Friday, April 30, 2010


This was a challenge on grace. Somehow, a submarine needed to get in there, so I added that too.


"We're saved by grace, not by works. If you just believe you're saved."

"Yeah, grace is important, but you've got to do something. Faith without works is dead."

"Do as much as you want, but if there was no grace, there would be no salvation, no matter how many 'works' you do."

I groaned. Chuck and Stu were my best friends, but their constant theological discussions really got on my nerves sometimes. The current debate had been continuing on and off for close to a week now. I didn't care who won, grace or works, as long as the conversation ENDED.

"Guys, would you just shut up? You're scaring the fish away."

The conversation stopped abruptly as they glowered at me. I didn't care. They could glower all they wanted. We'd come here to catch some fish and that's what I intended to do.I zipped my lure out into the river and reeled it in as the current carried it downstream. We'd been here for two days now and so far had caught nothing of note. The river was low this year and running fast, making the fishing more difficult. It was frustrating. Chuck and Stu arguing over religion made the frustration worse. I considered moving away from my friends, farther downstream, but that would take me into the middle of our neighbors.

The family of six had been at the campsite when we arrived. The mom and dad like to sit in their folding chairs, seeming to oversee the activities of their brood, while in reality the kids did pretty much whatever they wanted while their parents dozed. The older ones were out playing in the woods – I could hear their shouts and shrieks somewhere back behind me. The younger two, George and Sam (ages somewhere around 4 and 6 respectively), were playing at the edge of the river. The object of their play was a two foot long plastic submarine. One of them would stand upstream, holding the sub in the water. He would let it go and it would rush downstream to where the other would snatch it up and run it back up to the launching point. Then they would switch places and do it all over again. Neither one seemed to care that the toy didn't act like a real submarine. They were having a ball.

They were also making me extremely nervous. Sam was pretty adept at catching the sub, but George was more unsteady at the edge of the bank.

"Here is comes!" Sam released the sub into the quickly moving water. It hurtled downstream toward the outstretched hands of his little brother. George misjudged the sub, and it went sailing past. He grabbed at it. The move caused him to overbalance and he went tumbling into the river.

I stood frozen in shock for a fraction of a second. Thoughts ricocheted around my head in lightning succession: George was only four. While he was wearing a life jacket, the river was moving too quickly for him to be able to swim to shore. His parents were sleeping. The falls were only three hundred yards downstream.

That last thought jolted me into action. I dropped my pole and took off at a sprint. I passed Sam - who was only then registering what had happened - in a matter of seconds, and leapt over a pile of camping gear dumped unceremoniously on the ground by the older children at the conclusion of one of their games. I wasn't very graceful about it; my knee smashed into a large cooler as I landed. I managed to keep to my feet, but the cooler splashed into the water. Pain blossomed in my knee, but I did my best to ignore it. A child's life was at stake and I was the only chance he had.

I stormed ahead, doing my best to dodge around the trees and bushes that lined the bank. I was only partially successful. Tree limbs raked at my limbs and hair as I passed. Thorns and brambles ripped my clothes and tore at my skin. I was slowing down. I could see the cooler pass me out of the corner of my eye. If it was moving faster than me, then so was George.

I increased my pace, headless of the countless small injuries the surrounding woods were inflicting on me. Time lost meaning as I surged forward. How long had it been? I didn't know. My knee was burning now. I wasn't sure how much longer I could go on….

I burst from the undergrowth into a small clearing and was forced to skid to a stop as the river bent on its final approach to the falls. I could see them just up ahead now, the water smoothing as it prepared to drop the seventy five feet almost straight down. I searched frantically for George, but couldn't see him. My heart fell. I was too late. He had already gone over. It was then I heard the frantic sobbing from somewhere behind me. Could it be?

I quickly made my way back along the bank. There he was! I couldn't believe my eyes. The cooler I had knocked into the river had hung up on the branch of a tree that had fallen into the river. George had somehow managed to grasp the cooler's handle and was hanging on for dear life. I didn't stop to consider the how of the situation.

"Hold on, George. I'm coming."

I waded out into the river. Using the fallen tree as my lifeline, I managed to make it out to George before his strength gave way. The little guy refused to let go of the cooler, so I hooked my arm through his life vest, then freed the cooler and hauled both of them back to shore.

Chuck and Stu had arrived while I was making my way out to George and they helped us safely out of the river and back on dry ground. I lay there a minute, my heart pounding as I tried to catch my breath. What had just happened?

"That was amazaing," Chuck said. "Simply amazing. Dude, if you hadn't been so fast to react George would have died."

"What about the cooler?" Stu said, his voice full of wonder. "Kev knocked it over by accident and it miraculously stopped at the tree so George could grab it. God's grace at work."

There was a moment of silence as we pondered that statement.

"True," Chuck said finally," that was grace, but if Kev hadn't acted, the cooler never would have been where it was needed. That took works."

"God's grace would just have been manifested in a different way."

"George still needed to be pulled out of the river. That's works."

Were they really having this argument now? I sighed. Ignoring my two friends, I got to my feet and scooped the still traumatized George into my arms.

"Works or grace," I told him, 'You're safe. Let's get you back to your family."

I limped back along the bank. Chuck and Stu followed after.




I sighed again. It was going to be a long weekend.