Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you. Proverbs 2:8
It was a glorious day! The sun was shining, and they had the small lake to
themselves as they cut through the water, smashing against the big waves caused by their
“Wahoo” Kelly yelled as she stood in the front of the bowrider looking back at
Emily riding on an inner tube pulled by a long, tow rope. The tow rope would sometimes
stretch out and then snap back giving the rider an especially exciting ride skimming fast
over the flat water before hitting another big wave.
Emily hung on with all her strength. Rachel had been on the tube just before her
and had managed to stay on for quite awhile. Emily was competitive. She was
determined to beat her friend Rachel.
Rachel smiled. She could see what Emily was trying to do. Rachel wasn’t very
confident driving the boat. Even though she’d done it before and had the Florida Boaters
Safety Certification, she hadn’t driven the boat as much as Parker. The boat belonged to
Parker’s parents and he’d run out in the family car to get more gas. He told the girls to be
careful, but they could keep boating while he’s gone.
Rachel started to begin a wicked strategy of circling in a tight circle that
continually kicked up bigger and bigger waves for Emily. Then Rachel quick turned the
boat hard the other direction and Emily came skimming across the water at seemed like
30 mph right in to the biggest pile of waves they’d seen that day. Her tube hit the waves
hard and it flew high into the air before landing awkwardly on a distant wave and
throwing the rider off.
“She’s down!” Kelly reported. Just then Rachel’s cell phone rang. It was Parker.
He stood on a dock less then 70 yards away with two 5 gallon jugs of gasoline. He
waved at her.
Rachel was relieved to see Parker. She had tried to act confident with the girls
about driving the boat, but actually, she was very nervous. She couldn’t get Parker back
into the boat fast enough. She yelled back to Emily, “We’re just going to pick up Parker.
Be right back!”
“What?!” Emily yelled as she floated in the warm water in the middle of the
small lake. There were no other boats on the lake, but the lake was kind of shallow. She
could feel gross stringy weeds brush against her legs. She saw Parker on the dock and
realized what was happening. “That was pretty rude of them not to pick me up first.”
In hindsight, Rachel would have picked up Emily first. She just was so relieved
to be able turn over the driving duties again to Parker. When she got close to the dock,
she slowed way down. She wasn’t practiced docking a boat. She didn’t want to bang the
boat against the side. She was coming in too fast. She quick put the boat into reverse.
That was a mistake. The propeller ran over the tow rope they pulled behind and became
entangled. Yet, somehow, with the wind and their forward motion, they managed to get
close enough to the dock so Parker could jump on board.
Emily was getting perturbed. Different things in the lake were moving against
her legs. She didn’t know what they were, but they were slimy. She hoped they were
weeds. She started to think really bad thoughts about her friend Rachel for leaving her
out here like this. She circled around to see what else might be around her. When she
looked to the opposite shore, which wasn’t far away, she suddenly became terrified.
There was an alligator in the water. It wasn’t far from her. It was moving slowly. It was
moving slowly toward Emily.
Emily screamed. She yelled. She waved her hands at the boat. They were too
far away. They couldn’t hear what she was saying. Besides, they had to get the tow rope
unwound before they could move the boat. They would pick up Emily as quickly as they
could. Parker didn’t know about the alligator.
Emily screamed some more. She could see the alligator’s nose and two eyes as
they slowly cut through the water. She knew that the worst thing would be when the
alligator dove down under water. Then it would plan it’s attack. Alligators often attack
their pray by clamping down hard on them and pulling them to the bottom of the lake.
Alligators know they can hold their breath much longer than most anything they might
The alligator was still 20 yards away. Emily’s heart was pounding in her chest.
She had seen plenty of alligators since moving to Florida, but they were almost always
sunning themselves on some safe distant shore while she sailed by in a car, boat, or
canoe. Here she was floating helplessly in the shallow lake while an alligator was
bearing down on her.
Emily knew that, historically, alligators have not attacked very many humans in
Florida. In prior decades, they averaged only 4 deaths a decade for many decades. But
the decade beginning in 2000 had been a tough one. There had been 12 human fatalities
in Florida caused by alligator attacks between 2000 and 2010.
The alligator appeared prehistoric. It looked evil. Emily knew that beneath that
snout, and below those eyes was an extremely large, powerful mouth full of razor sharp
teeth. From having lived her whole life in the safety of civilization, Emily was suddenly
thrust into a wilderness where predators would look upon her body as food.
She had to do something. Emily started to swim at a right angle to the alligator.
She didn’t look back. She sprinted as fast as she could for the shoreline. Pretty quickly
she was in shallow water. She could stand up. She started to run and stumbled and fell.
She looked behind her. There was no sign of the alligator now. It had dove under the
water. Maybe it was attacking!
Emily started to cry as she pushed her self towards the shore in waist deep water.
Finally, it got shallower. She was knee deep and she kicked her feet out as high as she
could to be free of the water’s drag on her momentum. She made it to the shore.
