WATER SKIING WITH MOCCASINS
As a child growing up on Cherry Lake in rural north Florida, many of my memories are centered around water. A cool lake in the middle of summer became a gathering place for family and friends. Weekends, and especially Sunday afternoons, became a time for “dinner on the grounds” including platters of fried chicken, potato salad, sliced garden tomatoes, and of course, watermelon cooled in the shade and sandy bottom of shallow lake waters.
I can remember one such afternoon, looking up from the floating watermelon patch and seeing a water moccasin swimming by, head raised out of the water, and claiming his territory as the onlookers cried out in unison…”SNAKE!” Oblivious to all the reaction, the moccasin swam on by into the tall grass, unaware of his devastating impact on small children and worried adults.
That image has never left me.
When I decided I was ready to learn to water ski at the age of 5, my father tied the ski rope to the bench seat in his Jon Boat, cranked up the small 6 HP Johnson outboard fishing motor on the back, and I put on my red “trick skis”. The skis were a special gift from Polly Lassiter (Cook), who lived with us that summer as a Methodist Missionary (U2), committing 2 years of her life to work with children and youth in rural settings throughout North Florida. She was loving and kind, and I remember her excitement when I finally glided across the water for the first time.
I don’t remember much about pulling up out of the water, but I do remember being afraid of falling in the grassy weeds. Images of that water moccasin sliding into the weeds were magnified with stories from the older teens about skiers who had fallen into the weeds and were never seen again!
Of course, that was an old “Cherry Lake Story”, but the image was enough to strike terror in the legs and ankles of a five year old boy. So much so, that once I got up on those little red skis, I made a promise to myself that I would do my best to never fall into the weeds again! And even though we had a practice of water skiing into and through weed-lined water paths, I can only remember falling once, and of course, being terrified that the water moccasins were after me!
But then I heard the voice of my Dad, calling out from the boat…You’re fine…Don’t be scared! Swim out of the weeds and into the open water, the snakes are more afraid of you than you are of them!
On countless occasions, I have coached young water skiers and swimmers with the same encouragement. The gators or snakes or catfish are more afraid of you than you are of them!
Fear is a reality in our lives. Sometimes we run from it, sometimes we acknowledge it, and when we are at our best, we conquer it. My life scripture has helped guide my path, both in life and on water skis–
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
I Love Being Your Pastor,