Recently, when asked how things are going concerning work, I found myself answering, "There is nothing on the radar..." I was thinking about this phrase this morning: "nothing on the radar" and I recalled the time years ago when I was lost at sea.
It was during our college winter break that four us decided to venture the Bahama islands by way of boat. We boarded Eddie's 22 Ft Mako boat in Key Biscayne, Fl and headed for Bimini Island, where we spent a restless night on lounge chairs by the pool, half-eaten by mosquito's (remember, we were college students on an adventure). By morning, we were eager to get to our destination of Free Port, about an hour and a half jaunt across the sea.
We noticed many large crafts docked, so we inquired as to why. We learned that there was a small craft advisory, with a large craft advisory anticipated with the threat of a winter cold front sweeping through. The seas looked to be about 4-6 ft, which was enough to rock our tiny boat, but our poor night's sleep and thirst for pleasure brought us all to the unanimous decision to "go for it".
Rocking like a surfboard going against the surf, we ventured off shore out into the vast sea. Once comfortable at sea, we decided to stop midway at a tiny remote island to watch Eddie dive for large Grouper. While he was down 40 ft below, the 3 of us noticed a large black cloud creeping toward us. As soon as Eddie surfaced we brought it to his attention, and after one more brief dive, we were on our way to Free Port.
We made it about ten or so minutes before that remote black cloud became the sky about us. It brought with it cold wind, heavy rain and bolts of lightning that struck the water on all sides. At one point, while holding onto the steal beam on the boats side, I felt electricity shoot through my hand as lightning struck the sea some 100 ft away. It was cold, windy and frightening as the sea and storm engulfed our tiny craft in it's massive grip.
We went full tilt trying to beat the storm to our destination, but to no avail. The seas had now picked up to about 12 to 14 ft, and proved to be too much for us to overcome. Cold, wet, intimidated and overwhelmed we grabbed the radio to call for help, only to learn that we had no means of communication - it didn't work! We checked the gas situation, only to learn that we had less than a quarter of a tank of gas! As we looked at the compass to make sure we were on the right course to Free Port we discovered that it was spinning out of control - we had no clue where we were heading!
It is not like being lost on a highway somewhere, and you can stop to get directions or at least find a safe place to rest. NO! This is the sea, and there was no land in sight, and we had no idea what direction to go in to try to find land! We were LOST! We didn't know if we were heading toward a distant Bahama Island, the States, Cuba, England... or anywhere at all.
Several hours had now passed and the storm had not let up. By this point we had turned off the engine and rode with the massive waves allowing the sea to take us where ever it was going. Our minimal supply of beer and Peanut Butter would not last long (remember we were college students). We were young, dumb and apparently soon dead, lost at Sea!
We kept hoping we could spot a boat off in the distance somewhere, but not even large crafts ventured these rough seas on a day like this one. We were the only fools at Sea it appeared. We had no idea where we were going not to mention how to get there. I was developing quite a prayer life about this time, grabbing hold of any hope I could muster (no, I was not a practicing Christian as a college student...getting closer on this trip however).
I was afraid we were not going to make it, and I was mad. This was the year I transferred to Florida State to play major college football, having given up a scholarship and starting position at Georgia Southern College, that year's 1AA National Champion. I was not ready to give up on my dream, not to mention my life! But, there was nothing I could do about it! I was at the mercy of the Sea, and I was no match for this massive beast! It seemed evident that we were going to die at the hands of the Sea!
Following one mirage after another - our eyes continually tricking us as we hoped beyond hope to see a boat, land or anything - we finally saw something off in the distance. Another mirage? NO! As it got closer we could finally make it out; it was a large craft of some sort...
With our last bit of gas, we cranked the engine and headed toward our vision of hope before us. As we did, Eddie, who grew up on the ocean, warned us, "chances are a boat at sea in a storm like this is running drugs. If so, and we approach them, they may shoot at us!" This was no time, nor was anyone in the mood, for pulling our leg. Eddie was serious. As one, we agreed we would rather take the chance and die fast rather than die slow at the hands of the sea... We went for it!
As we approached, they yelled out at us, "What are you doing out here?" While not the warmest greeting, it sure beat the sound of guns! Before we knew it we were hooked up to this massive tug boat headed for Puerto Rico - not ideal, but far better than dying a slow death at sea!
Following some time, we were invited in to observe their sophisticated Radar screen. Fascinating! Other than circular lines, and a mark that indicated where the Tug boat was on the screen, I saw nothing. I believe that was part of the point. They asked us how we got here, out in the middle of the ocean far from land, and after hearing our story they were amazed we were still alive. They pointed to a tiny dot off in the distance. "You guys can travel with us to Puerto Rico, which at 10 knots, will get us there in about two weeks, or you can try to reach this distant Bahama Island we spotted off in the distance."
You would think fear would have kept us on the boat following this traumatizing day, but while afraid, we were college students with short memories on a adventure... With only the faint light of a Lighthouse way off in the distant night, covered in more rain, we headed toward our unknown destination hoping to have enough gas to make it. We arrived! It was too dark to tell where we were, but by morning, after purchasing gas, we discovered two remote islands: One had some people on it and the other did not. We ventured to the one that did not. Shortly after docking the boat, a cruise liner showed up off shore with one row boat after another making it's way to this remote island.
Turns out we landed somewhere near heaven! Before we knew it, we were feasting in this Bahamian style celebration accompanied by music, games and a massive feast that we were welcomed to partake in. We ate like kings!
We went from famine to feast, death to life, despair to great hope, fear to the time of our life, as these vacationers inquired about our story and paid to go diving with Eddie (who is amazing)...
It was the scariest time of my life, yet an adventure I could never replace! (Thanks Eddie! :-)
So now, as I find myself answering, "Nothing on the Radar!" There is so much more to that statement than I first realized!
When the disciples, who were fishermen, were out in a similar type storm, Jesus was asleep! (How do you sleep in a storm?). In fear, they woke Him and He stood and quieted the sea!
When the wind and the waves mount up against us we have two choices: focus on the wind and the waves and be gripped, as I was, by panic and fear; or rest in the boat with Jesus! When He says, "We are going to the other side", there is nothing to fear! We might as well learn to rest and enjoy the adventure with Him!
When things look devastating, and death and defeat seem to have us in their grasp, look a little closer, it's not a mirage, there is a distant land on the radar! There is a Lighthouse that will lead us to the feast!
No matter the wind and the waves, we will get to the other side!
There is HOPE ON THE HORIZON!
Enjoy The Journey!