Emily ran all the way up to a bench that was 30 yards from the shore. Her legs
were wobbly from fright. She looked behind her and still didn’t see the alligator
anywhere. She unzipped her life jacket.
On the far side of the lake, Parker finally got the boat untangled, and he turned it
to where they had left Emily. He felt bad that the girls had left her in the water, so he
went full throttle towards the spot where she had been. He didn’t see her anywhere. He
started to get frightened. Finally, he spotted her sitting up on the shoreline. “Good for
you girl,” he thought, “You can’t leave Emily Thompson stranded in a lake for long.”
Little did Parker know of the whole story.
Parker came up to the nearby dock and shouted for Emily. She didn’t move. “She
must really be angry with us.” Parker thought. He tied the boat to the dock and hopped
out of the boat. He jogged up to see Emily.
Emily was still shaking uncontrollably and crying. The previous 5 minutes had
been the most terrifying of her life. Even cockroaches could get Emily to scream and
run out of the room. She hated spiders. Snakes could send her into orbit. But she had
been in the water while an alligator slowly swam towards her. It was a nightmare.
Parker sat down next to her and hugged her. She started to tell him what
happened in broken words. Parker kept holding her tight, kissing the top of her head, and
telling her how sorry he was.
Rachel and Kelly ran up and were horrified when they heard the story. Rachel
really felt bad.
For some, a near death experience is a moment that draws them closer to God.
For Emily, it did the opposite. She was suddenly very aware of just how wild and
ferocious this world can be.
“I wonder why I got away?” Emily said honestly. “Do you think it was just
chance? I certainly can’t swim faster than an alligator. If he’d wanted me, I was just as
vulnerable as could be.
Parker reassured her, “Don’t count yourself short. You are an excellent
Emily gave Parker a sharp look and said, “Don’t give me a pat answer. I could
just as easily be lying dead on the bottom of the lake. Am I alive because the alligator
just had its fill on a duck? Maybe I lucked into swimming with an alligator who just
happened to be not quite big enough to take on someone my size. Am I here right now
because of chance?”
“Jesus was there protecting you.” Parker answered simply.
“I don’t know. It’s moments like this that make me wonder if there is a God. If
God grabbed the hind legs of that alligator right before it was going to bite me, why
didn’t He also save those other people killed by alligators in recent years.” Emily
questioned as she looked up at Parker.
Parker was quiet for a moment. He took a deep breath, and finally he
said, “Emily, there is a lot I don’t understand. I don’t understand why God would allow
wars, famines, alligators or other bad stuff in the world. I don’t understand that. But I
am not willing to say that God doesn’t exist and this is all chance. I can’t look you in
your eyes and say that there isn’t something special about you. I can’t look at you and
understand all of the wonder that you are and then say that you are simply the product of
chance. There is something. I don’t understand all that there is Emily, but there is
something miraculous about you.”
Emily was still emotional from the tremendous scare she just had in the water. So
she asked, “OK Parker, where is Jesus in this moment?”
Parker was starting to feel like he was being grilled an awful lot on stuff that was
pretty deep. He made a mental note to never let anyone drive the boat while he ran off
for gas. Things can go to hell in a hurry. In that thought, somehow, he discovered his
answer. He said, “We live in an imperfect world. If we, as your friends, are the hands
and feet of Jesus, we let you down. We weren’t there to protect you. I think Jesus wants
us to hang onto the hand of the person next to us, and help them be protected from such
things. He wants us to help those in peril to find shelter.” Parker said. “We’re in this
whole thing together.”
Rachel realized that her mistake had endangered her best friend. She felt terrible.
She said, “Emily, I’m so sorry, I didn’t know.” She had learned a very important lesson
that day that she would not forget for a long time. So did Emily. It would be years
before she went out tubing or wakeboarding again.
It turns out that the alligator had been only 5 feet long and wouldn’t likely have
been big enough to attack Emily. When the alligators get bigger in this little lake, they
tend to clear them out of there to a different refuge. But most swimmers just don’t know
that fact for sure when they are in the water watching those two alligator eyes swimming
slowly towards them.
Parker said a short prayer, out loud, thanking God for the safety of Emily. It was
a heartfelt prayer. Rachel held his hand as he prayed. It was the first time she had ever
prayed in many, many years. When she looked down at her best friend Emily still
shaking with fright, Rachel’s prayer came right from her heart.
Then Rachel commented, “I think we’re about done boating for one day.”
Kelly started to smile. She stood up and threw her hands out wide. “I have the best idea
ever. I know a place on Rt 434 that serves really cheap gator for hors d’oeuvres. I say we
celebrate that Emily’s OK by eating some gator.”
Emily laughed. She loved how Kelly could always make her laugh. “Great idea. I’m up
And the four spent the afternoon chomping down on gator, laughing, and having a great
time. Every once in a while, Emily would stare at her hand as it reached for another
piece of gator. She marveled at the wonder and miracle that, at this very moment, she