In the summer of 2014, I went on a five-day canoe trip in northern Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA). The trip was the culmination of a year-long journey I had taken with my dad, three of my friends, and their dads. Our adventure in the BWCA was the greatest and final event in what we called our “vision quest,” a term used to describe a rite of passage taken by adolescents who are entering adulthood.
The first four days of our quest went by relatively smoothly. After raining briefly on the first afternoon, the weather cleared up, revealing the beauty of northern Minnesota.
Of the four teenagers, I was the weakest and least proficient paddler. Even with calm waters, the canoe carrying my dad and I would usually be the last to reach its destination. It didn’t matter. I was thankful to be out in nature with people I loved and the men who cared most about me. There was no judgment, only joy.
The final stretch of our journey was by far the most difficult. As we entered Clearwater Lake and set off for home, the wind picked up and the waves started rocking against the side of the canoe. I had to paddle as hard as I could as we were facing head-on into the wind. Progress was slow. As usual, our canoe was last in line, but one of my friends, Logan, and his dad were not far ahead. We stayed close to shore to try and avoid the full force of the wind and height of the waves. When we were about halfway across the lake, we spotted two people in a canoe who were in serious trouble. A mother and young daughter were struggling to keep their canoe from turning over. Suddenly, the canoe spun completely around while a wave smashed into its side. The paddlers spilled into the lake as the canoe turned and took on water.
My dad snapped into action. We quickly landed, and he began swimming out to help the stranded paddlers. Hearing the commotion, Logan and his dad turned around and paddled back to help. Soon, everyone was onshore, and a motorboat had been called. The woman’s husband and son, who were also up ahead, arrived and stayed on shore until they were picked up. I stood next to my canoe and looked over at Logan. I was a little shaken but relieved that nobody was hurt.
As I look back, I am thankful that God used my weakness and my struggle for good. If I had been as good a paddler as my friends, my dad and I would have passed by that canoe long before it flipped. No one would have been there to help.
I Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Sometimes it can be hard to be thankful. The winds and the waves of life can flare up at any moment, and it’s tempting to narrow in on our struggle and forget that we are never alone. Not only is God always there, but people around us are enduring storms of their own. No matter our surroundings or our weakness, God wants to use us to serve others. We should be thankful in all circumstances because God purposefully and strategically places us in situations to do His will. After all, we serve a God who walked on water and calmed the winds and waves with just His voice. What do we have to fear?
Jeremiah Bang [FLBC junior] is from Lakeville, Minn.