Lake Lessons in Faith

Written by Cara Shonamon
Musings of a Ministering Mother

The author and Uncle Steve as they begin their kayak adventure
on Lake Michigan.

This summer we got to go on a trip to see our extended family in Michigan. Due to the pandemic, it has been two years since we had seen some of our family, so it was so sweet to be reunited. During our trip, I was invited by my husband’s Uncle Steve to go kayaking on Lake Michigan.

We got ready to go. A family member dropped us off and knew where to pick us up. We went out on the water together, each in our own kayak. We had our life vests on. The water safety flags were set to green. All of this means, we were good to go! We were doing all the right things and ready for an adventure.

We got out on the lake and, lo and behold, the waves began to pick up. Later we discovered that over the course of our outing the water safety flags were quickly changed to yellow (indicating use caution in the water) and finally to red (indicating get out of the water—dangerous waves and rip tides may be present). We didn’t know of the flag changes at the time, but we certainly were aware of the increased size and intensity of the waves.

I have kayaked before on calm water, but waves were new territory for me. One rolled over my kayak, and I ended up splashed in Lake Michigan.

Uncle Steve made his way over to me and said, “Hold onto the boat. The waves will take you to shore in about five minutes. I can’t stay, the waves are pushing me. I’m going to shore and will keep an eye on you the whole time.”

At that point, I figured I could handle being in the water for a few minutes. Little did I know I was stuck in a rip current. Each wave broke over the kayak with great intensity, some causing it to roll over, so I had to avoid being hit in the head. It was a struggle to focus on each new wave, and I began to get really worried. I said out loud, “God, I need to get to my kids!”

Too often in life I focus on the “wind and the waves”—things I can’t control.

I gave myself a pep talk and said, “What are the things you can control? You can’t control the wind or the waves. You can’t control people coming to rescue you. You can control holding onto the boat and making sure you can breathe!”

So, that’s what I did. I held onto the boat and made sure I could breathe. I started to paddle my feet under the boat with each wave, which were four to six feet high, and realized I was making some progress toward shore. As I got closer, I began to swim hard. I finally made it to where my feet could touch the bottom of the lake and began to walk the kayak to shore. It was at that point the rescue crew got to me. They asked if I needed help, but at that point I did not.

Thanks be to God that I was able to make it out of the water. Rescuers tried to send a helicopter to get me, but the wind was too strong. And a Coast Guard boat was sent to help, but had to stop and rescue someone else first. Also, thanks be to God that the water was 70 degrees, so I wasn’t cold at all. The very next day the water temp dropped to 61 degrees. That would have made the situation way more challenging for me.

As I reflect on my experience in Lake Michigan a couple things come to mind. First is that too often in life I focus on the “wind and the waves.” These are the things I can’t control, and I allow them to worry me. But I am reminded that I need to focus on what I can control, which is typically myself and my relationship with Jesus. I can hold onto Jesus and keep my focus on him!

I also thought about my intense desire to get back to my kids. I understand it was a very maternal instinct that welled up within me. I knew my kids were on the beach. I couldn’t see them, but I was desperate to get to them. I would do anything to get to them. I could endure the wind and the waves to get to them.

I wonder if what I experienced is just a taste of how deeply and intensely God wants to be in relationship with us. After sin entered the world, did God cry out, “I need to get to my kids! I’ll do whatever it takes! I will find a way!” I can’t help but think of the deep love of God that never gives up and always is seeking to be with us.

Thanks be to God that we can focus on Him when life gets tough and thanks be to God for the fact that He passionately and lovingly pursues us—always.

Rev. Cara Shonamon is co-lead pastor of Shawnee, Kansas, Church of the Nazarene.