Sheila contemplated the coin in her hand. The little golden disc, not worth much in the world, was worth something to her. The thrill of spotting its glint in the gutter a few minutes ago as she made her way down the sidewalk still bubbled within her. She had seen pennies before, but there was something different about this one. Somehow she felt a great value connected to it that differentiated it from the myriads of others readily available. Not understanding what that value was but knowing she would not be spending this one, she tucked it carefully in her jacket’s inner pocket – the one closest to her heart – and continued her journey.
Several weeks later, Sheila again contemplated, but this time it was water which captured her attention. Not the beautiful water that surrounded her, but the murky water that covered the bottom of her small boat.
She could feel the gentle rock as small waves lapped at the sides of her boat, none of which were big enough to splash over those sides. The water had not come from there. She glanced at her water jug – nope, it had not spilled. Had the water been there when she entered the boat, leftover from the previous day’s rain? No, she would surely have noticed the touch of icy water sloshing over her toes. Too much water would sink her boat but, thankfully, it wasn’t near deep enough for that. Maybe she should ignore it and just enjoy her time on the lake. She picked up her oars but stopped when she felt cold water cover her foot. Alarm bells rang in her mind as panic rose in her heart. The water level was increasing. It had to be a leak. But how? She hadn’t run into anything. At least nothing she knew of. And she hadn’t dropped anything heavy enough to cause damage. No weak areas had been found during its maintenance check last… last… Sheila had been so busy with life, she couldn’t remember the last time she had had the boat serviced. She had been told how important it was to maintain her boat. Her safety, maybe even her life, depended on it. Now she was paying the price for her neglect.
Heart racing, Sheila calculated the rate the boat was filling against the distance back to the dock. If she rowed fast enough, pushing the oars in deep enough, could she might make back in time to hoist it up before it sank? No, rowing that fast and hard would require more strength than she had. She would have to stop the leak now, before heading back. First, she had to find the source of the leak. Hopefully it was small enough to plug it with something, although she had no idea what. Sheila ran her finger along the bottom of the boat. Even after several minutes, she couldn’t feel anything that could signify a leak. Now what?
Slowly, a video she had recently watched came to her mind. In it, someone had described how the movement of the water under the boat can sometimes reveal the spot where the water was entering. Sheila cringed. That would require jumping into that ice cold water without a wet suit. Desperate now, she felt along the bottom of the boat again, this time for the force of water shooting into her boat, not matter how slight. And again she couldn’t find the source of the leak. Not having any other choice, she accepted the inevitable. She was going to have to go in.
Sheila pulled off her jeans and slid on a pair of soccer shorts. The touch of the chilly air on her legs convinced her to wait until the last minute before removing her jacket. According to the video, the movement of the water could be tracked as the tiny bubbles in it reflected the light from a flashlight. Sheila had a waterproof flashlight in her backpack, which she realized, was now in two inches of water. As she bent to pick up the bag, she heard a plop. Her penny! She had forgotten that it was still in her jacket pocket and now it was down in that dark murky water. For a third time she felt along the bottom, this time searching for the small coin, and rejoiced when her fingers found it. Carefully she tucked it into the zippered pocket of her shorts, dug out her flashlight, removed her jacket, and, bracing herself, jumped overboard.
The shock of the cold water was worse than she expected. Gasping, she shivered while treading water, waiting for her body to adjust. As soon as it did, she took a deep breath and dove under the boat. She expected the water to be somewhat clear since the surface was so pretty, but instead it was dark and murky, just like the water filling her boat. Her flashlight revealed multitudes of bubbles moving in all directions. Those were not the bubbles the man in the video had said to focus on. The important ones were the ones closest to her boat. She aimed her flashlight at the bottom of the boat and watched the direction the bubbles were heading. Her lungs began to complain, but she continued studying until one area of bubbles acted differently than the rest. Noting its location, she swam out from under the boat, broke through the surface of the water, took a few deep breaths, and then dove back down. Close examination of the area showed several tiny streams of water heading toward a central location. That had to be where the hole was. Sheila ran her finger across the bottom, and sure enough, felt the indentation of a hole a little more than half an inch across. Although it seemed small, Sheila knew a hole that big would have sunk the boat already. Why hadn’t it? Confused, Sheila poked her little finger in the hole and felt it narrow the deeper she pushed her finger. Ah, that’s why her boat hadn’t sunk yet. The other end of the hole must still be very tiny.
With lungs screaming, Sheila surfaced and refilled her lungs. As she tread water, she mentally took inventory of her supplies. What did she have that could plug the hole that would last long enough for her to get to the dock? Her rag was too big, and she hadn’t worn socks. None of her tools would work. She needed something small and round and waterproof, like a marble, which she could jam into the hole. Water pressure under the boat would hold it in place until she was able to get it repaired properly. At least that’s what the video had said. But she didn’t have a marble. The few nails and screws in the toolbox didn’t have heads big enough. Tissue paper wouldn’t last long enough. And she didn’t have any chewing gum.
And then she had it. Her coin! It was small and round and the perfect size. Carefully, she removed the penny from her pocket and swam back under the boat. Holding the flashlight in her mouth, she felt for the hole with one hand, and, finding it, shoved the coin into the hole with her other hand. She wiggled the penny with her finger, wedging it deeper and deeper into the hole until she couldn’t move it anymore. Slowly she lessened the pressure of her finger and was relieved when water pressure continued to hold the coin in place. Quickly now, Sheila returned to the surface of the water and took several deep gulps of air before climbing back into her boat.
Replacing her wet clothes with the dry jeans and jacket, she wrapped her arms around her body and waited until her body quit shivering. While she waited, she looked at the almost three inches of water that had made its way inside her boat. She should try to scoop it out, but all she had was her water bottle which would take too long. She chastised herself again for being unprepared and decided to get back to the dock as soon as possible. She knew someone trained in the repair of boats that would be able to remove the water and filth much more efficiently than she could.
As she rowed, she thought about the deceptive beauty of the water. On the surface, it was shiny and inviting, but she had learned the hard way how dark and cold the water under that surface had become as it rejected the warmth and light of the sun, and how easy it had been for that cold darkness to invade her boat. If it hadn’t been for that coin, she would not be heading back to the safety of the shore right now. She knew when she found the penny that it was special but had had no idea just how valuable it would prove to be. And if she hadn’t tucked it into the pocket of her jacket – the very jacket she now wore – she wouldn’t have had it when she needed it. That glittering coin had just saved her boat, and maybe even her life.
Amazing how such a small, seemingly insignificant thing had become the most important thing of all.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is a gift of God, (Eph 2:8)
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. (John 3:19)
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and imposters will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (2 Tim 3:12-13)
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)