87: Deep Faith

87: Deep Faith

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Miracles

Deep Faith

You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

~John 14:14

In the summer of 1991 our seven-year-old daughter, Patty, waited in gleeful anticipation for her friend Melissa’s arrival. Melissa’s family planned to spend a day in Nebraska before heading back to their new home in California, and we’d arranged to let the girls enjoy the day together.

Because of the heat, the excited girls begged for a water outing. “But Melissa doesn’t know how to swim,” I pointed out.

My husband, Jake, came up with a compromise. “Honey, they only have one day together. We can go to the Platte River. It’s shallow.”

Looking at the girls’ hopeful faces, I agreed. We loaded the car with fruit snacks and fishing gear, and headed out.

Nature’s symphony welcomed our arrival. Piping birdcalls, the low drone of insects, and the sound of leaves rustling in the breeze mixed with the soft lap of water against the shore. The girls and I declined Jake’s offer of fishing. He laid a rod over his shoulder, grabbed his beat-up brown tackle box, and hurried upstream, eager to battle the catfish.

The girls’ joy proved infectious, and I joined their exuberant play, chasing iridescent blue dragonflies and tiny sand-colored toads. We drew in deep breaths of the hot, river-scented air and raced into the shallow water. It flowed lazily past our ankles, and we dragged our feet through the smooth golden sand while darting silver minnows tickled our toes.

The heat increased as the early afternoon sun blazed across the cloudless blue sky. In spite of the sunblock we’d slathered on, the intense rays baked our backs. We splashed each other to stay cool, and the girls asked, “Is this as deep as it gets?”

Old timers described the Platte as, “an inch deep and a mile wide,” and they seemed to be right. We waded across the wide expanse of slow moving water until it swirled around the girls’ knees. Better, but it didn’t cool us enough, or satisfy our desire for more river adventure.

We waded in farther and found a pocket that seemed perfect, waist deep on me, chest level for the girls. We splashed each other, refreshed by the cool water.

Laughing, I backed downstream about twenty feet to escape the girls’ tag-teamed water barrage, not realizing a deep, swift channel hid in this otherwise sluggish river.

I took another backward step, and the bottom dropped out from under my feet. The current, much stronger here, dragged me in deeper.

I called, “Stay back,” but it was too late.

The girls waded closer to see what had happened to me, and the current captured them. They struggled against its pull, but inch by inch it sucked them closer to the swift running channel.

And Melissa couldn’t swim.

I yelled to Jake, but he was fishing about a quarter of a mile upstream. Even if he heard me, he’d never reach us in time. I shouted, “God, help us!”

Both girls screamed. Horrified, I treaded water and watched the current jerk my daughter off her feet. Patty loved swimming in pools, but here she fought to keep the relentless river from sucking her under.

I screamed again, “God, help us,” as Melissa succumbed to the river’s unyielding pull.

My thoughts raced. I knew I wasn’t strong enough to catch both girls and keep them afloat. Just then Jake came around the bend. Thick interwoven brush blocked the riverbank there, so he fought his way through the shallows. But too great a distance separated us. He couldn’t help.

I struggled to keep my head above water. My arm and leg muscles burned as I fought the channel’s pull, each stroke more difficult than the last. A sick certainty overwhelmed me—these precious girls would drown, and I could do nothing to save them.

It was hopeless. We needed a miracle.

A sudden, insistent thought overrode all others. “There is power in the name of Jesus.”

I’d invited Jesus into my life a few months earlier, and He’d already demonstrated his miraculous power, saving me from a ladder fall that could have killed me.

I spit foul-tasting water from my mouth and screamed, “Jesus, save us!”

Immediately a swell of sand grew beneath my feet. It lifted me as if I was standing on top of an elevator. The sand ridge raised me chest high out of the water at the exact moment the girls swept by.

I reached out and grabbed Patty with my left arm, and Melissa in my right. We clung to each other and inched backwards. Where the drop-off had been moments before, the solid ridge of sand now formed a path for us to escape from the deep channel.

Jake reached us as we staggered into the shallow water we’d spurned such a short time before. “Are you okay?”

Patty jumped up and down. “Jesus saved us, Dad!” She hugged him and grabbed Melissa’s hand. They raced through the ankle-depth water to a sandbar, their excited chatter filling the air. They spun in circles, celebrating our miraculous rescue.

Jake held me as I slumped trembling against his side and told him of the divine intervention that occurred the instant I called out Jesus’s name.

We stepped closer to watch the girls scoop huge letters in the sand. Their message of gratitude read, “Thank you, Jesus!”

~Jeanie Jacobson

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