By Dr. Mike Murphy
The rain just keep coming. For days it had come. Every minute of the day, it fell from the heavens in waves. As each drop came down, they watched as the ground around them slowly inched away. And, with each drop, their small town faced the sudden reality of being washed from their sight. All they had known, all they had worked for, gone before their eyes with each drop of rain.
If the news could not get any worse, they soon received word of even greater danger. The river that ran through their small town was also at risk. The dam that overlooked their town, sitting just two miles upstream of their little town, was in threat of giving way. Reports had come of a small crack that was beginning to form in the wall of the dam. They were told that the dam could easily be patched, but the state was facing even greater threats from the flooding, in even larger towns. The simple truth was, the small town was at the bottom of the state’s priorities. It was easier to tell them to evacuate than to send the manpower necessary to save their town.
But in the eyes of those who lived in their town, the town was all they had. The years of the Depression had taken almost everything else. And the building war in Europe and Asia, had called into service many who would make up the future of the town. But despite the hardships, the people of the town had come together. Looking out for each other at a time when many had no one left to look out for. There was a closeness in their town that meant more than just words, that no one in the town could imagine life without. “Love thy neighbor” was more than just words they learned on Sunday, it was words that filled the heart of each in the small town come Monday. They could not imagine their life without the small town, and each and every precious face that made up their small town. They quickly came to the conclusion, if the state would not help them, they would give their all to help themselves. Even if giving their all was giving everything they had.
Three men in the town had small boats with outdoor motors on them, motors that would help them make it through the current and reach the dam. They filled their boats with the goods needed to repair the dam, or at least to keep the dam from giving way until the waters decreased. As the three set out, the town gathered. Openly praying for each of these three men, knowing the sacrifice they were willing to make to save their town. As the rain continued to fall, the three men set out in hope of making it the two miles upstream. One by one, as they began their journey to the dam, the three could barely see each other. The rain was falling so fast, and the waves were crashing so hard, they could only see a few feet beyond their boat. Soon the sight of three boats became the image of two. And as if time was standing still, the image of two soon became the vision of one.
Only one boat now remained. A single hope was left to save the town. But as the man who sat in that boat faced the river that day, he knew he did not face it alone. From the moment he started his engine, it was not him who held the hope of saving the town, but the One who controlled the seas. Each minute in the boat, he prayed. And as he watched the other two boats fade from his sight, he prayed harder. Not for God to save him, but for the Lord to save all he loved, all he knew, and all he had got in that boat for. With each word he cried out to the Lord, it was the faces of the town that he had moments before seen praying for him that filled his thoughts. And it was his memory of each of those faces that led him to call out to God even more.
Within minutes, he felt the engine give out. The roaring waters was just too much strain for the small engine to take. But as the engine began to smoke and came to a stop, his hope was not lost. And his prayers only began to increase. He reached into his boat and pulled out two old oars that he had keep in case they were needed. This was now the case he found himself in like no other, needing each of those oars like never before. Even though most would have told him it was useless, he slid the oars into place on the small boat, and began to pull with all his might. And with each pull, he prayed. With all his might he rowed, and with a might beyond his, he called out to God. Left in the confusion of the waves and the rain, he rowed with more energy and force than he knew he had. And with each pull of the oar, he thanked the Lord above.
Soon, he found he had done what no one could have imagined. He could feel the boat as it banged into something viciously, causing him to realize he had miraculously made it to the dam. Looked up at the dam, he could see the crack that had began to form. A crack that was barely in his reach, but a crack the Lord reached for him to repair. It was as if the boat was being held steady as he stood on the sit to repair the dam. For minutes, as he repaired the threatening breach in the dam, the boat remained still. Within moments, the crack was no more, repaired enough to hold until the rains would cease. But before the smile could find his face, the reality of the boat came into his vision. In the midst of the storm, the boat had greatly taken on water. Far more water than the small boat could hold. And within that moment, he became aware that he would row no more. But it was also in that moment, as the river began to take him under, the largest of smiles found his face for one last time. He realized that the Lord had heard and answered each word of his prayer. That although he would never see the faces of those in his beloved, small town again, he knew that the Lord would continue to stand in their presence. And as the water began to fill his lungs, and his last breath faded away, he recognized that the Lord had given him a gift far greater than he could ever have deserved.
As we look around us today, we can see the rain falling. We can feel the wind blowing. We can hear the thunder roaring. We watch the waters continue rising. And we hear the reports of the dam that holds back the evil that desires to flood this nation, starting to form cracks. With each new drop of rain that hits our face, it is time this Church remembered the love He has called us to have for all those around us, and the hope we see in each face He shows us. And as the flood begins to surround us, it is time we got in our boats and began to row.
The evil we see filling this world today should not bring fear to us, but remind us of the opportunity that each day brings. It was for this very day that God has prepared us, and for this very moment He has called us. The flood of evil that looks to sink us, can never stop us from reaching and repairing that dam, because of the One we have riding in the boat with us. Our call this day is to row. To not worry about waves that crash into the boat with us, or to even worry about what we will face as we reach the dam. Our call is to fulfill His will, to bring to Him all glory, and to let Him take care of the rest. Not worrying about what this might cost us, or the depths this might require from us. Remembering the words Christ taught us, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done. On earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10). Knowing there is no price too great we can pay to bring about that will. No greater accomplishment our life can achieve than to bring to Him glory.
As the evil in this world today looks to rise up and drown you, look into the eyes of all the faces that surround you. Faces of love and hope that He has placed in front of you. And as you look into their eyes, do not think for one second of evacuating, instead climb willingly and joyfully in the boat He has prepared for you. Do not worry about the waves as they crash against you. Pick up the oars He has placed in the boat for you, and row!
Praying this day, you will row with all your might!