the time i sunk my uncle's boat.

this was a very interesting labor day weekend. strange, difficult, unexpected, frustrating, stressful, and ultimately, good. because, you see, each circumstance in our lives finds its direction from the Divine Hand.

well ... yes, it's true. i sunk a boat this weekend. not just any boat, mind you. it's my uncle's classic '67 glasspar (little racing boat), recently restored to better-than-original condition, and my dad's huge '85 mercury 115-hp straight-6 motor.

let me preface this story by saying that i'm not a complete boating idiot. i have a more-than-fair handle on what's going on in the water. but this boat is not easy to drive ... it's made difficult by the fact that the boat weighs 300 lbs and the motor weighs 400 lbs. it rides low to begin with ... add 4 girls and some wet towels to the mix, and idling with the motor trimmed all the way out (up) to go through the shallow channel, and we started getting water over the back edge. i tried to trim in (down) and make a run for it so i could run the bilge, but the boat wouldn't even plane -- that's how heavy it already was. so i pulled back (and more water rushed over the back), and a guy came by in a sea doo and offered to tow us to the shallows. i told the girls to jump out, we hooked up to his boat, we got about half way there, and it was the point of no return. i grabbed the box with the cameras and the cell phone, and i bailed. we watched as the boat made its way, vertically eventually, to the bottom of the lake. all that was left was a few colorful noodles and a floatation cushion, which we clipped to the now-useless tow-rope. i swam for shore, another sea doo picked up megan and shannon, and fink floated around swirting water with her hands :)

having made a phone call while the boat was still afloat, my dad and uncle were on their way (looking for a partially-submerged boat, of course). they both zoomed by, my uncle on the sea doo and my dad, later, in the fishing boat, and we had to flag them down. then came the awkward question, "where's the boat?" and the shameful gesture, pointing into the 25-ft-deep water (the lake at the deepest point is about 90 ft, so all things considered, we were lucky). then there was the look of sheer dejection: "oh, no...."

and my head was in my hands.

we relieved our rescuer, a friendly neighbor took megan and shannon home, fink and i loaded into the fishing boat (which ran out of gas before we got home), and (uncle) roger stayed to watch the makeshift bouy (the floatation cushion) and keep other boats (kind of) away. we came back and rotated the 'watching' shift so that roger and dad could make phone calls, and within the hour a diving team came out to lift the boat out. it went under at 4pm, and surfaced with the inflated diving balloons at 7pm. the nose popped out, but the boat was still under, so i towed it slowly with the sea doo to the shallows, where we pulled it by hand (totally filled with water) and started bailing it with buckets. our shoes, clothes, seats, sunscreen, fire extinguisher, paddle, and other stuff starting coming out of the nose, so we threw it all in the fishing boat (my brand-new chacos were rescued!). we bailed for about 35 minutes, until finally we could hook up some power and trim the motor back, and we hooked it up to the sea doo and towed it to the launching site, where roger and dad picked it up and brought it back to the house, taking everything apart immediately (the motor was dried out, cleaned, taken apart and put back together, and it ran like a charm this afternoon! and i would like to note that i re-installed the spark plugs. all six work.). we worked on it more this afternoon, and everything is slowly getting figured out about what will and won't need to be fixed/replaced.

so that's the long story. in short, though, it basically sucked. yeah, the sinking of the boat pretty much parallelled the sinking feeling in my stomach ... NOT a good position to be it. was it totally my fault? maybe not. but i was driving, and there's no escaping that guilt.

but there is something of beauty in being totally indebted to someone ... and that is the opportunity to embrace mercy in a real-life kind of way. no one got mad at me -- not once. no one (openly) blamed me or told me i was an idiot for doing or not doing something. no one asked me to pay the $600 for the divers' bill (Lord knows i don't have it!). and in fact, they told me that i "handled it well," and that i "did exactly what i was supposed to do."

amazingly enough, that's a tough pill for me to swallow. it almost would've felt better if i had more of punishment than a bad sunburn, a sore back, and some hardcore rope burns from pulling the boat up and bailing it out. i would almost feel better if i got lectured and blamed and taken through the third degree to make sure it was my fault (and not a crack in the boat).

somehow, the mercy doesn't feel safe ... it's as if i'm afraid that it will suddenly stop, and i'll have to evetually come to grips with all of the consequences. but that's the beauty of mercy, isn't it? of course there are unavoidable consequences (like being the butt of every joke this weekend). but none of the punishment has fallen on me, and none of it ever will. and the obvious lesson is of an even grander scale -- i have done far more heinous things in my life than sink a boat. and i will do even more. yet because of the Lord's great love for me, and because of my feeble faith in Him, none of the punishment will ever, ever fall on me. what an awe-ful thought. humbling, too.

and that's not all: even more good than that worthwhile lesson came from my sinking of the boat. but it had to get worse before it got better.

i know that this was just about the ultimate in stressful situations. the house was FULL of people, some of them strangers/guests, some of them family. and tensions basically skyrocketed with the news of a sunken boat. well, it didn't take long for the meltdown to occur, and there were too many cooks in the kitchen and too few peacemakers around. there was quite a bit of yelling that was basically unrelated to the situation at hand, and lots of feelings were hurt. there was a lot of bruised pride. and there was a really unfortunate lack of apologies.

so the next morning, the parties involved (my parents and my uncle and aunt) went to breakfast to get it all out.

and the resolution was astounding.

in the words of my dad, "we found out yesterday that we had put our treasure in this boat, instead of with God. we cared too much about this boat, and it became our first priorty."

so while i was learning about accepting mercy, they were learning about rejecting the american version of idolatry. because, after all, houses rot. wealth gets spent. health fails. and boats? well, they sink.

sometimes the Lord uses a whisper, or a brush on the shoulder to reveal a shining morsel of His truth to us. and sometimes ... well, sometimes He sinks our boat.

truth be told, i wouldn't have it any other way.

i think. ;)


very cool.

jars of clay, third day, and switchfoot just built a habitat for humanity house in indianapolis. man, that's something i wish i could've stumbled upon while i was in town ... :) very cool, in any case. stellar group of guys.