holidays were drawing to an end. It wasn’t long before school would be back. However before everything once again returned to normal, we were off on holiday.

Going to Lake Rotoiti had become a family tradition. It had been quite by accident that we had chanced upon this place a few years before. My Uncle had been offered the use of a bach there. In eager anticipation of a week away he quickly accepted. Coming across this bach was just like finding treasure. Situated at the end of a private forest road, next to the water’s edge and surrounded by only a few private baches; this was a dream come true – the perfect get-away from the humdrum of city life. We had been coming back every year since.

Of course with the bach being close to the water there were a few safety rules that we all had to abide by. The biggest one was that if we were going out on the water, we had to wear a lifejacket. Lifejackets

There were lifejackets of all different sizes, adult ones as well as children’s and enough to go around. Therefore if you were caught without a lifejacket there was no excuse.

Once we were unpacked and sorted out, my Uncle would sit us down around the table and give us the usual lecture on water safety.

“And remember,” said my Uncle as he stood wagging his finger, “if you go out on the water what do you need?”

“Life jackets,” we bellowed back in unison.

It wasn’t long before we were all in our togs covered in sun cream and either swimming; relaxing on a deck chair reading a good book; in the kayaks or in my Uncle’s case, out in the boat.

It had been a long trip from Napier to Rotorua and with the usual squabbles that erupt in the back seat of the car on such a journey it was not surprising that my Uncle had gone to find some solitude out on the water.

It wasn’t until later when we had gone inside to watch a favourite television programme that one of my cousins announced, “Hey, Dad’s boat has tipped over!”

We quickly grabbed the binoculars and peering through the lens could see the overturned shell of the dingy floating in the middle of the lake with my Uncle hanging on to the side.

“Quick!” said another cousin, “Let’s go to rescue him.”

We live in a country where we are fortunate to be able to rely on the lakes and sea as a source of food and income as well as an adventure playground for our recreational purposes. Nevertheless, we also experience a high number of boating incidents each year.

Jesus lived in a similar environment. The stories in the Bible talk much about the work of the fishermen who spent time out on the lake. These stories also tell us about times when things weren’t plain sailing.

Rembrandt, 1633, The Storm on the Sea of Galilee

The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, Rembrandt, 1633

Take for example, the disciples who were in a boat on the Sea of Galilee when a furious storm came up on the lake. Full of terror about the waves that swept over the boat, these men no doubt didn’t waste any time frantically bailing the water out. In the end, full of panic, they woke Jesus saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” Jesus of course responds to this by asking, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves and it was completely calm.

I’m sure at some point we have all felt just like the disciples in the boat when the sudden furious “storms” of life seem to toss us about. When your security is gone and you’re staring destruction in the face, it’s not easy to be courageous. But even in the midst of this, Jesus is asking for our trust in him. What we need to hang on to is that God will intervene on our behalf if we invite him into the situation. Often this requires our having to let go of our circumstances so that God can do his work in our lives.

Another incident occurred when the disciples were in a boat in the middle of the lake and saw Jesus walking on water. The disciples were terrified, believing that he was a ghost. Immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat with them and the wind died down. The disciples were completely amazed.

However the disciples’ reaction can be just like us at times. We can sometimes fail to see the Lord’s ability or working in our lives because we have grown complacent in our faith. How many times do we think of miracles as supernatural events that happened during the days of the Bible as opposed to today? It’s easy to be afraid when you lose sight of who God really is.

When times are rough, Jesus is for us the protective factor that keeps us buoyant. He throws us a lifeline that we can hold on to in the form of our faith.

Ironically, my Uncle was about to teach a lesson of his own.

In no time at all, two of my cousins had put on life jackets and were frantically paddling out by canoe to where my Uncle was.

Felicity Ann Nettles, 2013

Felicity Ann Nettles, 2013

It wasn’t until they arrived at the scene of the crime that they made a major discovery – you guessed it, he wasn’t wearing a lifejacket!

What’s more his sunhat had gone and so were the glasses that he had been given for Christmas.

“It was just a good job we came to save you,” one of my cousins boasted as they towed the dinghy back to shore.

This time, my Uncle was the one who was a little red-faced and it wasn’t due to the lack of sun-cream!

For a long time afterwards, we always looked out for a trout wearing a sunhat and a pair of glasses should one ever be caught in the same vicinity. Yet despite the many fishing attempts of my Uncle and friends over the following years, who would always cook any prize catches over the barbeque, a trout of this description was never found.

Maybe my Uncle’s sunhat and glasses are still at the bottom of the lake or maybe as all great fishermen would agree, the trout wearing these things was the very one that got away!

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