My An Arkie's Faith column from the March 24, 2021, issue of The Polk County Pulse.
The first day of spring is delightful, with the gentle spring sun warming the landscape. Brilliant blue skies enhance the greenness of the grass that the trees will soon echo. As we drive, cows in the fields munch on luxurious new grass. After the winter months, we are excited to be on an outdoor adventure. On our drive to Oden, we talk excitedly about our upcoming trips. After staying close to home in 2020, my wife and I are ready to travel and explore.
Today we have planned a day on the Ouachita River. We have reserved a two-person fishing kayak from River View Cabins and Canoes. Jessie drove us to the Shirley Creek put-in. The temperature was 57 degrees, and there was a stiff headwind as we headed out on the river. Before long, we came to our first bit of fast water. We chose the line to the right, but the water was so low that our kayak bottomed out on the rocks. I had to get out of the kayak to free us from the rocks. When the kayak was free, there was no way that I could get back in. My wife took the kayak through the swift water and then had to keep paddling in circles until I could swim and catch up. With water temperatures in the low 50’s, my swim was a bone-chilling experience.
After my first experience in the water, it wasn’t long before I was in the water again. This time I turned the kayak over and put my wife in the water with me. The chill of the water took her breath away. When we were able to secure the kayak and paddles, we made our way to a gravel bank on the shore. We realized that the box with our phones was missing. My wife notices the box bobbing along quite a way downriver. I walked as far as I could down the gravel bank and then dove into the water. After swimming for a few minutes, I was able to retrieve the box. I had a challenging time swimming to a place where I could get out of the water. I am not a good swimmer, and it isn’t easy to swim with a box in one hand.
We were finally on our way again, with the box secured to the kayak. It wasn’t long before I caused the kayak to tip over once more. By now, the cold water experience has gone from being an adventure to being very annoying. We are both soaked, and there is a stiff breeze. Every time we could get underway, it wasn’t long before I would panic and cause the kayak to capsize. I could not get comfortable, and the more I tried to keep my balance, the worse my balance was. I was tired, cold, and hurting. I began to panic. How would we ever be able to finish the four-mile trip? After half a dozen dunkings, pulling the boat to someplace where we could get back in, I was worn out and alarmed.
When I once again capsized the kayak in deep water, we finally got to a large rock in the middle of the river. My legs were very sore, and I had a tough time getting back in the kayak. Almost immediately, I turned us over once again. Downriver I could see a large gravel bar in the middle of the river. We walked and swam with the kayak until we finally reached the gravel bar. “I can’t go on,” I told my wife. “I don’t know what to do.” I took my phone out of the box. It had a few drops of water on it from all the time it had spent in the water. I wondered if my phone would work and if I would have a signal. My phone worked, and I had enough phone signal to get a call through to River View Cabins and Canoes. “Rescue me,” I said. I told Brandon that I couldn’t go on. He told me that he would head to the river, but it would be some time before he could reach us.
When Brandon pulled up to the gravel bar in a one-person kayak, we wondered how he would rescue us. He had grown up in the area and knew the river. He contacted the landowners of the land along the banks of the river near us. After several phone calls, Brandon arranged for the landowner to drive his small Nissan pickup to the bank near our location. We had to cross the river to get to the bank. We had pretty well dried out by that time, but we would have to get wet and cold again one more time. Once we made our way to the bank, it was steep and very muddy. We had one more obstacle to overcome.
Relief flooded over me as we rode back to River View. Gratitude for Brandon, Jessie, and the landowner filled me. When you are in trouble, it always feels good to be rescued. Lauren Daigle’s song Rescue is a favorite of mine. The lyrics say, “I hear the whisper underneath your breath. I hear you whisper; you have nothing left. I will send out an army to find you in the middle of the darkest night. It’s true; I will rescue you. I will never stop marching to reach you in the middle of the hardest fight. It’s true; I will rescue you
Gentle Reader, David wrote about his near-drowning experience in Psalms 69:1-3 (NIV). “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched.” Every one of us has experienced the need to be rescued. God has made a promise to us. “Call to Me, and I will answer you.” Jeremiah 33:3 (NKJV) When God answers our call, he will bring us to a place of safety. “He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because He delights in me.” Psalms 18:19 (NLT) When you call on God, you can count on Him to answer you, rescue you, and save you.