Johnnie pulled his scarf more tightly round his neck – it was a bit of a struggle with one hand, as the other hand kept his hat from blowing off. The wind was ferocious and the rain was lashing in at 45 degrees. Through the rain, Johnnie could see a little shelter along the cliff path, and he headed for it as quickly as he could fight his way against the wind.
The forecast hadn’t been good, but he had come out anyway. He needed the fresh air and the space to breathe. He had ended up with more than he bargained.
The shelter wasn’t much, but it took the edge of the weather, and Johnnie pressed himself into the corner for maximum protection. The sea was rough, waves crashing against the rocks of the shore and the little pier, sending the spume high up into the air.
He was the only one out that day, not surprisingly. As he left the guest house, there were one or two people rushing back to their homes, but no one else was going out. Good. That’s what he wanted. Time on his own with all his troubles.
There was movement on the shore beyond the pier. Johnnie pulled his glasses out from his pocket to see more clearly. There were cars and men heading to the lifeboat station, and then the lifeboat was pulling out.
“Not good,” he thought. “There is trouble at sea.”
Johnnie looked out to sea, and there, in the distance, was a little craft. He couldn’t see whether it was a small fishing vessel or a pleasure craft. This was no day to be out there, with the winds so fierce and the waves so high. His heart went out to the little boat and he prayed for the sailors and gave thanks to God for the Lifeboat.
Then it hit him. “That’s me!” he said, “caught in the storm.”
Johnnie had come away for a few days’ break, because things had got so bad at home. It wasn’t one thing. He could have coped with one problem.
Everything seemed to have gone wrong at the same time. At work, management had announced that the business was in trouble and there might have to be redundancies. He had his letter warning that his job might be finished. There was never a good time to lose your job, but this was the worst of times. His daughter had stood surety for a friend who took out a loan, and the friend had run off, leaving Lisa due to pay a king’s ransom to the loan company. Johnnie had to help her. And his wife Susan blamed him and said she couldn’t take it any more and she had fallen in love with his best friend Alan and was leaving him. His elderly father had been diagnosed with bowel cancer but refused to see Johnnie, because they had fallen out years ago and had never made it up.
So many problems! He didn’t know whether he was coming or going.
That was his life, a little boat caught in a big storm.
Out on the sea, the boat was being tossed about. Sometimes Johnnie could see it, and then a big wave would come between them. He could see the lifeboat getting closer. He watched the drama out on the sea as the lifeboat struggled to get within reach of the boat. Then the boat had to be secured.
Johnnie became aware how tense his own body was as he watched, urging the lifeboat on. He found himself praying, “save them, save them.” There was nothing he could do but pray. His own troubles were pushed aside as he concentrated on the sailors who faced such danger in the storm on the sea.
Johnnie couldn’t see the detail of the rescue. It was too far away and his sight was just not good enough. At last, the lifeboat pulled away and turned towards the shore, fighting the waves, battling against the wind, in the return. Eventually it made it back to the slipway. Ambulances had arrived in the meantime, and Johnnie could see people being taken in. They had made it safe to shore and he prayed they would survive.
The drama was over. The rescue was successful. The tension was released. Johnnie found himself wiping away a tear of relief.
“I wish someone could rescue me from stormy waters,” he said to himself. He pulled his hat on tight and braced himself to go back into the wind, down the cliff path.
He hadn’t gone many steps when he found himself bumping up against something, someone.
“So sorry,” he said, “didn’t see you. The weather, you know.”
“Johnnie,” said the man.
Johnnie looked up in surprise. “Do I know you?” he asked.
“Way back,” said the man.
“I don’t quite remember ….”
“That’s OK,” said the man. “I came because you prayed.”
“I was praying for the boat in the storm, and for the lifeboat,” said Johnnie.
“Yes, and you prayed for yourself in all of that as well. I want to tell you that everything is going to be all right. Go home. Keep trusting. Keep the faith. One by one, you will work through your problems and everything will be OK. Things may be different, but they will be OK. And as they start to come right, make sure you give thanks.”
“How can I be sure?” Johnnie asked.
“You can’t,” said the man. “That’s why you have to trust.”
And somehow, Johnnie found that he could trust. He found a sense of peace. He knew, deep within himself, that things would be all right.
“Thank you!” he said, to the empty air.
The man was gone, so sign of him. Johnnie looked up and down the cliff path, but he wasn’t there.
Johnnie went back down and made his way to the guesthouse.
“I’m going to leave first thing in the morning,” he told the landlady. “I’m going home.”