It was a perfect day. The sun was out, it was about 80 degrees and our family was getting ready to brave the treacherous waters of Big Bass Lake.
Never heard of it? Well, most call it Country Lake, because it is the small man-made lake on the property of one of Southeast’s favorite spots: Country Lake Christian Retreat. And if you’ve been out there, you know that it’s actually far from treacherous. I come from the Great Lakes State, and up there, we would probably classify Big Bass as an overgrown pond.
I mean, c’mon … lakes aren’t supposed to be cute.
And how can you name it Big Bass Lake? Is it a bass lake that is big? Certainly not. Is it a lake full of big bass? I don’t think a big bass could fit in it.
All kidding aside, I actually have a very special place in my heart for this lake and its second-to-none campground. I’ve spent many summers out there but this particular sunny day was my first time at its annual Family Camp.
This camp kicks off a summer full of camps at CLCR, and it is programmed and run by the talented and dedicated staff there, who work to fulfill Southeast’s mission of connecting people to Jesus and one another, all while ensuring campers and other guests to have a blast.
On the first morning, my family of six decided to hop in canoes and explore the lake.
My wife, Tammy, set out first with our 6-year-old daughter, Havyn. Second to depart was our oldest, Henry, 9, with his sister Amelia, 7. My son, Arlington, 3, and I brought up the rear.
For the first few minutes, everyone seemed to be having a great time.
Shortly after, however, Amelia realized that the canoe was a bit unsteady and she started to get scared. I pulled alongside, gave her a bit of coaching, and encouraged her to just keep paddling. She started to protest, growing more anxious. I finally decided to let her climb in my canoe, leaving Henry all alone. He said he was fine, so we parted ways.
While the three of us paddled to one end of the lake, I saw Henry moving the opposite way. Arlie decided he wanted to be in mommy’s canoe, so we dropped him off and Amelia and I continued our adventure.
As we were paddling one way, I looked back and saw Henry, all alone, continuing to slowly move in the opposite direction. He eventually made it all the way to the rocky wall of the lake where the dam is located. He seemed to be having a good time. As time passed, though, I realized his canoe wasn’t moving much. I even thought I heard faint cries for help.
“What if he’s stuck?” I thought. I grew concerned and decided I’d better go investigate.
The lake suddenly seemed much bigger than I had given it credit for.
Not getting much assistance from my co-paddler, I raced as quickly as possible to Henry’s canoe. I found him frustrated, lonely and a bit scared. He’d been stuck against the rocks, unable to move.
I gave him advice for how to free himself. He tried but had no success. He’d make a few feet of progress, only to be turned back by the wind that was quite stiff at this end of the lake. After much straining and struggling, I invited him into our canoe. I grabbed the empty canoe with one arm while rowing with the other. The kids paddled as hard as they could.
It took a surprising amount of effort to get back to shore. We whined. We grunted. But we never stopped paddling, and we eventually made it back. We crawled out of the boat and threw our paddles down, exhausted. I looked up at my wife.
“Are you guys okay?” she asked.
“Yep. And now I know what I’m going to write about in my next Outlook column,” I responded.
So, here are a few lessons we learned from our wild journey on the high seas:
Never go it alone.
Henry found very quickly that there is safety in numbers. Without another helper, he wasn’t able to steer well and didn’t have the strength to push through the challenges.
And isn’t this true in life? Life is always pulling at us, trying to drag us into danger.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”
Always be prepared.
You don’t head out on Big Bass Lake expecting tsunamis, shipwrecks or shark attacks. Everything looked very calm and serene. But disguised in the middle of the peace was a pretty dangerous force.
That wind was unrelenting.
1 Peter 5:8 warns us to “be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
2 Corinthians warns us that Satan “masquerades as an angel of light.” We should always be on our guard, even when life seems to be carefree.
Don’t give up.
As we were fighting the wind, trying to return our boats, I warned the kids, “If you stop paddling, this wind is going to turn us sideways and we’ll end up right back against that dam. Keep paddling!”
Life can be tiring. When you’ve been fighting for a while, it’s quite tempting to give up or to take it easy for a bit. When we do we’re in danger of suffering a setback.
I love the encouragement in James 1:12. “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”
Who knew that a little lake could teach us such big lessons?
Steve Young is a Children’s Ministry Associate at Southeast’s Blankenbaker Campus.