our gift of life
One should know the value of Life
better than to pout any part of it away.
Hester-Lynch Piozzi (1789)
Our Gift From God!
Our story begins, by Ellen Lebsock
It was very cold and the fading light was giving way to darkness on a late October afternoon. I was watching my husband and a friend run their radio control power boats on the pond a few blocks from our home.
We had a rather normal, “middle American” lifestyle. We talked about God being a part of our life, attended church fairly regularly, and met with a Bible Study Group once a week to learn scripture and discuss living a “Christian Life”. I guess you could say we were “average Christians”. On this bleak, winter afternoon, however, we were lifted out of the ordinary into the realm of people who KNOW God by experience.
This was the “maiden voyage” of the miniature hydroplane my husband had just finished building. It had a very special paint job, done by the younger of our sons. During the previous weekend he had laboriously covered it with intricate paintings of Darth Vader, Star Fighters and Ty Fighters, in keeping with the present “Star Wars” craze sweeping the country. We had seen the movie something like seven times already! Actually, it had been a labor of love and growing close for both of them.
We decided to get in just one more run before dark.
Out across the pond the little black boat flew, farther and farther away from us, until it was only a tiny speck on the far shore, the length of a couple of city blocks or a football field away. Then suddenly, it sputtered, coughed, and died in the water! Now any avid hobbyist will tell you that you don’t go home and leave a brand new, extra special, boat dead in the water to float to shore… maybe to pick it up in the morning… oh no!
So… around the pond to the south end—a couple of blocks from where his friend and I are watching—goes the captain of the boat. We watched as he waded into the icy water after his boat… jeans, jacket, tennis shoes and all. We watched as he waded out until the water was lapping around his knees, and with every step the boat appeared to be moving farther and farther away from him. Then, without warning, we watched him disappear under the water.
He had stepped off into a channel made by the stream that fed the pond. He was in over his head in a heartbeat! And all we could do was watch! We stood helplessly on the opposite bank and I screamed at his friend to help him. Neither of us could swim! O God, help!! We watched him struggle to the surface of the water a second time! He was drowning out there! Neither of us could do anything about it! O GOD, HELP!!
I mentioned it was October, cold and approaching dark. Also, the pond was surrounded with an exceptionally nasty variety of burrs we Westerners affectionately call bull heads or Texas tacks. This charming weed produces a burr with a hard, very sharp thorn that is capable of flattening a bicycle tire with a single poke. Thick soled tennis shoes are barely adequate protection from their misery.
Suddenly, in the midst of our panic, we watched a young man – maybe 16 to 18 at a guess – barefooted, dressed in cutoff blue jeans run into the water at the east end of the pond and swim to where Dick was struggling to the surface for the third and perhaps final time. It takes longer to write about it than it took to happen. Swimming lifeguard style, the boy brought my darling husband to the shore were we were standing. Tears streaming down my face, I begged Dick to be all right. “Are you OK? Are you SURE you’re OK?”
“Yes, yes! I’m fine!” He assured me. Then we all turned at once to thank the boy and ask if he was OK, too. I remember thinking there was a warm blanket in the trunk of the car, and he must be freezing, dressed… or undressed… as he was. I was going to ask if we could take him home. But he was gone! There was no one running away across the park area. There was no one riding away on a bicycle and there were no cars in sight. HE WAS GONE!!!
In the years since then we have often looked back and thought… any one of us – given the ability to swim – would save a life if we could. And I suppose there are those who would count what we experienced as a coincidence. Perhaps we would too, except for one small detail.
In the crisis, we’d forgotten all about the boat. It had been easily 20 or 30 feet in front of Dick when he stepped into deep water and went under. As we turned and started for the car – there at Dick’s feet was his boat! As I said – any one of us would probably save a life if we could; but only GOD would give you back your life and your toy!
Because you have made the Lord your refuge,
the Most High your habitation,
no evil shall befall you,
no scourge come near your tent.
For he will give his angels charge of you
to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you dash your foot against a stone…. Psalm 91:9-12 RSV
Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hebrews 13:1-2 RSV
But to what angel has he ever said, ‘Sit at my right hand, till I make thy enemies a stool for thy feet’? Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation? Hebrews 1:13-14 RSV