Cover Photo: Pexels
“I need you like water
Like breath, like rain
I need you like mercy
From heaven’s gate
There’s a freedom in your arms
That carries me through
I need you” (2000) “I Need You” Recorded by: LeAnn Rimes Composers: Dennis Matkosky & Ty Lacy
This is embarrassing, but I need to share one of the craziest knuckleheaded things I’m guilty of. Keep in mind, I was only 15 years old, full of adventure and vigor, with constant daredevil brainstorms. And of course, I was indestructible in the summer of 1975. Weren’t you at 15?
I was at a summer camp, with church friends, from my youth group on the banks of the sprawling, Lake Texoma, on the Texas side. Lake Texoma is huge, as it spans parts of southern Oklahoma, as well as, north-central Texas. In fact, it’s one of the largest reservoirs in the United States. It’s a fisherman’s haven, about 74 miles north of Dallas, Texas. You should Google it to get a better picture of what I’m about to reveal to you. Sightings of alligators are rare there, but they are there.
Tied-up along the banks, were a few blocks of Styrofoam, the largest about 5’x5′ square, and approximately 2-feet in thickness. I think they used them for some sort of “King of The Hill” games in shallow waters. Difficult to keep one’s balance if standing on top.
Three of my extremely bright friends, and I, came up with a brilliant plan. Like calculating convicts, planning an elaborate overnight escape from prison, we carefully planned out a scheme to barrow some brooms, make our way down to the Styrofoam blocks under the cover of night, board it, and paddle our way to Oklahoma and back before sunup. Three of us were athletes. I was a trained tournament fighter in karate/kickboxing. One was a state award-winning gymnast, headed for the Olympic trials. One was a football player. The other was…well…a guitar player. What could possibly go wrong?
About midnight, we quietly freed ourselves from our barracks. We made our way to the maintenance worker’s shed. There we discovered only two brooms, one mop, and a fan rake. We figured it’s all we had, so we borrowed what God gave us. What could possibly go wrong?
Like four teenage ninjas, we quietly made our way down to the shore, untied the biggest block of Styrofoam available, and with each one sitting on each of the four corners, with our legs hanging over the sides, we began to row like madmen on a quest. Of course, the brooms worked better than the mop and rake, but we strategically placed the two guys with brooms (I was one of them.) on the opposite diagonal corners for better rowing balance. So, off we went, in our dark clothes into the dark waters, lacking life jackets, flashlights, reflectors, or flares. What could possibly go wrong?
We had a blast, rowing 90-to-nothin’, talking about girls, our camp counselors, the mess hall’s food, our youth pastor, and…alligators. What could possibly go wrong?
Believe it or not, we made good nautical mileage in short order. To this day I have no true sense of how far out we went, but I will guess two miles, or so. What we didn’t realize is how far across the Oklahoma shore was from our campsite. I will say, it looked a lot closer than reality.
I don’t believe we made it even halfway across when we all decided to take a break. We laid back, with our empty pointed heads meeting in the middle, looking up at the stars with the sound of water licking the sides of our…yacht.
At that time, we all knew we had bit-off more than we could chew, but didn’t speak it into the overnight air. After a time, in our exhaustion, we debated the idea of defeat. Someone brought up the thought that if we got caught we would all be sent back home in a shame wagon. On the other hand, someone brought up the fact that if we didn’t start paddling back, the sunrise would beat us, revealing our naval escapade. We would be exposed to those headed for breakfast. The skinniest guy said he didn’t have the strength to paddle with his mop any longer. Silently, each of us began to consider the danger we were in, sitting on a piece of Styrofoam in the middle of Lake Texoma, without safety flotation devices, not to mention…alligators. Personally, I was more worried about the lake legend of the wild goat-man who lurks about the shores looking for young campers, no doubt since the days of Moses.
Bravely, one by one, we agreed to make a 180 to paddle back before dawn. With arms feeling like rubber, half dead on our feet, we made it to shore while it was still dark. We swore we would never tell anyone. The four of us made a pact. What could possibly go wrong? You guessed it, the week wasn’t over until one of us (Not me.) bragged about it to a girlfriend. Before you could say, “Gator-bait” everyone on the campgrounds heard about it. We narrowly escaped an early trip home. And some, didn’t believe we did it. I’m grateful I am still here to write about it. God’s mercy and grace are real, in real-time.
Photo: I’m on the right, with another fearless one acting like fools.
The 1975-Forging Foursome came to mind recently during our current COVID-19 crisis. That still night out on Lake Texoma involved four teenagers who relied on each other to stay afloat, to stay alive. Whether one had a broom, a mop, or a rake, we depended on each other, even though we were pooped in the dark on top of 100 feet of water. For us, we were a team to be reckoned with. We were essential to one another.
Don’t misunderstand what I’m about to say. In this pandemic crisis, only essential businesses, essential workers, essential volunteers were called upon to keep America afloat. The non-essentials were/are under “Shelter-In-Place” orders. Truly, there was/is a good reason for it. The virus we battle is like a team of alligators in darkened waters. I, for one, am extremely grateful for first responders, medical staffers, fast-food services, grocery stores, truckers, farmers and ranchers, gas station managers, sanitation workers, postal workers, etc…. They are all rowing in unison as fast as they can to protect the rest of us. They were all placed on their jobs for, “such a time as this”.
However, in the end, WE are ALL “Essential”. Much like pieces of a puzzle, we are all essential to one another. Where would we be if not for the shoe salesman, the record producer, the librarian, the barber, the DMV clerk, the house painter, and the carpet layer? Sure, in the crunch-time of paddling through the dark waters of the COVID-19 battle, some jobs are needed to be on the front lines of the viral war. I get that. I agree with that. However, in the end, after life is done, there will be a ditch-digger, a candle-maker, a school janitor, a tool & die maker, who will realize they were part of God’s assorted massive toolbox. There are no non-essentials here.
God Himself will say to some, “Well done, good and faithful servant”.
Each one is precious, and needed. Each one has an essential place with fuel for the race.
“…Whatever you might do, work from the soul, as to the Lord and not to men…” – Colossians 3:23 (excerpt) – (Berean Literal Version)