Tuesday, September 15, 2009

And the Wind and the Waves Shall Obey Him

August 19, 2009, 1:20 p.m. - Suddenly I was lying in the bottom of it. I knew it was the only way to survive. I clung to whatever solid, tangible object I could. The fiberglass was painted blue, just like my daunting surroundings and I hoped that it wasn’t some strange parallel predicting my fate. My heart pounded and I willed for a heart attack or even a brain aneurism to take me before I became swallowed in the smothering, swelling beast, so I could pass before my horrible fate and my worst nightmare became a reality.

Rising and falling, 20 feet up, 30 feet down; the swells were too big for the American part of me, yet the Islander within me also screamed that the ocean was going to swallow me whole. And my cousin was laughing. My friend Fabiola and I were each sharing a portion of the bottom of the small boat. Its 17 foot long by five foot wide body was only a spec on the ocean’s plain. Then I heard a sputter and a lull come over the 25 horse power monotony I knew as the engine.
Earlier that day we had decided to go on an adventure to a notorious beach. Half-Moon Bay is so secluded and out of the way that the islanders of Roatan, Honduras hardly bother going there. Because of its natural beauty it has become a famous spot for celebrity sightings. And I wanted to see a celebrity, but I also preferred not to die.

The plan was for my cousin Kurt and I to leave my grandparents house before 10 a.m. and pick up my friend Fabiola across the harbor and head out before 10:30. When I called the states to talk to my parents the night before, I promised my mom, who is from the island, that I would go on one condition: That the ocean was calm.
My cousin Kurt is a year older than I and a true islander at that. Driving a boat from the time he could tell left from right, his boat driving experience beat mine by a long-shot. I trusted him. He’d proven himself while driving around Oak Ridge, the part of the island where my mom’s family lives, but the difference between that and our planned excursion is that Oak Ridge is inside of the reef. One has to drive OUTSIDE of the reef in order to reach Half-Moon Bay. I was going to face open sea in a very small speed boat. But, I was ready.

Apparently I had to leave US soil in order to learn to swim, because at 20 I was finally able to boast that skill I had so long coveted. Up until then, I had been living with an outright deathly fear of drowning and a hate of bathing suits, a combination that had kept me from treading past my neck on trips to Florida, and out of most pools in the States while growing up. However, having just learned to swim three weeks before, soon after my arrival on the island, I had already proven to be a strong swimmer, thoroughly beating several of my island friends while racing in swim contests. I guess it took jumping off a wall into the ocean, a sink or swim kind of deal to rid me of my fear. I was finally ready for open sea. Or so I thought, because on the afternoon of August 19, all I knew was that I was sure I was going to be doing some sinking, and that I wanted to punch my cousin.

His laughter was echoing off the sides of the boat as he started the engine again. To him the rising and the falling of the small boat was nothing compared to “actual rough weather,” and so he had decided to play a trick on Fabiola and me by stalling the engine. My rebuttals to this action would later greet him once my feet were on dry land, but at that time I kept quiet and rather pious as my mind was yelling prayers into the heavens. I was sure at any moment we would capsize or even a whale would nudge our boat to its final watery destination. As Kurt turned the boat back and we moved closer to the entrance of the reef's safety, I knew that God had heard my prayers, and since I had promised in my moment of fear to use my voice for Him from that year on, that is exactly what I am attempting.

We serve a God that cares. Even if He was laughing at me along with my cousin for my lack of trust and over-dramatic panic, I had to wonder what the disciples had promised God that day while Jesus was sleeping in the bottom of the boat before he stood up to calm the waves.

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