Not talking to God



The river was wide at this point.  The embankment was probably half a kilometre away either side, one side marginally closer than the other. The dinghy was only 8 feet long with a 2 horsepower outboard.  We had done the same thing the day before, without a hitch.

We were on holidays at Nowra on the coast south of Sydney, staying at a caravan park run by the in-laws, boasting frontage right onto the Shoalhaven River.  Yesterday I had taking the kids for a spin on the water, my three, aged 10, 8 and 5, plus their cousin aged 5 as well. Five of us in an eight footer, was rather cosy, to say the least, but the engine never missed a beat.  It was a beautiful day. We had no life jackets, but the river was calm and hardly another vessel was out and about to create a wash.  It was only those oars that made the seating awkward.

So this next day I decided to leave the oars back at the caravan park. The sun was pushing aside the rain clouds and the water beckoned for our attention.  Four eager children begged to go again. And what are holidays for? Of course we went, and the engine purred as happily as it did the day before. We got a long way, passed under the bridge, and entered this widest part of the river, when my eldest begged to have a go at the controls.  Naturally, this was a great opportunity to teach him the finer points of boating, and I told him the very first thing he would have to learn was how to stop and start the motor.  I pointed out the kill switch and got him to press it. The motor dutifully stopped purring. The next lesson was how to start the thing again.  He pulled the starter rope and nothing happened.  He pulled that rope many times, until I thought I'd better do it. But I had no more success than he did!

We gave it a rest, just sitting there, enjoying the sunshine and the peace.  I had no doubts that after a little while the engine would roar into life, but it wasn't to be.  I tried and tried, but life had left the little motor.  I sat there for ages, wondering what to do.  The river was deserted. Not even a canoe was in sight, let alone something with a motor that could give us a tow.

I was in a spiritual desert at the time, something I will address more fully in my next testimony.  The dreams and hopes I had, the things that I wanted to achieve, none of it had come to fruition.  I knew God wasn't far away, but I was angry with Him, again, for letting things turn out the way they had. Didn't He appreciate my efforts to make a stand for what He had placed on my heart?  Oh, things weren't all bad.  There were my three beautiful children. I had a good job, a good wife, a start in the battle to own our own home, some great friends.  But as far as achieving my dreams was concerned, they were so far out of reach, they seemed unattainable. So I wasn't on talking terms with Him at that time.  And I refused to ask for help.

What do you do when you are stuck in a little dinghy in the middle of a kilometre wide river, four kids wearing no lifejackets depending on you to get them home, no oars as a stand-by for the lifeless outboard?  I wasn't talking to Him, and I told Him so: "I don't need any help, I can do this myself!" The words reminded me of how my kids talked to me sometimes!  I thought, "Things can't get any worse, surely." And then I had an idea.

"OK, guys, all of you paddle.  You two with your right hand and you two with your left.  And make sure you don't fall out!"  And we did. I paddled with both my hands, the kids with one hand each, and we aimed for the shore that was the closest. There was no housing in sight, only farmland on this side, but getting to solid ground within our paddling capability was priority number one. We paddled for maybe twenty minutes and reached a tiny beach, where I pulled the boat out of the water.  Then another idea came.

I raised the back of the boat on some rocks, so that the entire motor was out of the water, and then tried starting it again. Two pulls and the engine roared into life!  Proud as punch to have solved the problem without His help, I ordered the kids back into the dinghy. The little motor purred again. At first it seemed judicious to stay close to the shore, but the motor ran so well that I felt confident there would be no more problems. So we went into deep water and soon were back, close to where the problem had started.  It didn't need the kill switch to stop the engine this time. It just died.  And we were in the same predicament once more.

I sat there again, wondering what on earth to do.  "I don't need any help", I told Him, "and things can't possibly get any worse."  I couldn't ask the kids to paddle any more.  They were exhausted from the first effort.  So what to do?  Then, in desperation, I thought I could jump overboard and swim to shore, towing the boat behind me to the same little beach.  So I did, and as I jumped, my left arm dislocated. It had come out before, once while body surfing, necessitating a trip to casualty and four weeks with the arm in a sling. The pain is not extreme - it is more a sickening feeling, making you want to throw up.   But all that aside, now things really were worse! I was hanging on the side of the boat, one arm out of its shoulder socket, and still refusing to ask for His help.

To try to get back into the dinghy was taking on way too great a risk. Four kids without lifejackets possibly tipping into the water definitely would be far worse.  The Lord seemed to be testing my stubbornness, which was proving to be unshakeable and firmly entrenched. My eldest son was the only one old enough to realise the seriousness of the situation, and he started to cry. The others were laughing, still thinking of Dad as indestructible and fully in control.  It had rained quite heavily during the night.  The boat was drifting into the icy cold delta of a creek, but still a long way from land. The top few inches of water was warm from the sun, but below that, the water was freezing, and the warmth of my body was fast being sucked out of my legs.  Cramps couldn't be far away.  Things couldn't get worse, or could they?  Yes they could - it started to rain!  

Something had to be done and soon. The awful thought of me disappearing into the depths, leaving the four young ones in the boat to their own resources, fleetingly passed through my mind. I forced it away by sheer willpower, as totally unreal and unacceptable. Still refusing to ask for His intervention, I did the only thing I could think of.  I grabbed the nose of the dinghy with my dislocated left arm and started swimming with my right.  And then an amazing thing happened. Somehow, the awkward, jerky action of a swim stroke followed by a pull on the boat caused my arm to go back into its socket!

I towed the craft right back to the beach where we had paddled before. I told the kids they must stay with the boat, while I went for help.  Several kilometres of muddy dirt track through the farmland brought me out to the tar, and another half a kilometre to a phone.  My wife came with the car and we slithered through the sloshy path to load the boat on the roof rack and the kids in the back.



  • The Lord is always faithful, even if we are not.
  • Never go boating without oars and lifejackets for everyone!