Recognizing God’s Presence

“It’s the Lord!”  These are the words of the apostle John, recognizing Jesus standing on shore after he had directed the disciples to cast their net on the right side of the boat, resulting in the catch of 153 large fish. John 21:1-14)

This was the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after his resurrection in John’s gospel, but they failed to recognize him.  They had gone fishing the night before, and when Jesus called out to them from shore asking if they had caught anything, they did not recognize him.  Only after they caught a large amount of fish did John recognize that it was Jesus.

A similar thing happened to others to whom Jesus appeared after his resurrection.  Mary Magdalene did not recognize Jesus outside his tomb until he said her name, “Mary.”  (John 20:16)  The two disciples on the road to Emmaus did not recognize Jesus who walked with them for quite some time until he later broke bread with them. (Luke 24:31)

Like the disciples and Mary Magdalene, how often do we fail to recognize the Lord’s presence in the circumstances of our lives? 

The unexplained recovery from a serious illness; a friend who comes to our aid in a time of serious need; a thought that comes out of the blue which solves an agonizing dilemma; the unexpected forgiveness from a family member we have offended; an answer to prayer for something we thought would never happen; the narrow escape from a serious accident — all of these may be examples of God’s love, care and presence to us.

A few years ago my son, Steve, son-in-law, Greg, and I were boating down the Atlantic Intercostal Waterway.  On the second day we ran into gale force winds on the Chesapeake Bay on our way to Norfolk, Virginia.  The winds were coming out of the northeast generating waves of five to six feet or more.  The Coast Guard had posted two flags which meant that the winds were blowing at 39 to 54 mph.  Because we were heading south and the winds were coming at us from our stern, it was more difficult to control the steerage of the boat.

We of course put on our life jackets.  I asked Steve to go down into the cabin for additional ballast, and Greg to stay with me on the fly bridge to keep watch of our location on the GPS.  The skies were quite overcast and visibility to shore and the markers designating the channel were marginal.  There weren’t any safe inlets along this portion of the Bay to go for cover, and it would have been too dangerous to turn toward shore with the winds and waves then hitting us broadside.

Never having experienced these conditions before, I found myself learning how to control the boat as we proceeded.  The key was not pulling back on the throttle as the boat accelerated down the front side of a wave in order to avoid the boat turning sideways and capsizing.  This almost happened to us early on.  It took us over four hours to reach Norfolk which was not that far.  I was never so happy to see the outlines of an aircraft carrier through the haze at the Norfolk Naval Base.

Because I was so concentrated on maintaining control of the boat over the entire period, I never even remembered to pray for God’s protection.  But looking back and reflecting on all that happened and our safe arrival at the day’s destination, I can say, “It was the Lord!”

boat mancation 2014-61 (2)

[Steve, son-in-law Ralph who joined us on the return trip home, yours truly and Greg.]

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