She was washed up, a has-been whose glory days were behind her. Years ago she was racing behind a speed boat up and down the mighty Ohio River in the summer sun, but now she was showing her age and was no longer needed. Just as she was deflated and about to expire, Uncle Jack recognized her worth and saved her! Her name is Big Bertha. In the winter she is now on the sledding hill and in the summer she returns to the water at Red Gate Farm. Bertha is an enormous inflatable inner tube and any time she makes an appearance, it’s an adventure.
Recent rains had raised water levels and the current in the Holly River was dangerously swift. My son Jack and his teenage friends, whom I was responsible for keeping safe the three days they were in my care, convinced me to let them board flimsy rafts and ride the torrent. My safety plan involved a long rope dangling off the car bridge for them to grab onto as they floated past. (This had worked to a minimal degree when I myself was a youth. I also comforted myself that at least none of the boys were wearing a tube top which was the main reason the plan failed years ago.) The boys went down the rapids several times until deciding to simply hang out in the deep spot under the bridge, clinging to the rope in the swift current. Everything was going fine until Big Bertha dumped her passenger! While he attempted to swim ashore in his water logged muck boots (“river shoes”??), the giant yellow raft made her escape. Nanna yelled “Save Bertha!” And the race was on.
My bare feet sprouted wings as I ran across the bridge, and splashed through mud puddles in the driveway. I kept spotting Bertha through the trees how she got hung up a few times on large rocks but then spun back into the current that swept her farther and farther away. I was out of breath but kept running. My daughter drove the Gator with one of the boys, Nils, and caught up with me just as I entered the woods. We ran out on a large exposed rock a few seconds ahead of Bertha and making a human chain, I planted my feet and held onto Nils as he reached his hand out as far as it would go, barely grabbing the side of the inner tube and pulling her ashore. The current wanted her badly and maybe she wanted to go—but she needed rescued. Mom observed later how if we had not gotten her out at that point in the river, she would have been gone forever. Herein lies a life lesson: The way I see it, we mean way more to Jesus than that big ole inner tube meant to us, so He goes to even far greater lengths to pursue us and save us.
Matthew 14: 31, “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.” Jesus knew Peter needed rescued and in this case Peter knew it too. He had yelled, “Lord, Save me!” when he was beginning to sink from the weight of fear, doubt, and little faith.
We also pulled my son out of the Holly right after we got Bertha ashore as he had jumped on another tube and followed her down the rapids. Watching his friend extend his hand and drag him up on the rock with us made me realize how true friends chase after what is good and rescue each other when we need some help. God gives us opportunities—whom do we need to extend a hand to? And likewise maybe we just need to reach out and accept the Almighty hand that’s already been extended, because whether we know it or not, we all need rescued.
Janet Cowger- Fliegel