Articles, Caroline Sutherland

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A Test of Faith

By: Caroline Sutherland

There we were out on the water – no land in sight. We had taken our boat across the Gulf to visit my brother on an Island in the Pacific Northwest. I am an experienced boater having been out on the water for many years. This was a different situation. When we woke up that morning at the campsite, my brother told us that based on the weather reports, the boating conditions were about to change. A 35 mph wind was expected, bringing rain and stormy seas. It was time to head for home.

For the previous two days the visibility had been poor. Forest fires in a neighboring area bringing a thick band of smoke, meant that we could hardly see nearby islands let alone the mainland. No problem I figured, it was calm and although we could not see land, we had our navigational charts and GPS (Global Positioning System) and because the area was familiar to me, we would “figure it out.” Not so. After we said our goodbyes, pushed off from the dock and headed south we could see on the GPS that we were speeding past familiar islands although we couldn’t actually see them. Then what?

I said to my husband – go east! If we were west, then the mainland was east – right? Wrong. I kept looking at passing islands – trying to figure it out. The GPS kept pointing us further west. Maybe the GPS was wrong? The ocean was flat calm, no breeze, not a boat in sight – an eerie feeling to say the least. Way out there – miles from land, I felt completely lost and disoriented.

Suddenly in the distance a height of land appeared. As we approached we could see people swimming off a sandy beach. Where were we? We cruised up beside a boat load of fisherman who told us where we were – on the opposite side of the Gulf from where we needed to be. Here we were miles from our destination, our gas tank half empty and a whole Gulf to cross. God – we need help. Miracles are wrought at every turn. The fisherman told us that there was a marina around the next point so we headed there right away. The gas barge was located right next to a Coast Guard station. So after we gassed up, one of the very kind coast guard officers showed us where we were on a big chart in the station office and described the exact compass bearing that we needed to follow to find our way home. I was concerned that the weather would change as we made our way across about 12 miles of open water. But no, despite the fact that we could see very little ahead, the seas were calm and we made the crossing in just under an hour. This was a huge relief.

My boating story is a bit like life. Many times we are challenged with circumstances that offer no end in sight and nowhere to turn. Many times we feel becalmed in life’s open waters with nary a glimpse of what lies ahead. This is where we need to turn on our faith and believe that life and the universe will guide our way home. This story renewed my faith that the hand of God is upon all of us and like the famous spiritual song: “His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me,” is a testament to that.


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